Business is booming. Orders are coming in at a fast rate. But is this a dream come true or a nightmare for small business owners? Actually, growing too fast can be a deadly sign or can mean no business at all for small businesses.
In order to build a long lasting company, growth needs to be sustainable. If you are growing too fast, your business can suffer in various ways: you are unable to keep up with orders; you don’t have enough available cash for all the new business and must borrow to keep up; and your staff can become overworked and stretched too thin. This all may result in a drop in productivity and customer complaints about quality. “Fast growth can have a detrimental effect on your reputation if you are not able to handle business properly and clients start complaining. When the processes in place do not sustain the demand, it can spell disaster,” notes Jacqueline Camacho-Ruiz, author and director of Make It Happen, a business marketing consultancy firm.
So how does one maintain sustainable growth? Through planning, says Paul O’Brien, cofounder of Co-space, an online resource for entrepreneurs. “Develop a strategy and process to manage the growth of your business… With that done, work through a principled process of customer discovery (understanding your customers) and then build a minimum viable experience (the simplest product or service you need to fulfill the needs of those customers). Next, go to market and begin to grow the business with an understanding of customers’ needs and expectations and the business products or services to support them,” says O’Brien. Camacho-Ruiz agrees. “Place systems and processes in place so that each milestone is met flawlessly. Learn to say ‘no’,” she says.
Fast-growth can lead to the failure of a company, warns O’Brien. “Most early businesses fail because of a lack of truly understanding their market; you find a marketing channel that delivers customers and before you know it, you have hundreds of new users with unique demands you hadn’t expected nor prepared for. Growth does not equal success, especially when that growth comes with burdens to your customer service experience and results in a tarnished brand,” he says.
Your business reputation is on the line when you grow too fast. You want your company to be known as a reliable source. “Don’t turn customers into detractors simply because you can’t serve them the way that your business promises. Arrest the growth and look again internally to structure the organization in such a way that you can manage the new opportunity,” advises O’Brien.
If you must, turn away business until you have truly handled larger production. “Learn to say ‘no’. Be realistic about sustainability and take solid steps towards growth,” says Camacho-Ruiz.