The most common problem facing any startup as they become a household name is growing pains. As a product or service takes off due to an influx of VC funding, signing a major new client, or a highly publicized demo, the internal structure of the company often can’t keep up with the sudden addition of new staff and new customers, and it’s easy for chaos to reign.
Of course, this issue isn’t limited to Silicon Valley, or even to tech companies. There are shifts that happen at certain points in the evolution of any business, and there are internal adjustments that can help ease the transition, or ultimately do more harm than good. It’s well worth your time to research and consider these changes before your company gets to that point. With this in mind, here are eight areas of your business we feel must adapt when the growth of your organization takes off:
1. IT Resources
The IT resources that help get you to a position of growth will almost certainly not be enough to keep all your systems stable if your business doubles or triples overnight. Most small companies start off with a break/fix IT model that is only used to maintain the status quo rather than innovate and introduce new technology (and often this is a techie family member, or someone with other responsibilities who is drafted as the IT person). The stability required for a huge uptick in traffic, service delivery, and staff is way beyond the purview of the IT resources of a startup or small business. It may even be a good move to switch to a managed services provider (MSP) for IT so your internal resources can focus more on the business.
2. Internal Structure
Assuming the current dynamic nature of your small business won’t change in the face of major growth is a dangerous trap, and probably the most common cause of startups’ growing pains. The same handful of people simply cannot continue to deliver the same services to a customer base that expands rapidly. As you add staff to accommodate increased customer demand, departments and roles, accountability must be well-defined for success, otherwise you’ll have a large workforce with no direction providing poor customer service.
3. Cloud Usage
As a company with less than 30 employees, it’s feasible to host your applications and systems on-premises on your own network. But if you rapidly grow to over 100 employees, it’s not so easy to dedicate all the internal resources (both personnel and computing) needed to keep those same systems supporting a larger internal workload and customer base. It is essential that you leverage the cloud to be competitive at this stage. You’ll need it for scaling rapidly, implementing a disaster recovery plan, and reducing infrastructure costs. The cloud is one of the areas discussed here that you should look at integrating today, regardless of your status, because it will make scaling itself so much easier when the time comes.
If your product takes off overnight, all the additional staff you’ll need to bring on will not improve operations if they don’t have a clear and consistent idea of how to do their jobs. It is crucial to have tested and documented processes in place on day one, including central management, change control, remote access, and customer support policies. Hardware and software standardization are also part of this; the more consistent you can be across departments and teams, the better.
5. Integrated IT Strategy
As your business scales, your IT strategy cannot be limited to just your IT department. Instead, it is essential to connect your business strategy with your IT strategy, because IT is essential for business success in any industry today. Management on the business side needs to be involved in tech decisions, whereas your IT department should not be making strategic decisions (which is what will happen if your IT strategy is left by itself).
6. IT Budget
This point shouldn’t be a revelation, but with increased business comes increased IT integration, which in turn requires different IT spending patterns. You will need to spend more to be competitive, but keep in mind that this spending will be spread across the whole organization, not just within the IT department itself. HR, sales, accounting, customer service and operations all rely on IT more and more for their daily tasks, so you need an IT budget that works for your organization as a whole and takes into account the IT needs of all departments.
7. Employee Needs
With a more mature product and a higher workload, the needs of your employees will change as well. They’ll need better software products and hardware, robust security, a stable infrastructure, and the right supporting tools to deliver the best product to your customers. Employees’ expectations about your business as a whole will also change; they’ll expect to see better onboarding and training, clear processes, and technology that helps rather than hinders them in accomplishing their vital tasks. Neglecting these areas can reduce morale and foster a corporate culture of negativity.
8. Client Expectations
Finally, as your business matures and your market reach expands, your clients’ expectations will invariably change as well. Bigger companies should deliver more powerful services and reliable products, and failing to meet these expectations will be detrimental to your reputation. Because it’s vital to maintain customer relationships during the transition from a small business to an industry name, you need to take full advantage of technology to deliver an improved customer experience. This encompasses any interaction the customer has with your company, including the technology behind your product, your customer-facing systems and customer support.