Scalability Part 1

Scalability is a term most commonly associated with computer systems, networks and processes and their ability to handle increased usage, or be expanded to handle that growth. The term can also be applied to businesses, and their ability to handle a sudden influx of additional work. I spoke before about expanding out of your home into a proper office to meet your growing needs, but what about your business on the whole? As you operate and market your business, more work will begin to come in, and you need to be prepared to ramp up should your existing infrastructure no longer be able to meet your needs.

Expansion from your home into a proper office as we discussed previously is one way of doing this, but there are some other things you should keep in mind when it comes time to grow your business.

Assess Your Business: You can’t make plans to expand without being intimately familiar with your current capacity to handle a large volume of work. If you work solo and find yourself with barely enough hours in the day to complete your tasks, maybe it’s time to consider building a team and delegating some of that work elsewhere. If you’ve already got a team, consult with them to see how they’re finding their existing workload and if they feel they can handle more. You don’t want to overload anyone, as you risk burning everyone out (including yourself).

Read The Writing On The Wall:  Nobody likes being blindsided by a sudden influx of work that’s more than you can handle. Well, your wallet might, but regrettably it lacks the ability to actually do any of the work itself, so in this particular instance its opinion doesn’t really count for much. The simple solution here, is don’t let yourself be blindsided. There are signs to look out for that you’re about to get hit with a tidal wave of new business. Have you  been negotiating with prospective clients and are coming close to sealing the deal? Are you about to launch a new marketing campaign? Sudden influx of fresh faces following your Twitter or Facebook account? These are all signs that new business may be coming, so it might be time to start putting plans in place to deal with it.

Build A Hiring Pool:  A sudden wave of new clients can leave you scrambling to find additional staff to pick up the slack. Obviously this is a very bad thing. Trying to find new blood while in full-on panic mode can lead to making hasty decisions, and you may end up with someone who isn’t a good fit for your team. So it’s best if you build yourself a hiring pool, a list of potential candidates that you can bring aboard quickly should the need arise. If you’re very lucky, when you built your team you probably ended up with a dearth of potential recruits. Many probably weren’t a good fit for your business, but I’m willing to bet that there were a few that were, and other circumstances prevented you from bringing them on board. Revisit submitted applications to weed out the good candidates from the not-so-good, and keep them handy in case you need them. That way should you find yourself needing to bring on more people, you’ve got a list of qualified potential team members who have already expressed an interest in walking the path to PIE with you. It then becomes a matter of simply picking up the phone or firing off an e-mail to see if they’re still available. No panic, no scramble, the hard part (like the awful interview process) is already done. It’s also a good idea to consult your team members. While they were busy toiling away building the qualifications that led you to bringing them into the fold in the first place, there’s a good chance they met some other people along the way who might be a good fit. Check with them to see if they know anyone who might be able to join you. Be careful though, people tend to put blinders on when it comes to the shortcomings of their friends, so naturally you’ll want to double check their qualifications and ensure on your own that they’ll be a good fit.

Groom A Team Member For Management: If, up until now, you’ve been handing all of the managerial and supervisory aspects of your business on your own, you may find that with more work coming in you no longer have the time to give these tasks the attention they deserve. This is where your delegating skills will come in handy. Pick a team member who you feel has the chops to take on these tasks for you, and begin preparing them to do so. Show them the ins and outs of this part of your business, so that should the need arise to hand off this responsibility to somebody else, they’re ready and able to step into the role. I feel it’s best to promote internally unless absolutely necessary, so that your candidate is already familiar with your business and emotionally invested in it, making them that much more dedicated to seeing it succeed. Plus they’ll have already built a rapport with the rest of your team, so there will be none of that feeling of an “outsider” coming in and messing around with everyone’s existing sense of how their workplace functions. Change is difficult for some people, and putting someone who’s already familiar to your team in a managerial role will make that change easier to bear.

Streamline: Now would be an excellent time to take a look at some of the ways your business operates, and seeing if there are ways to improve. The idea here, is to take some of the work off of you and your team, leaving you with more time to deal with all the additional work coming in. For example, let’s say your business involves you shipping out packages to clients. Up until now the volume has been such that you can just send someone (or yourself) to the local post office or courier branch with a carload of boxes and send them off. Not a bad system by any means, and many online businesses operate in this fashion. But it’s not the most time-effective. A better solution would be to register an account with your courier of choice and arrange for regular pickups. This frees up the time that was being spent by you (or a team member) traveling to the drop-off point, arranging delivery, and all that other good stuff. It’s all taken care of for you. You pack up the boxes, print shipping labels, and set them aside to be picked up. No fuss, no muss. For another example, look at how you handle your payroll. Have you been paying everyone manually, by say…cutting checks, or via various electronic transfer services? Perhaps it’s time to set up automatic direct deposit instead, so that come payday you don’t have to do anything but send out pay stubs (preferably electronically, a paperless office is the way to go). These are just a couple of the little tweaks that can be made to streamline the way your business operates. While you’re examining your business’ ability to deal with an increased workload, take the time to examine every single aspect and see if there aren’t little improvements you can make to your standard operating procedure to free up that all important resource: time.

Well, that was quite the long article, wasn’t it? But I feel the long read is warranted, as scalability is an important factor in any business. Your ability to grow with the demand for your products or service directly affects your ability to succeed. With preparation for the growth of your business comes preparation for the thing we’re all in this for, the growth of your Personal Independent Earnings.

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