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How Do You Tame Erratic Business Growth into Sustainable Scalability?

by Shawn Karol Sandy

How Do You Tame Erratic Business Growth into Sustainable Scalability?


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As a small business owner in the business-to-business sector, you've likely experienced the thrill of watching your company grow from a promising startup to a thriving enterprise. Whether you're in IT services, manufacturing and distribution, commercial janitorial services, or restaurant equipment service, scaling to your first $1 Million dollars is an incredible milestone. Most small businesses don’t make it to that number. (Small business research reflects that only about 4-10% of all small businesses ever achieve $1 million in annual revenue. And the Small Business Administration suggests that the majority of small businesses have annual revenues below $1 million and that about 89% of employer firms (those with at least one paid employee) have fewer than 20 employees.

The scale up and early phase from $100,000 to $1M and then $5M is a wild and unpredictable ride. There comes a phase in scaling up where rapid growth occurs ($5M to $10M) that can be a bit like tearing down a zip line on a metal cable and only having a leather glove as a handbrake to keep you from face planting into that giant tree ahead! 

Growth and momentum can quickly become a double-edged sword. Without careful management, they can lead to friction, burnout, increased turnover, and visible cracks in your service delivery, ultimately stalling your progress. To ensure your business continues to flourish no matter what stage you’re in, it's crucial to invest in building systems, processes, and strategies that promote alignment and efficiency. Here’s how you can achieve that.

A Bumpy Ride: The Risks of Disproportionate Growth

When your business experiences rapid growth, the momentum can sometimes outpace your internal capacities. Imagine a wooden roller coaster that whips you around corners so fast that you feel your internal organs sloshing around. It’s a traumatic ride that leaves you frazzled!
Experiencing these whiplash-inducing growth rides in your business often results in some unfortunate consequences:

  • Friction: Teams working at different speeds and capacities can lead to miscommunication and conflicts.
  • Burnout: Employees overwhelmed by increased workloads without adequate support or systems may experience burnout.
  • High Turnover: Burnout and frustration can lead to higher employee turnover, which disrupts continuity and knowledge retention.
  • Client Dissatisfaction: When internal struggles become evident to clients, it can damage your relationships, recurring revenue, reputation, and hinder further growth.

It’s difficult to slow down when your business is experiencing erratic growth. It feels counterintuitive to want to slow down or even turn away new business opportunities, but the long term benefits of taming this time of turmoil will actually accelerate your growth - without the whiplash!

The Kiddie Coaster: The Power of Systems and Processes

Taking lessons from our own business experiences here at Sauce, and the change management we help project manage for dozens of our clients, the best way to turn your Chaos Coaster into a smoother Kiddie Ride is by creating strong systems that are supported by clearly documented processes. Documenting and integrating systems and processes are fundamental to scaling your business effectively. Here's why:

  • Consistency and Efficiency: Well-documented processes ensure that every team operates in a standardized manner, reducing errors and increasing efficiency. If the process creates success, documenting it and packaging those into repeatable processes ensure the success of your system - and outcomes. 
  • Training that Transforms: Clear systems make it easier to train new employees quickly and effectively, reducing the learning curve and minimizing disruption. Consistent training and onboarding ensure your teams are all working from the same knowledge base, speak the same language, and work in lockstep with each other and other teams.
  • Systems that Scale: Processes designed with scalability in mind allow you to handle increased volume without compromising quality. Ensuring that existing and expanding teams can repeat the actions that replicate success.

Action Steps to Tame the Chaos: 

  1. Audit Current Processes: Identify areas where procedures are inconsistent or undocumented. Oftentimes, these are areas with high failure rates, heavy friction, or frequent turnover.
  2. Standardize and Document: Create comprehensive process manuals for each business unit. Optimizing your revenue and operations processes can be a heavy set of tasks. Use the “quarterly rock” method to break them down into smaller pieces and determine which priority order to tackle them in (Hint** Check out our Recipe for Results Blueprint - a free download to help you do just that!)
  3. Implement Technology: Don’t struggle with manual management or haphazard documentation. Utilize software solutions to automate and streamline repetitive tasks with clear steps to follow to completion. 

All Aboard: Aligning Teams Around Common Goals

Internal alignment is crucial for maintaining momentum and harmony as your business scales. When you’re in the middle of those erratic growth moments, most everyone in the business experiences some form of whiplash or frustration. Your systems and processes will help you scale, but it’s the people in your business - when unified in their understanding of goals, steps, and timelines - that create smoother experiences for everyone. 

Aligning your teams for performance improvement looks like:

  • Clear Communication: Regular updates and clear channels of communication ensure that everyone is on the same page. Have discussions and document the guidelines around feedback and candor to encourage transparency.
  • Shared Goals: Aligning team objectives with overall business goals fosters a sense of purpose and direction. Working towards milestones or revenue goals can gamify your teams to maximize effort and performance.
  • Coordinated Efforts: Synchronizing timelines and tasks across departments minimizes friction and promotes a smoother workflow. Breaking down the traditional silos of business units helps accelerate communication, optimize opportunities, and reduce internal failures from becoming client facing problems.

Action Steps to Unify Your Teams:

  1. Hold Regular Meetings: Hold weekly or bi-weekly meetings to update teams on progress and realign objectives. Keep the meetings at the same time, start and end on time, and designate a facilitator to keep the meeting on track and the team on their purpose.
  2. Goal Setting: Use tools like OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), or Meaningful Metrics to set and track shared goals. Get clear about how, who, and when numbers are measured. There are many systems out there for tracking metrics - keep the high level metrics simple and then dive deeper into departmental metrics. 
  3. Cross-Departmental Collaboration: Encourage interdepartmental projects to foster collaboration and holistic thinking. It’s difficult to read the label from the jar you’re in. That perspective from an adjacent business unit or colleague with vastly different experience can give insights into challenges that aren’t visible to someone that looks at them the same way every day.

Install More Controlling Levers: Invest in Technology and Infrastructure

As you scale, investing in the right technology and infrastructure is non-negotiable. This too can be a frustrating time when you’re faced with literally thousands of platforms and tools that promise to get you to where you want to go. The small business tech stack has evolved over the past 20 years to help close the gap on some of the biggest advantages that the enterprise giants have over their small but mighty competitors. Choose your key tech stack investments that will support your growth and help maintain the quality and efficiency of your services as you scale. 

Critical tech for scaling includes:

  • Automation Tools: Automate routine tasks to free up your team's time for more strategic activities.
  • Integrated Systems: Use integrated software solutions to ensure seamless communication and data flow across departments.
  • Scalable Infrastructure: Invest in scalable IT and operational infrastructure to handle increased demands without compromising performance.

Or, you can just invest in HubSpot to do all of that with one tool. 

Action Steps for Your Technology Investments:

  1. Evaluate Needs: Assess your current technology stack and identify gaps that are holding your teams back or slowing down progress and performance.
  2. Research Solutions: Look for software and tools that offer scalability and integration capabilities. With dozens of options and hundreds of variable features, create a matrix for your specific needs and do your due diligence with thorough demos.
  3. Plan for Growth: Ensure your infrastructure investments are designed to support future growth, not just current needs. At the rate software advances, cobbling together several solutions can be costly in the long run. We call them “Franken-systems” around here and they can become burdensome as your business grows and your needs become more sophisticated.

Creating the momentum to scale to that next level can be chaotic and easily leave your teams and customers feeling like your business is a runaway roller coaster. But with intentional execution, documenting and integrating systems and processes, aligning your teams around common goals, and investing in the right technology and infrastructure, you can navigate this period of rapid growth with minimal whiplash. With the right strategies in place, your business can reach new heights - just take care to prevent the drop into those scary valleys - you want your scaling journey to be a kiddie ride that provides just the right amount of thrills.

Topics:Systems That ScaleListenReadAlignment

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