The 3 cornerstones of achieving scalability in business

From the technology you invest in to the people you hire, learn more about how you can achieve scalability in business, with examples.

If you’re like most small business owners, you probably started really small. Just you and your laptop in a room, with an idea out to conquer the world. But now, if you’re ready to scale and you’re not sure what the trick is to grow your business in a sustainable way that allows for expansion and growth, but minimizes risks and operational costs — yes, we can read minds — then, you’re in the right place. Let’s talk about the 3 cornerstones of achieving scalability in business:

Choosing the right technology

We’re getting the obvious cornerstones out of the way first, and what is more obvious than choosing the right technology that doesn’t restrict your company’s growth in any manner but scales with you. 

Having a robust system in place for your operations — say a CRM or a phone system for your sales team — can help you sidestep spending time on unscalable, time-consuming details that inevitably accompany outgrowing software (like manual data entry) and instead focus on your business operations. 

There are two aspects that differentiate businesses from their competitors — selling in a modern way that goes beyond conventional sales techniques, and offering great customer support. Remember to give your team the best tools available to achieve these goals!” – Jonathan Gustafsson, COO, Marineparts Finland

Take MarineParts, a logistics solutions for procuring aftermarket spare parts for boats. Their focus is simple — reliable and fast deliveries at competitive prices. To achieve this, they are always looking for new ways to add value to their whole distribution chain and modernize the way they sell to their buyers. They were using a standard cloud PBX to handle inbound and outbound calls but this old system not only required technical skills to configure and maintain but also came with a steep learning curve. So they evaluated a lot of PBX solutions until they found the right fit – a software that helped them provide good service and maximize customer engagement. 

A good rule of thumb to remember is that: your employees should spend only 20% of their time working on the “software” and 80% on their job. If their job is in customer service manning the phones, choose a phone system that has features like IVR, call queues, call notes, an integration with your CRM/helpdesk, so that your team doesn’t waste time routing callers, actually writing down notes and looking up tickets. They can just focus on solving customer issues – not the nitty-gritty of the software.

It’s tempting at an early stage to choose a cheaper solution but you lose far more than money (sometimes, it’s 10 hours and a $9000 component) when you compromise on features for price – you lose growth, customer trust and efficiency as well. 

What works for a business when you’re twenty members strong won’t necessarily work for you at a 100. As a small business, you need to keep continuously revisiting processes and trimming the fat to make sure that they’re still optimal. 

Related: 10 small business trends to watch out for in 2020

Revising processes continuously

In an interview with Reid Hoffman, the CEO of LinkedIn, Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, stated that, “in order to scale, you have to do things that don’t scale”. This might sound like a paradox but what it means is that you do things that don’t scale, then you prune out everything but the essential tasks in that activity so that you can scale your business easily and still retain that 11-star experience.

When Airbnb was a small company, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia stayed with every host registered on Airbnb to connect with their hosts, get feedback and build a product and experience that worked for them. They worked as makeshift photographers because well, the company was that small. But as the company scaled, they realized that this method of connecting with users wasn’t going to scale well so Airbnb eventually started organizing meetups for their hosts so that they could meet each other and the team. Brian and Joe also ended up hiring professional photographers to do the shoots because well, they have a $35 billion company to run. 

The idea is that when you’re reviewing your processes, you’re figuring out which part of the process can be scaled for the experience to be intact and which parts, not integral for the magical experience, can be safely expunged. As Reid Hoffman points out, Brian and Joe didn’t launch a perfectly scalable service. They built the service by hand.

Building a future-forward team

For most, if not all, the biggest scaling challenge for a company is hiring. Hiring the right team members at the right time (always some time before they’re actually needed; not when you’re struggling for lack of support) is something that even billion-dollar companies struggle with. 

Changing organizations have changing needs so it’s hard to predict just how long you’ll need a given skill set. This is why Meg Whitman, now CEO of Quibi and former CEO of HP and eBay, hires ‘ahead of the curve’

My general hiring philosophy was to hire “ahead of the curve”. That is, fill key positions with people whose skill set exceeds the current requirements. This way, the company can grow into the leaders.

So, instead of limiting her pool to people with experience, she chose to focus on skills. Her approach was to hire the best and the brightest so that they bought their passion and dedication to their jobs and worked hard. Building a future-forward team means that you don’t have to worry about the “right” time to hire new colleagues; chances are the right fit will be sitting in a cubicle across you. 

What kind of scalability tips do you have for a small business? Write to us and we’ll add it to the article, with credits!

About Freshcaller

Freshcaller is a modern-day reimagining of our everyday phone system for customer support, sales, IT, and HR teams. With Freshcaller’s cloud-based architecture, it brings together the best of legacy features like IVR and advanced capabilities like Smart Escalations, Custom Call Center Analytics to help you set up a state-of-the-art business call center. Freshcaller offers phone numbers in 90+ countries, requires zero phone hardware, and is extremely easy to use.

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