If you run your own business, at some point or another you start to think about getting bigger and generating more cash. The term for this is “scaling,” and whether or not you do it correctly can in some cases make or break your operation.
Ryan Williams is the co-founder of Wonderment Apps and he knows a thing or two about scaling. He’s worked at many tech startups since the Boom 1.0 days, and he grew Wonderment from two to 45 employees in a matter of two years.
Wonderment Apps is an end-to-end technology design and development firm based in Los Angeles that needed to be able to grow quickly after receiving a large investment early on. How did he scale his operation? Here are some valuable insights for folks running their own small business who want to kick it up a notch.
Define Your Vision Early
“It’s not about having an answer to everything early, but it is about coming up with a vision early,” says Williams. “It’s basically a searchlight for the direction you’re headed in. If that’s at the front of your mind with each decision at the early stage, then you’re building toward the ultimate scaling potential.”
He says that this kind of early “vision building” provides the building blocks for scaling down the line, and helps avoid potentially major snags once your business is ready to level up.
“If you’re not connected to the vision early on, then you have the possibility of having to make major, major pivots later that can either massively slow down the development of the business or a product, or cause you to completely wipe out aspects of the company that you’ve already been working,” Williams says.
While Williams stresses the importance of keeping the long game in mind from the start, he also points out that a crucial component of scaling your business is to think about what’s directly in front of you.
“One thing to do when you’re scaling a business is to create near-term targets that will give you a direction to head in either a monthly or quarterly level, so that as you’re building things out, you can communicate those things to the team,” he says. “Tapping into what that long-term vision is and bringing it down to actual, executable goals helps align everybody within the business to go after what the company needs at that particular time. As you scale bigger and bigger, it becomes more and more vital that that communication of those targets is really clear.”
One example of a near-term target he gives is solving a sales process issue. While lots of things may be going on in a company, sales bridges the gap between different departments. This provides an opportunity for people from every aspect of the business to come together and align themselves with the same short-term target that will push the company forward in its scaling efforts.
Drawing an Accurate Roadmap
Williams says that oftentimes newer small businesses are constantly working in survival mode, putting out one fire after another, each one taking up a huge chunk of the organization’s resources. While undesirable, this also makes sense since they are probably bound to certain performance metrics (like getting your first sale) in order to stay alive.
“When you’re a very small business, you’re thinking on a direct need and survival basis,” he says. “As you scale though, you start to have resources underneath you to where direct needs are being handled already by different teams and you can start thinking strategically about making smarter decisions that allow for bigger and bigger growth.” He says that focusing on this “roadmap” to your scaling goals should be a key element in any decision-making within your business.
“As you go through and look at how things are working across all your departments, the way you put resources toward things ultimately has to be tied toward the scaling goal you’re trying to meet,” Williams says.
“Trying to find balance between your sales, your accounting, and your operations, and actually curating across your entire organization what the most important things are to allow the company to not hit its ceiling, is the biggest challenge of the whole thing. Those three have to be working together so the ceiling itself can keep moving up as you choose which elements are going to allow your company to get extensively bigger.”