We’ve been sharing our thoughts on the journey from start-up to success. We’ve covered the whole journey, from how to start a business to how to grow.
Now, it’s time for the final part of our series, and it’s all about what follows growth. The question we’re addressing is surprisingly tricky: how do you stay true to your vision?
How businesses drift…
Businesses start with a dream. They start with passionate people doing something they care about. That’s what gets you through the hard work and the doubts. Starting a business is nerve-wracking for anyone. Your passion is the fuel that keeps you going.
As your business grows, it will change. This is inevitable. You’ll need a bigger team and bigger offices. You’ll have more customers, and perhaps more products and services too.
What we’re describing is a change in quantity. How do you prevent it from being a change in quality? It’s not easy. In the early years, everything probably hinged on you: your relationships and your service. Your reputation would have been built on the passion you started with.
As your customer or partner base increases, you just can’t keep up that personal touch on your own. There aren’t enough hours in the day. The pitfall of this is clear. Customers become numbers and partnerships become transactions. As for your business, it becomes faceless.
…and why it matters
For many start-ups, this probably sounds like a good problem to have. You could even be cynical and say “if we’re successful, who cares?” The answer, of course, is that your customers care. So does your team – and you probably do too!
Often, this problem arises by accident. You can put all your focus on efficiency and growth without giving enough attention to what makes you special. It’s understandable how businesses end up here, but it’s a dangerous place. Your reputation can suffer. Morale can dip. You could even lose the qualities that allowed you to grow.
How to avoid it
We’ve thought about this a lot at Hexa. We started the business two years ago and have grown quickly. Our original vision was important. We wanted to use our expertise in finance to help SMEs grow.
Beyond that, we wanted to make finance accessible and relatable. We were looking to help small business owners who didn’t necessarily know everything there is to know about finance. We needed to understand their needs and explain the options in plain English.
That requires a particular set of skills. Of course, you need a deep understanding of finance – what’s available, who it benefits and how to make it work for each client. But you also need the personal touch. We’re proud of our growth – but for us, it was never just about growing by numbers. We also needed to scale up the way we approached things. Here are three tips on how we did it.
1. Think about it now
Wherever you are on your journey, this isn’t a concern for later – it’s about the here and now. Why not formalise what matters to you by writing and committing to some core values? These can anchor you for years to come.
2. Recruit to replace yourself
As your team expands, of course you’ll need to think about workflows, processes and how you scale them. However, you need to consider the intangibles too.
Your relationships and the way you relate to people are key to what makes your start-up special. But as you grow, you’re likely to have more clients or partners than you can keep up with on your own. As you expand your team to scale up your activities, think about how you can replicate your own approach to people. Efficiency matters, but so does the human touch.
3. Choose partners who understand you
As you grow, you’re highly likely to look to other businesses for certain services. Maybe it’s finance or accounts. It could be marketing or PR, or maybe distribution. Regardless, it really helps to look for partners who understand your values.
So much in business hinges on relationships. And the best service providers are able to adapt to you. At Hexa, we’d like to think this is true of us as a finance provider. Because of the way we approach relationships, we’re able to help our clients on their terms – and that’s because we’ve followed the steps we’re describing. In our view, that makes us better at what we do. Whatever service you’re looking for, those are the qualities you should seek.
The journey from startup to success is as daunting as it is exciting. We believe it’s better to talk about it with other entrepreneurs. Whatever stage they’re at, they will have relatable insights on the strange and thrilling experience we all share.
That’s what this series has been about. We’d like to thank Scott Magill from Whocult Coffee + Donuts, and Scott Harris from Green & Co Accountants for their guest posts in this series. If you’re not sure what steps you need to take in your journey, do get in touch.