How NOT to stay a SMALL business

What growth are we aiming for?

If you were attracted by the title of this piece you’re probably keen for your own business to grow and to keep on moving forward. What do I mean by growth? It’s a word that gets used to refer to quite a lot of things. Over the last 7 years our company has grown from being 1 man to being a team of nearly 70 people. We’ve grown from offering one very specific technical service to offering a wide range of different web and mobile development options. Our client base has grown. Our profits have grown. Our charitable work has grown. Our experience and skill level has grown. Even our office has grown and I think it’s fair to say that our role within the communities we’re a part of has grown too.

One thing I’ve noticed is that these elements are all interconnected. As our skills improve, we learn more and wind up offering more services, this brings in more clients and more money and if we want to accept the work we need to grow the team and therefore the office space. New team members bring new skills with them and the cycle goes on. It’s not entirely as linear a process as I’ve portrayed it, but it often seems that growth in one area soon leads to growth in other areas too.

Who is this advice about growth for?

I still wouldn’t exactly describe eKreative as a big business and next to the giant corporations out there we undoubtedly still seem ‘small’. We’re constantly growing though and work hard to make sure that continues. That’s why I thought that some of my friends and other business owners who are facing the same challenges on the way to growth that we’ve been going through might be interested in how we overcome them. I also want to share some of the processes that we implement to drive that cycle of continual growth.

If you are not interested in growing your business or think that it should happen automatically or naturally without any intentional effort from you, this article isn’t for you, you can probably stop right here. Keep in mind though, that growth is a key indicator of life, without it businesses can wind up dying. For any business to keep on growing, you need to intentionally work on it and not just think that it will happen automatically.

There is nothing magical about the process of growing a business

If you are a business owner, it’s likely you don’t think of it as a BIG business (especially when you compare yourself to bigger players in your field). Have you been thinking lately about how you can grow your team, your client base and the quality of the services you provide? We continually ask ourselves those questions and at certain stages of our growth, different reasons held us back from growing. The fact that we deliberately ask ourselves these and similar questions helps us to identify what it is that holds us back and opens up our eyes to the problems that exist and prevent us from growing. Then it’s simply a matter of solving those problems. More on this further down.

7 important lessons we’ve learned about growing a small business

Look, I haven’t done exhaustive research on this or anything like that, I’m simply sharing this based on our experience. The things that work for us. Hopefully you can find something useful for yourself and your business here and leave the page with at least 1 idea about how to improve what you do.

1. Have big goals for your business

If you are simply operating on the basis that your business makes enough for you to get by or has already achieved what you had in mind when you started out and don’t have any major goals or a purpose that would move your business forward, it most likely won’t grow. In our case, we’ve set ourselves a goal to generate 1 million dollars for charity per year and understanding how far the desired result is, we keep pushing ourselves and don’t settle for the status quo.

2. Ask the right questions about your growth

It’s known that people do not necessarily do what is needed, but rather what they are asked about. So ask yourself about the growth of your company: what is keeping you from growing further, what next step can you make to grow your business, who can you connect with that might be able you to grow your business, who are some of the people on your team that typically drive growth or hinder it, etc.

3. Have a preliminary plan, but be adaptive and ready to NOT follow it

The reality is that things don’t usually go according to the piece of paper. The plan and the strategy are very important to help gain initial vision, setting a direction to head in. As you start working towards that vision though, you will see that things change and evolve and you might need to reconsider some of your ideas or refocus. If you don’t have any plan at all, that’s a problem too. Viktor and I take some time at the beginning of every year to think through our strategy for the year ahead: what we will do, what we need to change, what we need to re-organise and so on. Then, as we action out according to the plan, we often need to re-prioritise, revise our strategy or put down a fire. Sometimes we see that there’s no point moving in a certain direction and we need to make a quick decision about changing the plan, even in a major way.

4. Be attentive to the demands of your customers and the market in general and respond to them

In 2009 it was just Viktor by himself and he was doing what he knew how to do, which was to build websites based on Joomla CMS. A little while later one of our clients asked us to do a big job on his Drupal site, so we learned Drupal. At the same time there was a growing demand for HTML5 apps and since it was HTML and CSS with JavaScript, which we were already using in website development, we made the step towards cross platform apps. And so our story goes on. Now because of this one simple principle, we have a range of different capabilities and dedicated departments including native Android, native iOS, cross platform apps, all kinds of CMS websites, a symfony department and java for web. All of these technologies have massively expanded the menu of things that we can offer to our clients and ensured big growth over the years. These days we are frequently asked about .Net, so we’re actively looking for ways to grow in that direction too.

5. Delegate, delegate, delegate

This is probably one of the main growth keys. We’ve always operated on the principle “Do the things that only you can do, and delegate everything else.” As executives, we’re always looking for ways to create a process and then delegate it to someone else within the company. This is essential in order to move and grow further, otherwise you will be caught up in day to day routine tasks, that don’t produce as significant results as you want and you end up feeling stuck doing the same things over and over again and not seeing any progress. So think about the things you do now which someone else from within your team could do or perhaps you might need to hire someone to do some of them. Then think of the things that no one else in your company is capable of doing except for you. Focus on those things and do them. You will see how rewarding that is for the business at the end of the day, and how that drives the growth that you want so much.

6. Do more than you can think you can handle. Figure out how

This may sound like a strange one, however, it’s BIG. Do you think you can only do the type of services you are doing now and you cannot expand them? Do you think you can only handle this number of projects or clients per month and you cannot handle more with the number of people on your team? The truth is you CAN do more than you think you can handle. And that is your job, as it is ours, to think creatively and figure out how can we do more than we currently think we can. Try it, and see what incredible ideas you come up with.

7. Passion. Grow the love for what you do and keep passionate about it

love what you doI love this wall artwork at our office. It’s so true and inspiring. At the end of the day, there are no technical things that you can do which will move your business forward if you are not passionate about it. No one cancelled the emotional side of things, which is super important, as if it’s true love and true passion, it will result in a discipline, a commitment to your team and your company that will most certainly push you forward toward creating an outstanding company and away from being a “small business”.

I’d love to hear which points you liked the most and feel free to share the lessons you’ve learned about growing your business too!