Remember when you were a teenager?
As you got ready for prom, you noticed a giant pimple. Ugh. You were so excited, but your growing pains got in the way.
This doesn't just happen when you find a red blotch before prom, but when your business grows too. Putting up a website and gaining new customers is just the beginning. Next come the trials and tribulations, the joy, the money, the growing pains.
Entrepreneurs and small business owners all over the world are coping with growth. Sure, fast growth is a good thing (just like prom), but it's still a problem.
That's why we talked to three entrepreneurs who've risen above the growing pains to create sustainable businesses that soar. Not only have they coped with growing pains while expanding their businesses, but they're also all named Matt.
Read on to hear their stories:
Matt, The Guy Who Saw Quality Suffer
After founding M&E Painting in Loveland, Colorado in 2005, Matt Shoup's company grew rapidly. And I mean, really rapidly. Revenue increased by more than 50%.
Matt was intent on keeping the momentum, so he decided to expand operations from Northern Colorado to include the Denver and Colorado Springs areas, the two other largest metro areas in Colorado.
At first, things were great-- revenues continued to grow.
But soon Matt and his team realized that they could not provide high quality service by serving such a large geographical area. They struggled to retain quality employees and contractors in Denver and Colorado Springs and were forced to redo a lot of the painting work.
Revenues were up, but profits were stagnant at best and company morale was at an all time low.
After two years of serving the Denver and Colorado Springs areas, Matt decided to close the locations and re-focus on serving the Northern Colorado community at an elite level.
'Failing with our expansion was very painful and I felt like I had failed as the leader of the company by giving my team more than they could handle,' says Matt. 'What I learned was that keeping up a rapid growth pace is only worth it if you can continue to provide the elite level of service that got you growing so fast in the first place.'
If growth is hampering quality...
Take a step back and revisit your mission. Make sure that what you're doing aligns with what you say you do.
Get some help. If you're struggling with quality and cohesiveness as you grow, consider hiring a consultant or business operations professional to help you. Project management software can also help.
Slow down and say no. If you're growing so fast that you can't do quality work, then start saying no. Get real about what you can take on.
Matt, The Guy Who Couldn't Handle Clerical Stuff
Matt Elder already had a self-sustained business when he started Ultimate Mobile Gaming. He'd been able to take care of everything in business #1, but this second business posed a serious challenge.
After all, Matt is good at gaming, not paperwork. As business grew, the nuts and bolts felt impossible.
'I found the biggest growing pain I experienced was staying on top of the clerical aspects like returning emails, sending out things to customers, and calling people back,' Matt told us. 'You get something on your phone and say 'oh, I'll respond later' and you never do!'
So, how did Matt cope? Well, he found someone who could help. He delegated a lot of the customer service details to his wife.
If growth is making you disorganized...
Get a project management app like Basecamp or Trello. Manage your customers using a system like Batchbook or InfusionSoft.
Get help from a human. Hire an assistant, even if it's your spouse. If you're short on cash, consider a virtual assistant.
Matt, The Guy With Website Problems
Matt Powers runs Blue Soda Promo, an ecommerce promotional marketing distributor, which means he depends on his website for revenue, growth, and pretty much everything else.
What our business boils down to is simply printing company logos on a variety of different types of products. But there are many different ways of doing this (screen printing, embroidery, debossing, laser engraving, the list goes on and on). Because of this, its been hard for users to know exactly what they are getting if they tried to check out on their own.
Matt and his team have done many revisions to the checkout process to try and increase conversion rates. They have also implemented a live chat feature where users can ask questions at any point while browsing the site.
Some other website issues they've had to overcome:
Having the development team overseas (being on extremely different timezones, its hard to make quick changes to the site).
Slow server speed (they've had to upgrade servers multiple times to take on more users at once and ensure that the site is loading quickly).
CMS (they're currently making the transition to Magento because the current CMS does not have the necessary features and is hampering growth).
These types of website issues are frustrating because you have to make the best of what you got until you have the time, money, and resources to improve on them. You see your competitors doing the things you want and need to do and think to yourself, 'I thought of that first' and 'if only we could have jumped on that earlier'.
Its hard not to judge yourself by your competitors, but continuing to look at yourself on the inside instead of out keeps you focused on the task at hand.
If your website can't handle your growth...
Hire someone who knows what they're doing, even if they're expensive. If your business depends on internet traffic, you need the best and brightest to run your site.
Stop taking shortcuts. Don't try to get away with an outsourced team who doesn't understand your mission. Stop relying on quick fixes.
Be future-thinking. Pay for the best and do it right the first time. Consider how much you could grow and consider what you need in place to facilitate it.
Grow and Learn, Just Like The Matts
Regardless of your first name, you're likely to bump up against some of the growing pains we've outlined here. The good news? You can outgrow growing pains.
That teenage pimple won't last forever, and neither will your growing pains.
Your Turn: What growing pains are you experiencing? What have you done to solve them?