Growth is often cited as one of the most important targets for a business to achieve. At its simplest level in the creative sector, it can come from adding team members to meet increased demand. However, growth without improved scale can also result in a greater level of frustrations for an entrepreneur.
So how can a creative services business find smart ways to scale when a large portion of the cost is allocated to the delivery team’s efforts? And what are the first steps if you want to move your business from simply growing to scaling exponentially.
Clearly Define Your Business Activities
Too often in creative service businesses, the principles and teams will want to steer clear of defining and systemising their strategies and tactical approaches. It feels like it runs counter to the flow of creativity and can be seen as a way of cramping ideas and new thinking. However, if everyone has a different interpretation as to how things are done in the business, it can end up being very unproductive.
An old business partner of mine once said, ‘let the systems rather than the people take the strain’. They were words I never forgot and I now continuously repeat them to every business I meet. If a task is repetitive, systemise or automate it and you free up time for your team to focus on the more creative aspects of the job. Systemising regular or lower level tasks and documenting the way your business does things also makes it easier to train new team members, enabling you to scale more quickly when you need to. Set systems can apply across the board from how you diagnose and prescribe a client’s requirements, to pitch document preparation, project management tactics and measuring results.
Invest in Scalable Systems or Tools
When you invest in new software solutions or team tools, don’t immediately go for the cheapest, simplest option. Consider the longer-term costs of using that solution or tool. Will it grow with you as your business size and service scope increases? It’s worth noting business scaling jumps often happen at speed. You land a big new contract to deliver a major design solution and suddenly you’ve got to move up a gear with your systems. A little extra expenditure earlier on could enable you to expand more smoothly when the pressure is on, ensuring you impress your client from the get-go.
All creative firms that successfully scale understand the power of building a clear and distinctive brand. Once a strong brand is built customers are more likely to notice and trust you. They will also more readily try new services you bring to market. This helps make your existing sales & marketing budget work harder and can exponentially improve your profitability.
Invest in culture
There is a lot of talk in the news about developing a strong business culture. However, it’s often simply interpreted as funky design, free beer Fridays and vinyl wall slogans. If it’s left at that, your business is missing a huge opportunity. Fundamentally, your culture is a reflection of what you stand for as a business. When your values are clear, they act as an important reference point for every business decision you make. When you nurture a positive culture, it helps you to engage the hearts as well as the minds of your team. It’s this ability and the positive energy that stems from this approach that will help you scale successfully year-on-year.
Talk of culture brings me to Continuous Improvement, the final part of the successful scaling equation. Emphasising continuous improvement as part of your business culture ensures you will constantly find ways to do more with less or to work smarter. I believe having a process for continuously fielding, testing and refining new approaches is what distinguishes exceptional creative service businesses from the rest. This process needs leadership to work, so make sure someone is responsible for driving this approach in your business.
Where do you start if you want to shift your business focus from growth to scaling up?
First off, I recommend businesses take time to audit their existing activities in order to identify the gaps that are impacting your ability to scale. Once those gaps are identified, you can then assess what are the quick wins and longer term activities that need to be implemented to help you grow at scale in future.
Any funding requirements can then be assessed and a business plan may be required to present to investors or debt funders. This plan can be as short or extensive as your business requires, dependent on your scaling vision.
If you’d like to discuss improving your business’s scaling capacity, why not get in touch with Susanne.firstname.lastname@example.org for an exploratory phone call or meeting.