Lessons learned in growing a business to more than $20 million in the blink of an eye

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By: Garrett Mehrguth

Scaling a business. The word “scale” can mean different things to different people. What scaling really means is taking your business to the next level by, well, really getting your stuff together before you can climb the next rung of the success ladder. Entrepreneurs love to talk about how they’re going to scale – and boy do they have big plans! As exciting as it is, they don’t always go into it prepared for the grueling challenges that often come before the next product release or international expansion. Nothing grows without change. And let’s face it, change isn’t on everyone’s list of favorite things.

Take a good hard look at your company’s values

“We’re a customer-focused company.” “We’re agile.” “We put our people first.” “We (fill in the blank here).” Sound familiar? Don’t get me wrong, having bold value statements and living them out is important. But just as important about your company’s culture is understanding what you’re not. If your employees understand both sides of the culture coin, they’ll be able to make better decisions, lead more creatively and operate in fewer gray areas. If your values are truly important and engrained within your organization, the hard decisions won’t be so hard because everyone has a compass. But, never marginalize your values – because that won’t scale anything.

Build, Improve and Challenge Your Team

Regardless of what stage your business is at currently, surrounding yourself with strong leaders and injecting your company with top talent is pivotal. When it comes to scaling a team, most companies face the tough decision of whether to hire/acquire employees or build team members from within. I’ve learned that building is worth the investment of time and money.

A good approach is to offer an internship program for talent in your industry. We start intern engagements with an initial three month program. From there, the ones that make an impact can be given the opportunity to work part-time for an additional three months. If they show that they’re a good fit, we offer them a full-time position. Through this type of methodology, we find that employees and leaders are stronger assets than they would be if acquired. They’re already bought into the vision and have had some skin in the game to get the job.

If you don’t have the time to implement this type of long-game program, hire a recruiter….fast. You can either hire a recruiter internally or use an external recruiter, but working with a recruiter will help streamline your business’s hiring process and in the long run can end up saving you time and money. Recruiters bring their network and knowledge to your hiring process and provide access to hidden talent such as passive job seekers.

The investment doesn’t stop there.

One of the most surprising lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is how low the bar can be for developing new skills for employees. It’s tough to say, but most organizations can be beaten by simply outworking their team for an extended period of time. As long as you continue to educate your team and innovate your products and services to increase value and ROI, you’ll end up beating out the competition. 

ALWAYS Lead with Sales

The biggest mistake business people make—and this is what happened to all the companies currently experiencing a “recession”—is that they didn’t lead with sales. Instead, they led with projections. Essentially, they determined 2022 would be great based on the fact that 2021 was, but it didn’t happen that way because 2021 was the exception, not the rule.

When I say “lead with sales” it means you should wait until you have actually closed enough deals to justify hiring extra staff. Instead, companies often hire based on projections that don’t materialize. Leading with sales means waiting until you have enough cash, enough runway, and enough security to create a high level of confidence in your forecast.

By hiring before you have the revenue, you cost your new hires their jobs—and potentially ruin their lives.

Commitment is the Magic Elixir

The only thing stopping leaders from accomplishing their scaling goals is their own commitment. A bold statement, I know. But it’s true. Again, scaling doesn’t mean starting a company, it means growing it from the inside out and it takes a lot of strategy, time and commitment to the cause. 

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