Post a new topic
    6 Replies Latest reply on Oct 4, 2008 9:47 AM by ChicGeek111

    How to grow successfully

    ChicGeek111 Wayfarer
      Hi All!

      I have a business providing Website design, graphic design and marketing. I've been going for a little over 6 years now and have taken it from a tiny business to something that is almost too busy for me to handle now. I have a couple of contractors that I use for things that are beyond what I do, but there are so many new clients coming in that it's been hard to keep up with the demand. I don't want to outsource anything to another country as I believe very strongly in supporting the American economy and my local economy first.

      I see that there are a couple of other people here that do similar work and was hoping that maybe some of you could provide some feedback as to how to manage this growth.

      Thanks in advance for your help and suggestions! :-)
        • Re: How to grow successfully
          GrowthCurve Adventurer
          Congratulations on having a problem that most businesses would love to have!

          One not take on more than you can do well. If your clients suffer because you've gotten too busy, your business will eventually fall apart.

          What part of your business do you enjoy doing the most? What part are you best at? (They may not be the same, but it's nice when they are.)

          The bottom line is that you're going to need people to help you out. You can either hire people to do the sales and administration parts of your business, or you're going to have to hire people to do the design and the production.

          What part of your day is taking up the most of your time? What is the bottleneck that is keeping you from growing?

          The hardest part is likely going to be that you'll have to give up some control over some parts of your business. You'll have final say, but you won't be able to make every decision. This means you have to find people you can trust.

          I think if you provide answers to some of my questions, you'll get more, helpful advice from others.
          1 of 1 people found this helpful
            • Re: How to grow successfully
              ChicGeek111 Wayfarer
              WOW, thanks for the response! :-) It's nice to know there are still helpful people out there.

              I have found over the past 6 years that I have a real knack for start-up business. I have started 3 businesses that are still growing strong - two of which I donated to family members. I have never taken out loans or any of that, and have been able to start everything on a "shoestring".

              This year, with rising prices, I have found that I have had to work harder to keep ahead of the curve financially and so have taken on a little more work than I can really effectively handle. It's not the end of the world just yet, as I have a very good reputation that hasn't suffered (yet) - I've just been working more to keep up with things. So, I'm busy, but don't know how I can afford to remain financially successful AND hire more people to help. I don't make a lot of money, but we are able to pay our bills and keep food on the table. :-)

              One of my pitfalls is that my client list (approaching 60 now) is mostly small business and non-profit. I have always felt extremely dedicated to providing service to those who need it at a price they can afford, and have built my reputation to the heights it's at because people know I will do an honest job. I'm not quite sure how to manage the incoming work flow without hurting the momentum of the business.

              To answer your questions:
              My favorite part is the creative stuff - coming up with new and great ideas, designing original works, and putting togther a plan to help someone enhance their success. I really like people and interacting with them. This is probably the thing I'm best at because I have a highly intuitive personality and people like talking to me.

              The most difficult thing for me is probably managing the people, at least right now. My clients are feeling the pinch, feeling backed into a wall, and are generally not very positive or upbeat and it really has taken it's toll on me. They have become very needy and all seem to have expectations that I can always be there to help them at a moment's notice. I understand their pain, and want very much to do all that I can to help them, but it's gotten really hard to get work done when the expectations have gotten to a point that is just plain unreasonable.

              The other difficulty has been to find qualitfied help. I've tried several different contractors now - brought them in as artistic consultants when my creativity has been a little tapped out, and they're either late, ineffective, or just don't seem to have any drive at all for work. I have kind of an "old fashioned" work ethic, even though I'm part of the younger work force. I work REALLY hard, am honest and dedicated and love what I do. It's been difficult to say the least to find anyone that wants to work with me because I have those same expectations of my contractors.

              I thank all of you in advance for your help, suggestions, input on this!!!! :-)
                • Re: How to grow successfully
                  Iwrite Pioneer
                  You had the answer already - people. Delegate some of the duties.

                  Also, step back and look at your client relationship. Right now you are more of a vendor, but look at shifting to beng more of an advisor. Hear me out. In a need to make money we creatives sometimes push ourselves too fast, delivering on unreasonable deadlines, which in the client's eyes becomes the norm, not the exception. By altering the way your clients see you and the service you provide, you can set expectations at a more realistic level. Is the benefit of your work a quick turn around or an effective message? Communicate more of this to your clients while delegating some fo the duties and look at what that will give you.

                  And ask yourself if you need more clients are to grow the ones you have into a deeper relationship. 60 is a high number, if you can get them to a steady flow imagine how much business that would be.
                    • Re: How to grow successfully
                      ChicGeek111 Wayfarer
                      Thank you! That does sound like a really great plan. The implementation is a little fuzzy for me.

                      Have you found a good way to bring in valuable employees? I have tried with several people and have only one contractor that's been with me for about 4 years now - he's great!... the others just haven't been willing to work or aren't up to any sort of creative challenge. I offer a fairly good hourly wage and am extremely clear on what I expect from them, I don't know what I'm doing wrong here as I'm not as skilled when it comes to managing a workforce.
                    • Re: How to grow successfully
                      GrowthCurve Adventurer
                      We've been precisely where you are, albeit with another business (an online marketing company that my wife started ten years ago).

                      We had to decide whether we wanted to stay at 1-2 people or grow. We decided to grow. After all, wasn't that what every business is supposed to want to do?

                      You know what happened?

                      Our revenue grew 300% (still a small business, but larger than what we started off with), our headaches grew 300% (or more), and our net income grew...all of 20%.

                      By the time we added all of the costs of employees, office space, telephones, insurance, and so on, the incremental profit was not worth the headaches. Previously we had a genuine "lifestyle" business where we did what we want, turned away clients we knew were going to be jerks, and had time for family. When we grew, we were working 80 hours a week instead of 40, and we weren't making that much more money.

                      Along the way, we experienced a lot of the same problems that you encountered, the most common of which was finding good people at a good price (not a cheap price, but one that we could make money from). You see, the problem with being a small company is that truly good people are more likely to want to go elsewhere as soon as they can...better office, more money, more promotion opportunity, etc. As a small business (like 10 people), you can't really offer that kind of career track.

                      Not saying that there aren't people who will work for you, but they are rare. And in small business like yours (ours), losing someone is very stressful because of the increased workload while you look for a replacement, then have to train that new hire all over again.

                      When all was said and done, we went back to the old way of doing things, and we took a good hard look at our clients. And what we learned was that the 80/20 rule really did apply. When we looked at ALL of our clients, we saw that we could easily afford to drop a third of them without having any real impact on our bottom line. This gave us the time to more fully develop our other, more profitable relationships, as well as be more choosy about who we worked for in the future.

                      I am probably wrong, but I don't think you can truly grow a business like yours (well, any business, really) unless you can really codify every process...basically you need to be able to put every facet of your business into a manual that someone can open up, read, and say, "Oh, I can do that! That's my job!" You need to be able to standardize just about everything.

                      Only then can you truly scale up your business. Sort of like how franchises work.

                      What I'd suggest to you is...if you want to stay in this business and not start at something else, look really hard at those 60 clients who are tugging at you every day, and see which 20 of them you can afford to "fire." You'll probably end up with 80% of the profit and 50% of the time waste.

                      What do you think?
                        • Re: How to grow successfully
                          ChicGeek111 Wayfarer

                          Very well said and so true! My personality definitely lends itself to small business. Your response has helped me to solidify that and I really appreciate it! :-) I truly enjoy the person to person contact and that's something that you kind of lose when you grow as you can no longer connect in a positive way with all of your clients.

                          I've thought about firing a few clients, and saying no to the new ones who I know are going to be bad news - in a really small community, how do you go about that? Did you learn any "what not to do" lessons in your journey down that road? I would appreciate any tips you can offer.

                          Again, thank you so much for your time! I really appreciate it.