Many ambitious young businesses aspire to become the next startup success story. While few businesses experience major growth overnight, learning to manage an organization that’s expanding at any measurable rate is no simple task. Many businesses simply fall short of aligning their operations to scale properly. A scalable business is one with the ability to accommodate larger workloads without compromising performance or losing revenue.
“As businesses grow and scale, the key dynamic that slows progress and, at the extreme, impairs a business, is the creeping effect of complexity,” says Arnab Mishra, President, and COO of Transera.
This is where technology can step in. Technology provides the right tools to help an organization mitigate or eliminate its growing pains and can become critical when attempting to manage larger workforces and more complex operations.
Most small businesses already recognize and understand the value of technology, but the sheer number and range of available solutions can quickly become overwhelming. A study by printer company Brother and SCORE found that 63 percent of small business owners frequently feel overwhelmed with the number of technologies available to run their business. Technology is widely beneficial in addressing many challenges growing small businesses face.
Here are four common operational problems, and the tech solutions available, for growing companies to consider:
Building a workforce might be one of the most difficult hurdles small businesses face. Getting new employees up to speed is a time-consuming task, and you might already be strapped for time and resources. If your company is growing quickly and is ready to start hiring new employees, you can embrace technology solutions to create a smoother onboarding process.
The right solutions can allow new team members to complete paperwork, study your company’s culture, and acclimate to their training agenda before arriving for their first day on the job. Whether it’s a tool to virtually exchange and sign documents, a virtual office tour, or a transfer of company social media handles, technology can help new employees get ready for their first day.
Foster customer relationships
Scaling makes no difference if customer satisfaction plummets because you're growing too quickly to properly take care of their needs. This includes failing to answer customer inquiries or questions adequately or in a timely fashion. When your customer base grows, customer service representatives should be as accommodating — if not more so — than they were when you knew every customer by name.
For this reason, many small businesses have begun to utilize chatbots to handle incoming customer queries. As Phil Vanstone, program manager at Shopify Plus, states, “Talking to virtual employees will play an increasingly pivotal role: customers don’t want to wait for answers to simple questions. And business doesn’t want to allocate resources to answer the same questions over and over.” Chatbots can step in as virtual employees, providing immediate responses and fulfilling consumers’ expectations of instant support, while also allowing small business executives to allocate their workforce to other aspects of business operations.
Simplify project management
As a business begins to grow, it can be easy for information to become siloed within different departments. The majority of small businesses start with basic record-keeping solutions, like simple accounting software, spreadsheets, and synced cloud documents. However, over time and with enough growth, maintaining these records can become a disorganized and chaotic affair.
When your business struggles to keep up with data and maintain its growing stack of Excel spreadsheets, organizational solutions like enterprise resource planning software can help automate and coordinate many of the complex business processes you need to stay up and running. This also helps streamline business operations. With increased clarity and improved bandwidth, your staff can shift focus to effectively managing increased volumes of business.
Improve internal communication
Maintaining effective communication can become difficult when businesses experience periods of rapid growth. Not only are you adding new members to your team, your chains of command and communication practices are probably shifting as well. Employees who have been with you from the beginning might have trouble adapting to new ways of communication. On the other hand, new employees might struggle to identify who they’ll report to and how to best raise any questions they might have.
To combat this problem, be sure to utilize at least one of the many corporate communication platforms available today. An instant messaging app ensures lines of communication are always open, while also empowering employees to send quick updates, ideas, or inquiries. Slack, Google Hangouts, and Skype are some of the most popular messaging apps for small businesses, but there are many more to pick and choose from.
Great businesses are built on great products and services, but technology tools are often the underlying drivers of a company’s success. From project management to employee chat, the efficacy of these solutions has the potential to make or break your business. Technology is the key to effectively and efficiently scaling your business and helping it reach its full potential.
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.