Scaling a business requires every business owner to make some tough decisions. Christine Burdick is uniquely familiar with those challenges. But she has been able to successfully grow her business, Christine Burdick Design, by scaling very intentionally.
A commercial interior designer based in Burlington, Vermont, Burdick never actually intended to start a business. She was laid off, along with plenty of other design and architecture professionals, in 2009. And as she interviewed with other companies, she realized that many of them still needed designers but simply didn’t have the resources to bring anyone on full time. So she decided to start her own business to provide that service.
Tips for Scaling Your Small Business
Burdick recently spoke with Small Business Trends about her business experience and some of the challenges she faced scaling the business. Here are some of the tips other small businesses can glean from that discussion.
Don’t Go Overboard with Hiring Right Away
Burdick’s business started out as a solo operation and quickly grew into a two-person business. However, at one point she actually had five employees, which was great when the company was busy. But it also led to some struggles that might have been avoidable had she been more intentional with scaling.
Burdick says, “I was spending all of my time on marketing just so I could keep all of those employees busy. And when I thought about why I started the business in the first place, it was because I loved design. But I wasn’t doing any design because I was so busy with marketing even though I’m not a marketer.”
Use Expert Consultants to Help with Areas Outside Your Specialty
For that reason, Burdick suggests that businesses looking to scale make use of consultants and contractors who specialize in areas outside of your own expertise. This allows you to get help with things like taxes, tech support and bookkeeping without having to onboard actual employees for whom you might not have enough money or work to make the hire worthwhile.
Consider Non-Traditional Spaces You Can Afford
Though Burdick now has a beautiful studio space with a lake view in downtown Burlington, the business actually started out in her own basement. From there, she rented a space that was shared with another business, and eventually outgrew it and moved onto the downtown location. Had she jumped right in with the expensive downtown studio, she might not have been able to afford the employees, consultants, marketing and other expenses that have helped the business grow. So unless a specific location is paramount to your business plan, keep the rent low when you first start out.
Always Remember Why You Started Your Business
Overall, Burdick believes that it’s important to always go back to the reason why you started a business in the first place. Of course, running a business requires more than just a passion for one specific subject. But if you’re able to secure help in those other areas, you can keep your focus where it counts even when your business grows.
Burdick says, “The most important thing to me is to always go back to doing what you love. For me that’s design. So I have to sometimes remind myself that I started the business because of my love for design. If you’re genuine and following your passion, everything else tends to fall into place as long as you have the right support systems in place for your business.”
Photo via Shutterstock
Couldn’t agree more with the use of consultants. Of course I’m biased because that is what I do (PPC wizard) but when you’re not big enough to hire dedicated resources, a consultant/freelancer can get you big-league expertise on a minor league contract.