A couple of years ago, it was just you and your computer science pals from college crowding around the communal Keurig. Your business has come a long way from that co-working space in a sketchy part of town.
You used to worry about the tires getting stolen off your 10-speed before the workday was over. Now you have a Tesla and a parking space with your name on and three very important-sounding letters after it.
Still, it’s not all sunshine and roses in the startup C-suite. You’ve got investors to impress, so you must keep going full steam ahead. You can’t lose momentum, but you can’t afford to take huge risks. Here’s how to scale your growing business in smart, sustainable ways.
1. Hire a Remote, Global Workforce
Hiring employees can be a slow, clunky process that saps resources from your team. From conducting multiple rounds of interviews to lengthy onboarding and training processes, you’re losing time and resources at every stage.
Onboarding costs can be astronomical, too. Stats vary, but according to Indeed.com, hiring a new employee can cost between $4,000 and $20,000. And that obviously does not include their salary and benefits, which could be sky-high depending on where your company is based.
From there, you’re looking at all sorts of overhead costs, like renting enough office space to accommodate your team. And if an employee leaves, you have to start the hiring process again from square one.
Hiring remotely — especially sourcing international employees — can cut a lot of these costs. Workers from lower-cost locations can help you limit salary expenses, while their remoteness means you won’t have to allot them office space. Be aware, however, that global hiring comes with all sorts of compliance and administrative hurdles. You can get around them by working with an employer of record. An EOR can take care of the onboarding, payroll, and legal pieces, saving your HR team the headache.
2. Prioritize Customer Concerns
Results can be disastrous when leadership deprioritizes the customer by solving low-priority problems first or imprudently cutting short-term costs. Many big-name companies have gone out of business simply because they thought about their numbers at the expense of their shoppers.
Take the case of Circuit City, which prioritized reducing expenses by firing experienced employees and replacing them with cheaper newcomers. The result was more frustration for customers at a time when many were already switching to more convenient rival stores.
Keeping the customer happy is practically the first rule of business, but it means actually listening to the customer. Businesses that want to scale sustainably should survey their customer base and make decisions based on real customer data. Ask what kinds of changes they would like to see or what kinds of products and promotions they’re craving.
Customer acquisition is necessary for scaling, but customer retention is just as important — not to mention cheaper and more effective. Word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied fans are the best kind of marketing.
3. Streamline Your Tech Stack
Too many growing businesses waste their money on clunky enterprise software suites designed for scaling they haven’t even achieved yet. They spend thousands and lock themselves into using programs that might not fit their business best.
The cost of a bad software choice isn’t just the purchase price or the price of buying a replacement program. There are hidden costs like consulting vet new software and retraining your employees every time you implement new tech.
Growing businesses, especially startups on the smaller side, should look to alternatives like SaaS solutions or free, open-source programs. They can mix and match more affordable options that meet the company’s needs better.
That said, it’s important to keep integration in mind when choosing tech. As you scale, your tech will likely need to integrate with larger platforms like Salesforce or Shopify. Most startups know this is a priority, so it shouldn’t be hard to find programs designed for compatibility.
4. Be Smart About How You Spread the Word
You don’t need an enormous marketing budget to see your company gain traction. And you don’t need to spend a ton of cash taking out expensive ads. Instead, focus on more affordable, effective strategies that put your brand name in the mouths of all the right people.
Nowadays, most consumers say they don’t really trust what brands say. They don’t believe advertising exists for their benefit or to provide useful information. They want to hear from their friends, online reviewers, or influencers. They trust real people who’ve used your product and can speak honestly to its pros and cons.
To earn credibility with your audience, grow your social media following organically or enlist the help of affordable, niche influencers. They can reach your target customers by appealing to them emotionally. Get your current loyalists to provide testimonials or write product reviews in order to build consumer trust and interest in your brand.
And don’t forget about email marketing as a tactic for growing your business and winning sales. It may seem old-fashioned, but email is customers’ preferred way of hearing from the brands they love. A few weekly emails — three to four max — can keep your customers’ brand awareness high without seeming annoying or intrusive.
Approach Expansion Cautiously and Efficiently
The name of the game in expanding sustainably is making incremental changes. Use data to see what’s working and what’s not and implement one new strategy at a time. You’re better off deploying new products or policies that can easily be recalled, reversed, or readjusted. When in doubt, partner with experts who’ve helped other companies succeed.