Building a business from scratch is tough. But how do you grow from a start up to scale a business to grow?
The Life is Good company is a great example. Now a $100MM/year sales business. The Jacob brothers of Boston started selling of all things – T-Shirts- in Harvard Square.
The most invented and reinvented business idea in the ‘worse’ apparel commodity imaginable.
After 5 1/2 years they were establishing their brand’s sales market niche through college dormitories. The art work and positive Life is Good messages tapped into an optimism young people sought to express themselves through what they wore.
Still for their efforts the brothers only had 78 dollars in the bank, and shared an apartment and pizza dinners.
At a certain point their original inspiration for starting a business… something in art without having to get a ‘job’… transformed into a vision to become a media and communications company to drive positive social change. Read the full Fortune magazine interview of Bert and John Jacobs here.
Going from start up to a growth business is another tough stage. Initially you have no or little information about the market, or your company’s sales or prospects. If you’re fortunate your business catches fire and then you need to grow it and yourself up.
Unfortunately for many businesses what got them started with a handful of people turns into a company with a 100 to 200 people that operates the same way it did back in the kitchen.
Here are ideas for you as the entrepreneur growing into a company CEO to find your growth pathway to creating a sustainable, predictable business to support yourself, your employees and their families, and the greater community.
- Know your ideal customer. Not all customers are good; in fact some are detrimental.
- Scale process and systems to provide visibility into how the business is performing. Yes this is data: sales information comparisons by accounts, channels, etc. Operations data on what it takes to build and make products and services.
- Rethink leadership, team and organization. What are the roles and functions of the organization, who is accountable and how can performance be measured to be better?
- Be objective. Get the facts to support your decisions.There’s art to the science and science to the art. If you rely only on your gut instincts, or the art side, to guide the business you’re fooling yourself.
- Build new leadership and management skills. Be willing to learn. Continuous learning is significant to improve skills and benefit from the people in the organization. These are the very people you’ll need to rely on to scale the business. If you don’t have the skills to keep up with the growth and your people, you’ll hold the business back.
Here are additional references to help you.
- Finding the Route to Growth- Fortune article
- Best Customer
- Aligning Why
- 6 Keys to Sustainable Revenue
- What’s the Big Idea
Peter Klinge Jr. is an interim executive focused on growth stage development and execution for small to mid size private companies.