Scaling Your Business: The Scaling Success Ecosystem
The key to scaling your business with sanity and focus is all about making sure the right things get done, at the right time, in the right way and by the right people. That is a mouth full, right? So I’ve distilled that down into 3 key areas: Planning (right things at the right time), Processes & Systems (in the right way) and People (right people).
Remember that scaling your business is about growing your revenue without a substantial increase in resources so nailing these 3 areas means your business can grow exponentially.
Let me start by telling you that many aspects of this Ecosystem are things that you will have heard of before. However, if you’re reading this, you are likely a ‘typical’ entrepreneur or business owner - so you are probably already overwhelmed and this doesn’t sit well in your zone of comfort. So I promise to keep it simple and easy to understand but also full to the brim with actionable steps for scaling your business with sanity and focus.
I've also made a short video explaining everything in this blog which you can watch here.
The Scaling Success Ecosystem Overview
The 3 areas (Planning, Processes & Systems and People) aren’t distinct pillars - they are an intertwined ecosystem. One does not function properly without the other two. In the dictionary an ecosystem (in its simplest definition) is “an interconnected system”.
However, I fundamentally believe that when a business first starts to really implement this Ecosystem there should be a logical order or focus. It would be a messy and complicated Ecosystem if a business owner tried to implement or focus on each of these areas in tandem.
Furthermore, an ecosystem is a “group of living organisms that interact with each other” so going along with that definition, these areas are not static, they are living...evolving...changing. So this Ecosystem is NOT a process. It is something that needs to be revisited regularly and needs to evolve as the business scales and grows. The right plan now, won’t be the right plan next year, for example.
Lastly, each area is the same size, they are balanced. There needs to be balance in any ecosystem for it to function properly. There can not be a greater focus on one area over another.
So if I were to create a visual diagram of what this Ecosystem looks like:
The one piece of the Ecosystem that I haven’t touched upon yet is the centre. In the central circle is the Visionary and Pragmatist. These are two people, or roles, that form the nucleus which controls and regulates the activities in this Ecosystem. I believe that every successful business needs to have these two people.
So before I go in more depth on the 3 key areas of the Scaling Success Ecosystem, I need to cover each of these roles in more detail.
A Visionary is often the founder of a business so is entrepreneurial and creative by their very nature. They generate tons of ideas and are often concerned with the “big picture”. However, a Visionary is often not interested in or gets bored with the smaller, more detailed aspects of running a business.
According to the dictionary, a Visionary “thinks about or plans the future with imagination”. They are strategic thinkers that get fired up by turning their ideas into a future vision. However, when it comes to planning and implementing that vision, the Visionary may not always clearly see the path towards it or want to be involved in the minutiae of implementing that plan. This is because a Visionary gets bored easily and can struggle to stay focussed; often starting many different projects at once but only completing a few.
A Visionary has so many ideas that they may get distracted by the “shiny stuff” that doesn’t fit with the business’ focus. This can lead to a lack of consistency and the team can lose sight of where they are headed. And speaking of team, Visionaries often shy away from the details on a long-term basis which means they often aren’t good at managing people and holding people accountable.
A Pragmatist is “a person who is guided more by practical considerations than by ideals”. They can often foresee the detailed effects and implications of the Visionary’s big ideas alongside what needs to happen day-to-day to make those ideas a reality. This means the Pragmatist is great at balancing everything for the right timing based on resources and the business plan (which can sometimes frustrate the Visionary as it can feel like things are moving too slowly).
They excel at integrating the people, processes, systems, priorities, plans and strategy of a business together. This means a Pragmatist is great at executing business plans and aligning everything with the business’s priorities as well as managing big projects to conclusion.
A Pragmatist is also an excellent sounding board for the Visionary, filtering the Visionary’s ideas and being a ‘voice of reason’. However, they can be seen as pessimists as they poke holes in ideas and often say ‘no’.
The Visionary and Pragmatist Relationship
The combination of these two people produce an ideal balance to the Ecosystem and are central to scaling your business successfully. They are polar opposites but complementary forces - they are a team, a duo. Although the Visionary is often the Founder or CEO, it is the magic of the Visionary and Pragmatist working in tandem that allows the 3 areas of the Ecosystem to flourish.
Let’s move on now to the first area, Planning. This sits at the top of the Ecosystem because a plan is required before Processes and People. Without a plan, the other 2 areas will lack focus. A business needs a plan so it’s clear what processes and systems are needed as well as what people are required and what things they should be doing.
Planning should always start with the Vision - in order to make good decisions, you must be clear on your direction. It ensures everyone is on the same page and mitigates any disconnects.
A vision paints a clear picture of what you want your business to be based on your goals and aspirations. Having a vision will give your business a clear focus, and can stop you heading in the wrong direction.
Alongside your vision, you should outline your values, core focus and a 3-5 year picture.
Firstly, every business needs to know their values. The values are the beliefs, philosophies, and principles that drive your business and ensuring each member of the team lives by these is key. Your business values help differentiate you from the competition.
Next is the business’s core focus which is around purpose and your target market. Why does your business exist and who for? Trying to do everything for everyone is business suicide! You can’t be all things to all people.
In order to nail your core focus even more, ask yourself the question, “What are we better at than anyone else in the world?”
Being crystal clear on this is not only paramount for your marketing and positioning but also keeps the Visionary from getting distracted with shiny stuff that doesn’t fit within this focus.
3-5 Year Picture
Finally, what is the business’s 3-5 year picture? This isn’t a highly detailed strategic plan but rather a handful of descriptive bullet points that paint a clear picture of the vision. What is your big, audacious goal for the business? Will you expand outside your current geographical area whether that be with physical offices or to a wider target market outside of a set location? Will your business offer more services or maybe your service will stay similar but the method of delivering it will change? Is it being on the cover of Forbes magazine? Selling your business? Hopefully you get the picture (see what I did there?!).
1 Year Plan
Now it’s time to turn that vision into a realistic plan of action. The key with this part of Planning is to start with the top level business measurables, generally revenue and profit, and you can add 1-2 others depending on your business (margin %, cashflow £, etc). It’s important to note that more measurables doesn’t equate to a better plan. Stick to the 2-4 that will actually drive your business closer to that 3-5 year picture.
From there, filter down the top 3-7 business goals that, if achieved this year, will have a tangible and positive impact on the top level business measurables. These goals need to be specific, measurable and attainable. By specific I mean that any outsider could understand that goal and it’s as simply worded as possible. Attainable means that the goal needs to be realistic and achievable. Measurable is the hardest as we often take that to mean it has to have a number attached to it, however, a goal is measurable when there is a clear outcome that means the goal has been obtained.
Final Note on Planning
Communication of everything that sits within the Planning area is critical. Creating all of this is great but sitting in your Google Drive or DropBox as static documents doesn’t help in scaling your business. I’ll come to communication with your entire team, in more detail, under People.
Processes & Systems
The second area in the Scaling Success Ecosystem is Processes & Systems. This is all about doing things in the right way. Without Processes & Systems it will be difficult to bring the Planning to fruition and your People won’t have effective and efficient means to carry out the Plan.
Mapping out your business processes allows you and your team to get a very good sense of what’s going on within the business – both on a day-to-day level and on the larger scale. This, in turn, makes it easier to achieve your goals.
The definition of a process is “a set of repeatable activities and tasks that, once completed, will accomplish an organisational goal.”
You will have several key processes that are undertaken regularly but are they documented and shared with the team? Having them in your head or the heads’ of team members will cause bottlenecks that will stifle growth.
Defining Key Business Processes
Start by looking at the major business functions: Marketing, Sales, Finance and Operations (Product / Service Delivery).
Marketing: What are the processes required to market your business across social media and email? What process is needed for content creation and dissemination? How do you track marketing leads and nurture those into sales conversations?
Sales: What is the process a lead should go through from an initial expression of interest or outreach through to a customer? This is most likely a large process with smaller, sub processes throughout at each stage of the sales cycle.
Finance: What bookkeeping processes are required for your accountant - both for money coming in and invoicing (payables) and money going out such as receipts and bills (receivables). Depending on how complex and or regulated your industry is, there are many other potential processes.
Operations: What are the processes to deliver your product or service to your customers? This should include processes for how you onboard new customers (service delivery), deal with customer support issues, all the way through to the final stage of delivery (including feedback and next steps). A lot of this will also be customer service related but I haven’t separated that out into a separate function for simplicity.
Documenting Key Business Processes
Once you have your list of key business processes, it’s time to map them out. I would highly recommend doing this step with the team members that are directly involved in those processes. They will have a much better grasp on what needs to happen day-to-day.
You can map these out with a whiteboard or sticky notes on a wall or you can use a process flowchart software such as Creatley. Use whatever you think will work best for you and the team.
The areas you need to consider when mapping this out:
- Who is the owner of each task
- When does each task need to happen
- How does each task need to be carried out (in as much detail as possible)
- What systems need to be used
- What templates do you need for emails, customer documents, etc
- Would short video tutorials on certain tasks be beneficial
- Are there any gaps in the current process
- How could you improve this process to make it more efficient and/or effective
Once you have it all mapped out, I suggest you implement each process as a series of repeating tasks in your task management system such as Asana or ClickUp. Let’s face it, a well documented process is great but if it’s then not implemented and followed, it’s useless!
Final Note on Processes
Again, just like with Planning, communicating expectations around your key business processes is super important. Just having them written down somewhere is of no use to your team.
When I refer to Systems, I mean software systems - the software systems your business needs to effectively and efficiently carry out your key business processes. It is a great idea to look for systems that will help you to automate your processes as much as possible, reducing human error and saving time.
Essential Software Systems for Scaling Your Business
This list is by no means exhaustive but should give you a good indication of the main systems that I would deem essential.
- Email Marketing - ConvertKit, ActiveCampaign, MailChimp, MailerLite
- Document Sharing and Storage - DropBox, Google Drive, OneDrive
- Task & Project Management - Asana, Monday, ClickUp
- CRM - ActiveCampaign, PipeDrive, HubSpot
- Accounting - FreeAgent, Xero
Final Note on Systems
You need to ensure each team member is fully trained on how to use each system. I would suggest running a live training session and recording it so that the recorded training can be used each time you onboard a new team member.
Last, but not least is People. People form the foundation for any successful scaling business. You need to have the right people around you to achieve everything set out in the Planning stage.
Rather than looking at the current team and creating specific roles and responsibilities that suit their skill set, you must look at the plan and goals and decide on the roles that are required to achieve it.
It may be that you have the right people in place to achieve the plan or it may be that you need to do some restructuring and dare I say it, clearing out.
A lot of the time, as businesses scale, they come to the realisation that the team they’ve had in place are:
- Reliant on the CEO to hand out tasks
- Come to the CEO with problems
What you NEED, however, are people that are proactively solving problems and are taking ownership of their responsibilities.
Training your team on the correct Processes and how to use your IT Systems is paramount. I have mentioned it a few times thus far but I need to reiterate how this should be a constant cycle.
You should have a robust onboarding process that includes training on the above but you also need to ensure that every time a Process changes or a new System is implemented, that full training is carried out with the relevant team members.
Communication & Accountability
Communicate, communicate, communicate! I can not stress enough how regular weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings with the full team are super important. Make sure the team is clear on the Plans, progress towards goals and their contribution towards this via individual and team KPIs.
This is not about performance management per se but about holding each person accountable and making sure they have satisfaction in knowing what part they play in scaling your business.
Scaling Your Business Successfully
To summarise, there are 3 key areas to scaling your business successfully: Planning, Processes & Systems and People.
Although it’s impossible for me to give you the one secret that will make your business scale exponentially rather than grow, I hope you’ve been able to take away at least one tip from reading this.
If, on the other hand, you are feeling overwhelmed by what it takes to scale your business, I can take your shedload of ideas and inspiration, turn it into an actionable plan, and help you stay focussed until your vision becomes a reality and your work life becomes a whole lot more enjoyable.
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