Most small business owners hit a growth ceiling (the most revenue they can achieve at their current state) at some point. When they do, expansion stalls, and the business’ focus shifts from scaling to maintaining.
And most of the time, this happens because business owners are concentrating on the wrong type of work. They fixate on the day-to-day and fail to think about the high-level strategies for scaling their business. And if you feel like you’re hitting your growth ceiling, breaking through it comes down to building systems within your business.
A few weeks ago, we held the ultimate SMB conference, Playbook 2021, where we caught up with three small business owners pushing the limits in their industries. There, they shared their experience scaling their businesses and breaking through the growth ceilings. And four tips stood out.
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1. Go from doing to delegating
Almost every small business owner starts by doing the work and setting the standard for their business. But when revenue starts to pick up and leaders are looking to grow, delegation is key.
No one knows that better than April Prothero, CEO and founder of Going GreenHouse, a cleaning services company in Phoenix, Arizona. April has been running her business for ten years. And while she now has a team of qualified cleaners at her back, April started with only vacuum and mop in hand.
April wanted to set her business standard from day one. “I know what clean looks like. I’m just going to do [the cleaning],” she shared. “And then, you know, word of mouth started to spread, and I hired my second person.”
For April, hiring more people meant adding more chances to grow revenue. It also meant she could hand off some of the front-line responsibilities. She had more time to focus on strategies for keeping existing customers while reaching potential ones.
For Ryan Cobbins, owner and CEO of Coffee at The Point, that distinction between being a leader and doing the work has become a priority. At his coffee and wine lounge in Denver, Colorado, Ryan is happy to do his part working on the floor. But he’s the first to say, “if you walk in and you find me behind the espresso machine, there’s a problem.”
For any small business getting off the ground, do the work, and set the bar. Once business picks up, the natural next step is to look for help. When this happens, be ready to teach your employees to take over on the front lines. Step back and focus on the bigger picture: pushing for more customers and more revenue.
2. Choose your team wisely
If you’re in the position to pivot your attention to running your business, you need a team you can trust. One that will uphold your company’s quality and act as the face of your business.
As the founder and CEO of Outsource Access, Brad Stevens connects small businesses to fully trained, ready-to-work virtual assistants (VA). When we asked him about what a successful team looks like, he focused on first and foremost hiring the right people.
“It starts at the beginning [with] the type of people you bring in,” Brad explained. “[They should] have the right mindset, [be] oriented, and want to become a 2.0 version of yourself.” Meaning, the right people will promise to uphold your high standard. And they will also support your vision.
~ Brad Stevens, Founder and CEO of Outsource Access.
“If I’m having to fight an uphill battle, then I’ve [hired] the wrong people in the wrong seats and in our business.”
To do this, part of the Going GreenHouse hiring process is determining who finds accomplishment and pride in learning about the company. The people who don’t aren’t a good fit, and “they’re probably not going to care about someone else’s home,” per April.
And her best advice is to make sure the people you bring onto your team will put the same care and attention into your product that you would. The success of your business depends on the quality of the team behind it.
3. Document everything
To scale your business, there needs to be alignment amongst your employees. And that starts with process documentation.
At Outsource Access, the business is process-driven to speed up everything they do. Because turnaround time is limited, VA training needs to be done quickly and consistently.
Like thousands of other small business leaders before him, Brad turned to Trainual, the world’s premier business playbook software. He said that the onboarding process became more streamlined by using Trainual to document his business’s workflow and system. As a result, he’s brought in more clients.
Similarly, at Coffee at The Point, having their processes recorded in Trainual keeps employees aligned. And having all of their documentation in one place has simplified their training overall.
~ Ryan Cobbins, Owner and CEO of Coffee at The Point
“[Employees] have the opportunity to have information at their fingertips in order for them to advance in a way that they want to advance when they start with [Trainual].”
And in the pandemic era, systems and processes have suffered a bit of decline. Thankfully for Ryan, having their company knowledge documented and accessible means his employees know exactly where to find answers.
Having everything written down or typed up provides a foundation for all the systems and processes that help your business run smoothly. Ryan suggests starting to document everything that works and make note of what doesn’t.
🔥 Tip: Looking to streamline your training and onboarding processes? Trainual gets people fully trained (and keeps them there) in half the time of other training methods. Try Trainual for free!
4. Promote consistency and efficiency
In the end, documentation and training are there to make sure your service is consistent. And once your workflow is dependable, there’s room to improve efficiency and drive even more growth.
For a people-powered service business like Going GreenHouse, consistency leads to great reviews. And those reviews lead to continuous and sustainable development.
By standardizing the cleaning process, April set the bar for her team. Those standards help clients know what to expect and give her employees a checklist for meeting those expectations.
~ April Prothero, CEO and Founder of Going GreenHouse
“When it comes to employees and clients, having expectations that are met and communicated… is key for us.”
Similarly, for Ryan and the team at Coffee at The Point, having an efficient workforce helps increase productivity. He explained that involving his team in documentation developed their best practices. It also empowered his employees by giving them a say in how the business runs.
In other words, finding what your most efficient and most productive employees do helps your other employees develop their efficiency. And that consistency across your team increases the quality of your product or service, bringing in new customers.
But employee alignment isn’t just about new customers. According to Brad, the accountability that comes with documentation also retains employees for the long run.
“A lot of [companies] lose people because they’re not organized and structured,” Brad said. “[You lose] somebody that could be an amazing employee because they can’t survive in that tornado.”
At the bare minimum, focus on documenting the processes that run your business. Having those systems in place gives your team the foundation to deliver consistent service. 70% of employees leave a business for better development and learning, so build up processes that help you keep your best people!
Bonus tip: Just do it
Their last piece of advice? Just start documenting your processes, or pay somebody to do it for you.
🔥 Tip: Trainual offers cost-effective migration and documentation services for all industries. That way, your playbook gets built without your team having to build it. Learn more.
Most small business owners aren’t afraid of the hard work of getting their business off the ground. But many of them wear so many hats, Brad shared, that they limit themselves. As a result, business owners can’t break through the growth ceiling because they’re too busy dealing with everything else that comes with running a small business.
In fact, 40% of small businesses fail within the first year because business owners try to do all the work themselves and burn out. Business leaders can’t be afraid to delegate. But delegation is a lot easier when everything is documented, and your employees know how to do their tasks confidently and efficiently.
Getting your process documented and implemented will streamline your business’s growth. And if you don’t have the time to do it yourself, be like April and Ryan. Use one of Trainual’s certified consultants and make your documentation process easy! Our Process People are the coaches, process writers, and SOP experts who are helping small businesses systemize and scale.
These small business leaders have found success through developing consistency and efficiency amongst their teams. The systems they’ve built in their businesses have pushed them through the growth ceiling. So, ask yourself, how can you implement processes in your own business to unlock exponential growth?