I just received my third investor quarterly investor update earlier this week. The same narrative can be found across the majority of DTC brands — Growth is a true double-edged sword. On one hand, it's a clear indication that your business is moving in the right direction, but on the other hand, it can easily spin out of control and lead to burnout, frustration, and, worst of all, failure.
So, how do you manage growth while maintaining quality? The key is 100% in the strategy and having patience.
Going on nearly ten years in the ecommerce world, I’ve seen that the biggest mistakes come from when you’re moving too fast and trying to grow 500% year over year. If you’re trying to blast off and cash out quickly for an exit, that’s when mistakes happen and burnout is inevitable.
At the risk of being redundant, it’s not about how you begin, it’s how you end. I want nothing more than for you guys to be able to learn from my mistakes and shorten your learning curve immensely.
Here are some tips that have helped me on my journey building a solid ecommerce strategy plan, and I'm spilling the tea like usual so you can benefit as much as possible.
Strategies for managing growth while maintaining quality
1. Hire right and train well
The quality of your business is determined by the quality of your team.
Period. If you're looking to scale sustainably, you must prioritize a strong hiring process that ensures you bring in the right talent that aligns with your company's values. But hiring alone isn't enough. You also need to prioritize employee training and development to enhance skills and knowledge. The better equipped your team is, the better they can contribute to your growth and success.
Most importantly if you are just hiring with no clear KPIs or weekly goals and their only task is to get “stuff off your plate” then that person is destined to fail.
2. Set clear goals and priorities
Managing growth effectively requires a clear understanding of what matters most to your business. Setting clear goals and priorities will help you manage resources effectively, avoid distractions, and stay focused on what matters most. Make sure that your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Remember, if you can't measure it, you can't manage it.
Most importantly make sure your employees are motivated. Most of the time motivation comes in the form of either cash or freedom. The cash part is the easiest but the freedom is the one managers struggle the most with. Does freedom mean time off? Does freedom mean not micromanaging and having trust in your team?
Each person works differently and as much as people like to talk down on a 9-5, nothing has been more pivotal in my career than understanding how the average employee thinks and how to be a good boss or a terrible one.
3. Establish a feedback loop with your customers
Your customers are your biggest asset, and understanding their needs is critical to growing your business. Establishing a feedback loop with them will provide valuable insight into what they like, dislike, and what can be improved. Use this feedback to continuously improve and refine your product or service
I’ll be the first one to admit CROSSNET’s customer service is a mess right now. We’re too busy focused on profitability and making more than we spend, that we are not putting the customer first. Days, sometimes weeks go by without some orders shipping out. Emails not answered in a timely fashion. Our team needs to put its head together just for 2 days, figure out the best solution for communication with customers and just fix the problems.
4. Embrace automation and technology
Automation and technology can help you streamline your operations, save time, and reduce the margin of manual error. Invest in software and tools that automate repetitive tasks, track key performance indicators, and gather data to help you make more informed business decisions.
If it's not technology, it may be an affordable virtual assistant that can help you save several hours a day. We just hired two offshore finance admins for less than $6 an hour that are working over 20 hours a week each. They are worth their weight in gold, helping us receive invoices quicker from retailers and following up on nearly 200+ unpaid invoices.
How to build scalable systems and processes
As you scale your startup, your systems and processes need to scale with you. Here are some tips for building scalable systems and processes to help you stay efficient, effective, and profitable.
1. Develop a scalable infrastructure
Take note of what your average workday looks like. Where are you spending each hour? I can almost guarantee you spending time doing some routine tasks that could be automated with technology or support.
2. Implement standard operating procedures
Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are vital to streamlining your operations, improving efficiency, increasing consistency, and reducing errors. SOPs also ensure effective knowledge transfer between team members, making it easier to onboard new employees.
3. Be agile & stay frugal
If a system doesn’t work for your team don’t make your head on the wall and keep trying to march forward. Different process work for different teams and you don’t need to adapt everything you see. For us free Google spreadsheets work and at other times we may need a comprehensive tech solution that costs thousands a month. There is nothing worse than taking on technology that ends up slowing down your team and charging you an arm and a leg.
Scaling your startup sustainably requires careful planning, strategy, and a commitment to excellence. Each day is a grind and some days will be more rewarding than others. It's important in 2023 to have an open dialogue with your team about saving money in any area they can.
Most importantly—I’ve found that total transparency about the company’s goals & financial state leads to a company that marches to the same beat.
Pro tip: Regardless if you have investors, get in the habit of writing a quarterly or monthly update and share it with the entire team. What’s going well? What could be improved? Where did we fall short?
Just remember business is a marathon and not a sprint. Going too fast is where the tires fall off and the car flips. Remember, it's not just about achieving success, but achieving it sustainably. Do it right and you'll be able to build a strong foundation for long-term growth and stability.
P.S. If you have any specific questions simply shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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