Preparing for Growth in Your Creative Business
Obviously we all want our businesses to grow. It's that saying "if you aren't growing, you’re dying" sort of thing.
A friend of mine uses the quote, "when you're through changing, you're through". - Bruce Barton
When you’re growing, you’re bring in more revenue, more people, building better systems, producing more product and it starts to feel really good when you see that growth come in.
We’re seeing a lot of growth here at Stationery Academy and while it’s awesome (big things are coming!), it’s also stressful because you start to think “Am I ready for this? Can I handle this?” My role is changing as a solo-entrepreneur and I’m changing into more of a manager and a leader of a company.
If you’re feeling the same sorts of things, it’s also going to propel you into some markets you might not have been in before. You’re going to get up against bigger and better and more efficient competition. You’re not competing against mom and pop shops anymore. You’re competing against people who are on Amazon - global businesses - and the big guys.
Growth can be scary.
You start to outgrow some things and that things are out of control. You’re managing people and delegating things that you once did yourself and you have to hire people that fit the value of your company that you trust. You have to add more space, potentially. You have more overhead because you have more product, or you need more space to house your product. You have to put more systems in place, too.
In order to grow, you have to want to change. This is something I’m struggling with. I’ve always been a "solo entrepreneur", but I just added two people to assist me (in addition to outsourcing my bookkeeping and web design.) My CFO and I (my husband) have a monthly meeting where we go over my books and projections. Those sorts of things are weird because you become a manager and leader instead of someone who’s flying by the seat of your pants and just getting done what needs to get done. It’s just not the same role anymore.
For example, maybe your shop is on Etsy and you know you need to build a better system with features that Etsy may not be able to give you. You have to implement your own platform because you’ve outgrown etsy or you need to hire a shop manager to to answer customer service requests and packaging. You might have to outsource bookkeeping or you have to have difficult conversations with employees who aren’t performing well. Maybe you can’t pay yourself that month because you have employees or 1099 (contract, not payroll employees) you’re committed to. That’s another risk associated with growth.
Suddenly you’re developing a culture, you’re managing people, you’re training staff and doing payroll….and none of that stuff is why you got into business. If you’re up to getting through that nitty gritty though, the growth can be so worth it.
There are two ways to grow. You can make improvements or you can create innovations.
Say you have a plane (your business) with 4 seats. It can only fly 7-10,000 feet high and carry three other people at a time. As you start to grow, maybe you need to fly for longer amounts of time (you'll need to be at higher altitudes) and maybe you need to carry more people. You need to invest in a bigger plane, right?
Now suddenly you’re flying such a big plane that you can’t fly it anymore unless you want to go get your commercial pilot’s license. You're flying into bigger airports, carrying more people, and facing new complexities, so you have to hire a commercial pilot to fly it for you. This is just like your business. You need to invest in better equipment, carry more people with you, and hire people who specialize in certain areas to grow. These are the risks and rewards that come with running a company.
If your site is on Etsy, maybe you can be innovative in how you move your site to your own platform, or you expand and add your products to Amazon Handmade as well as Etsy. Perhaps you can apply what you’re doing in your business and apply it to a completely different market space. (If you’re making something for the stationery and gift industry, maybe that can translate to a different industry.)
To grow, you have to implement new platforms, new systems, you have to hire employees, and specialists to get you to the next level. And you have to be prepared for that "pain of change" where you aren’t doing the fun stuff anymore. It’s this learning curve that you have to embrace if you want to grow your business. During this period when you’re making all of these changes, you have to let off the gas pedal. You can’t be going full speed ahead and doing all those other things at the same time.
Give your company, your people, and your systems time to catch up before you hit the gas pedal again and THEN go for more growth.
So tell us, what are your biggest business growing pains?
P.S. I hope that you’re excited for the holiday season! This is a great season of growth to finish out the year strong. Stay tuned for more tips on growth, planning, and goal setting in our newsletter. If you aren't already, sign up here.