So many online businesses that I work with come to realise that they aren't structured as they need to be, for growth and success.
From not delegating effectively, to not investing in systems to help you scale and the classic - avoiding a hard review of any kind of performance on a monthly basis (also known as the "Ostrich head in the sand" method of running a business!)...
We've all been there and can hold our hands up to this at somepoint, right?
You see it is so easy to get bogged down in the "doing", so much so, that we forget to lift our heads up and make time to put these fundamental building blocks in place.
So today, that changes! Read on to find out how.
When I talk about structure – I mean the basic foundational building blocks your business needs to have in place in order to grow and operate at scale. Typically this includes:
Many businesses simply aren’t in the right shape to begin with, before they go for growth – so we have to get “in shape” first and put some structure, some foundations in place, so we are absolutely ready and prepared for the growth journey ahead.
That way, we can run a whole lot faster!
As your business grows, EVERYTHING grows – not just your sales (which is nice) but your costs and problems too! Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying or hasn’t actually grown a business!
I promise you absolutely everything expands – the good bits and the bad bits. That manual process you do each morning – can that really scale when you need to do it for 100 customers? What about 1000 customers? Really think about that for a moment…
So if you have something that isn’t quite working today in your business – perhaps a strange work around or manual intervention you do before you get your product out the door – well, when you scale up your business and start operating at the next level - that strange quirk, that work around, will be magnified 1000 % and it will create all kinds of havoc to your business efficiency and your costs.
When you structure your business for success, you actually decide to make the time to put in place all the building blocks you need to scale.
To look for the solutions that will serve you long term - whether that's great processes, systems, building capability in your people or driving for better measurement and control...and most importantly as a business leader you re-discover a balance between doing the "doing" and taking time out to structure and set direction.
... and that all leads to business growth.
Structuring for success begins with:
Let’s get honest now – how often do you formally sit down with your senior team or investors and review the companies performance? When the annual accounts come out? At year end in a “what went well” type of chat?
Nooooo… if you are serious about growing your business, effective performance review has to start today.
That means creating a regular meeting review structure, typically monthly, with a set agenda that professionally challenges and reviews what has been achieved in the month – both operationally and financially.
Successful businesses formally review their monthly management accounts (their numbers) and then use a standard template to review operations with sections such as:
This gives structure and acts as a vital Healthcheck for your business, so you can repeat great performance and diagnose early and quickly when there are problems.
It’s a forum for your senior team to come together and act like a team – taking responsibility and being held to account for what they contribute and deliver for the company. And it's also a forum for you as the business leader to be seen to be leading.
I obviously love everything Tech, so of course I am going to say structuring for success means getting your systems and data in order.. but it's true! How do you do this? Super simple - make sure you select online platforms and tools that will grow with you.
You want systems that are:
Begin by making a list - what systems and tools do you use today in your online business? Do they meet the above criteria ? Can they grow with you?
If not, what is your investment path, the journey you need to go on with your systems to develop strong foundations that your business can really lean on? What systems are the leaders in your industry using right now? What might you need to implement and when? How much capacity can your current system take before it falls over?
You can discover more about the platforms I love, ones that can grow with you, on our Toolkit page.
I also love a good process, so let me ask you honestly - Can your business work if you are not there?
You’d be surprised how many business owners can’t even do that. And the main reason?
Structuring for success means a company needs to be able to stand on its own two feet without you as business owner, being there day in, day out and without you having to get sucked down into the detail to fix the problems.
And it's only when you achieve that “self reliance” stage for your business, that you achieve a "business in a box" - something that has real value, that can be scaled and eventually packaged and sold. That can be exited for ££s.
To structure for success, you must start writing down “how we do things around here” - your processes. As you write your processes down, it is an ideal opportunity to review them and standardise the way you do things, so that it becomes repeatable by any trained resource.
Start with your most significant processes – like serving a customer and challenge yourself by asking:
Structuring for success also starts with you. If delegating is not your thing because you like to have a super deep sense of control or being an inspiring leader and motivating people to get results, frightens you half to death... then it's time to step up and be the CEO you need to be.
There is an important and clear personal development side to structuring for success - and that learning and development always starts with you - the business owner.
I genuinely understand that employing people to delegate to and lead, has it’s own unique set of challenges and often this is seen as quite a step up in terms of investment to get the right people into the right roles.
Structuring for success means designing the right organisational structure for your business. When you draw out a standard organisation structure for your business, how many jobs are you actually doing within the business, as well as the CEO job? I bet you can put your name in most of the boxes on the org chart!
As you scale, you will need to structure and organise your people correctly and eventually put in a layer of management and specialist skills sets to support growth. Because until you do – you will get dragged down constantly into the weeds of the business.
The only way your business is going to grow is if you purposefully structure, invest in and nurture Talent. Until you've got a company that can run itself without you, you learn to delegate, you learn to trust and let go - well, you don't really have a standalone business at all.
You can't expect your employees to know what your vision is either – they simply won’t interpret what's in your head unless you tell them. So structuring for success is all about being clear on:
You need to make sure the communication channels flow.
You’ll want to make sure that each person, each of your employees know exactly what they need to be doing and what great performance looks like for them - how they can be successful and contribute. Find ways to bring your staff together on a regular basis, creating excellent teamwork.
It doesn't just happen by default. It takes what?.... you’ve guessed it, structure.
This seems like an obvious one and is often the first thing you will think of when considering business growth – I need a bigger office / warehouse / machine!
Yes and No. I would like to challenge you on whether you really need the glamourous office or perhaps you could scale up your ambition by embracing virtual working...and spend the money on marketing your business instead? Rent is expensive right?
We are in a brave new world :)
On capital investments like new machines to double your production capacity or more IT equipment, structuring for success means making sure your set up is truly scaleable – have you considered outsourcing to a third party as a means of creating infinite scale?
Remember, you don’t need to be an expert in everything in today’s world. It’s about structuring your resources in the very best way to enable success… and that might just mean it’s not you who does it !
As with any structuring for success path, these decisions will require a full business case to weigh up the costs against the benefits but once you have great building blocks in place – imagine how confident you would be to grow, knowing there are no limits to volumes, capacity or scope.
As you grow, you will absolutely need more structure and controls around your business to help your business function correctly and to help you steer the ship.
The key to scaling your business and achieving growth is to build those solid foundations first, to build up those robust layers of people, process, systems.
It is critical that you set your online business “machine” up to succeed. Work done now on this will only help you grow your business faster.