Managing your infrastructure to make room for growth
By ATB Financial 7 July 2020 5 min read
If your business is ready to expand, you likely will go through a bout of self-congratulations and enthusiasm. But when the honeymoon phase fades, it’s time to assess several important considerations for business owners on the precipice of growing and scaling successfully.
From supplier management to dealing with more physical space, to staffing issues, you could be overwhelmed by the many facets of shifting your infrastructure to make room for growth. Thankfully, expert advice and insight can mitigate any anxious feelings you have about this move.
Prioritizing supplier relationships, cash flow
When expanding, you have to look hard at how you will pay vendors and suppliers, says Kate McKenzie, manager of ATB X. “If you grow too fast you may not have enough cash to also cover day-to-day operations such as bills and payroll,” she says. “Determine when payments need to be made. Inquire with suppliers about what payment options are available. For example, would you be able to save money by paying for services on a yearly basis which you budget for each month? Or would it be better to pay suppliers before the due date in order to ensure you do not incur late fees?”
She adds that as your business booms, confirm you have standards in place that let you collect on your invoices so you don’t grow yourself out of business due to shortfalls in cash.
Strengthening supplier relationships is also critical when you expand, which may inspire you to find new suppliers in order to keep up with demand. A worthwhile tip for you to consider here is knowing where new suppliers are based. McKenzie notes that during the pandemic many entrepreneurs realized that although their sales remained steady or even increased, they were not always able to meet demand because their packaging supplies could no longer be shipped internationally.
She says, “Likewise, one company I worked with planned to expand their operations and ordered a new machine to double their production. But all parts had to be specially ordered internationally so when the machine broke down their capacity to meet demand was greatly impacted.”
Key distribution questions
As you grow, you need the right distributor to work with you to scale effectively. After all, when the customers flock to your new second space, you want to ensure they can get their products quickly.
McKenzie recommends you look for a distribution partner that shares your company values. It’s also important to have a written agreement in place so everyone is on the same page with deliverables.
Before signing a deal with a new distributor, you should ask them the following questions, McKenzie suggests:
- Do you provide distribution for domestic and international?
- How does your distribution process work?
- How are regulatory needs dealt with, such as labeling for different provinces/countries?
- What types of companies do you generally work with?
- What is your minimum order quantity (MOQ)?
- What is your turnaround time? Does that include shipping?
- What are your payment terms?
- How do you handle delays?
Smart infrastructure management = savvy succession planning
When you have to manage multiple locations, make sure you standardize business processes, make them repeatable, and train staff in a way that has them fully prepared with a second or third location opens.
As McKenzie noted in this other ATB article on opening a second physical location, “Succession planning is important for any business, but especially when you expand. So you need to plan to allocate time before the move to train your staff who can run the day-to-day operations at the new outlet.”
A report from Info Entrepreneurs suggests developing the right systems to manage all the data that comes with a scaling company. “Responsibilities and tasks should be delegated as your business grows, but without solid management information systems you cannot manage effectively. The larger your business grows, the harder it is to ensure that information is shared and different functions work together effectively. Putting the right infrastructure in place is an essential part of helping your business to grow.”
Human resource development needs to be strong
When your business expands, your greatest asset—the staff—should be a high priority, considering how many questions they may have about the expansion and the business processes that come along with it.
McKenzie highlights three key areas for you to take into account when you look at the HR side of business growth:
- Quarterly employee check-ins can let you receive feedback from staff to monitor how the new changes are being felt by your team, McKenzie says. “One of the best ways to touch base is to set up weekly stand-up meetings with your team as well as allowing quarterly one-on-one check ins with each member of your team.”
- Evaluate your team’s strengths because as you grow you may find that your staffing needs a tweak here and there. “Many companies start out by hiring several generalists who can fill a variety of roles which is necessary in the early stages of any company,” McKenzie says. “However, as your company grows you may find you need more specialized roles. To reduce the need for new hires, consider how you can support professional development of your team. Touch base regularly with team members to ask where they would like to grow professionally and develop their strengths further.
- Communication means involving your team as you plan for growth. “Although growth is a great thing for your company, it also involves change and change can be hard to accept,” McKenzie adds, noting it’s critical to help your team understand why this change is necessary, how they can support it and how the company will achieve this new vision.
As exciting as your company leveling up can be, it can also take you out of your comfort zone. You get into a rhythm as an entrepreneur, especially when you and your staff are accustomed to a certain level of expectations from both supply partners and customers.
But catapulting into a new growth stage doesn’t have to be riddled with anxiety and doubt. Instead, understanding the many facets of infrastructure management via those who’ve worked with many entrepreneurs facing the same questions, as ATB’s McKenzie has experienced, will ease the burden you may feel as a business owner overseeing the many moving parts of your expanding company.
If you’re looking for a deep dive on everything you need to know around how to grow your business, our ATB X Accelerator program might be just the place for you. Alternatively, feel free to reach out to one of our entrepreneur strategists to explore where you are with your business, where you want to be, and how to get there!