How to Sustainably Scale the Growth of Your Online Business

by Rakuten Super Logistics | eCommerce Strategy

This is a guest post from Visiture, an eCommerce focused marketing agency. Visiture helps eCommerce business owners and marketing professionals navigate through today’s search marketing landscape.

Scalability is defined as “the capacity to be changed in size or scale.” For businesses, this term denotes its ability to take on a more significant workload, reach more consumers and generally expand its horizons without jeopardizing performance, quality or revenue.

If a business has a sustainable growth model, it can literally grow from $0 in sales to rapidly becoming a multi-million-dollar brand. For instance, Priceline.com grew from zero to over $1 billion in sales in less than four years.

However, scaling a business should not be taken lightly or handled haphazardly. A study from Startup Genome discovered that a full 74 percent of “high-growth internet startups” fail as a result of premature scaling.

When a business finds itself in a growth mindset, it can be easy to get caught up in the acquisition of more customers and the pursuit of expansion. However, organizational leaders are wise not to get lost in the frenzy as it can lead to collapse. Just ask Jim Picariello.

In 2006, Jim Picariello started Wise Acre Frozen Treats, a manufacturer of organic popsicles. A year into the venture, things were going well, and he hired his first employee. As Jim went on to recount:

“By 2008, we had 15 employees, a 3,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, and distribution to all of the natural foods stores and many major supermarket chains on the East Coast… By the end of the year, we’d gone bankrupt and I was unemployed.”

These are the dangers of scaling a business too quickly.

If your brand is ready for growth, be wise and do it with a sustainable growth model by following these five strategies.

Master the Basics, Lay the Groundwork

For an online business to successfully begin the scaling process, it must first possess a solid foundation that will support everything to come. Without this groundwork in place, business leaders are merely constructing a house of cards.

Before scaling a business, companies must first ensure that their product-market fit is present. Businesses should establish and verify who their audience is and that they want to identify which products or services will entice buyers to engage with the brand.

Additionally, organizations must be capable of pinpointing their core users and advocates, as well as the marketing channels which have proven to produce the most significant ROI and hold the most potential for scaling a business.

Finally, before a brand can grow substantially, it must ensure that it has the resources to do so. If necessary, seek an additional round of funding as running out of capital cannot be a concern for a business that is growing quickly.

If, for instance, a retailer seeks to scale an eCommerce business, they must first establish these foundational elements that make up a sustainable growth model; otherwise, disaster might strike.

Keep Processes Simple

Part of what made Steve Jobs a successful leader at Apple was his obsession with simplicity. The late CEO was known for canceling extraneous projects, streamlining packaging and production and boiling down the naming processes.

For startups seeking to scale a business, complexity is the enemy. Intricacies equate to complications. More elaborate systems mean more meetings, more bodies, more confusion, and more headaches. The bottom line is that complexity slows things down and hinders any semblance of a sustainable growth model.

The worst part about complexity is its gradual, creeping nature. This beast steadily rears its head as a company grows, as products develop and as strategies change.

Because of this progressively developing obstacle, business leaders must be vigilant to keep strategies and operations as simple as possible. By doing so, there are fewer potential problems that might arise and less obstacles to get between the brand and its customers.

Employ Only Scalable Solutions

This tip goes hand-in-hand with the simplicity piece.

When a business begins to grow, resources (money, time, manpower, etc.) tend to be in short supply. Therefore, many leaders opt to implement inexpensive, expedient solutions that require a minimal learning curve.

On the surface, this may seem like the wise choice; however, as growth continues, these solutions rapidly become inadequate. Soon, a company’s infrastructure is composed of a deficient, dysfunctional, piecemealed system that is as complex as it is insufficient.

CEOs should aim to adopt a future-forward mindset and avoid slapping together a maze of incompatible tools. Instead, employ systems that will serve the organization in its current stage and continue to support its needs as it grows to become exponentially larger.

While this may require a greater depth of knowledge to operate, it will simplify things in the long run and continue to ensure a sustainable growth model.

Invest in Your Team

A company’s greatest asset is its people. This fact is precisely why businesses like Google, Facebook, Zappos, Cisco and other well-known brands provide their workers with so many benefits and perks.

By investing in the organization’s team, growing businesses can attract and retain talented individuals who are satisfied with the company’s culture, thereby engendering greater levels of productivity and efficiency.

Simply put, employees who feel valued are more productive. When a business provides its workers with the type of supportive environment that can enable them to thrive, they tend to share in the vision of the brand.

In addition to various perks and benefits, it is also helpful to maintain clear and open lines of communication. Talk to your employees to acknowledge their efforts and to uncover what they need to work more efficiently so that they can help the brand grow accordingly.

Remain Patient

There is an array of platitudes that speak to this idea. These clichés don’t bare repeating since we’ve all heard them.

When scaling a business, it is essential to remain patient as rushing things could result in catastrophe. Take things one step at a time and optimize your company’s systems, processes and collaboration efforts in a wise and resourceful manner to prevent haphazard growth.

Those that grow in a slow and exact manner tend to craft much more sustainable businesses than those who rush without planning to meet the end goal.

For most entrepreneurs and digital executives, the challenge lies not in starting a business but in scaling it effectively with a sustainable growth model. Use these strategies to guide your brand’s growth and avoid joining the 74 percent of startups that failed as a result of premature scaling.