Morgan was a young man in his late 20s when he started his mortgage brokerage company, Morgan Financial. He built a successful owner-reliant company for himself with one office in Portland, Oregon. After a few years, Morgan took the scary step of opening a second office. It turned out to be profitable, and for a time, he settled back enjoying the results of his two offices. If that were the end of Morgan’s ambitions, the story would have ended like it does for most small-business owners, with Morgan settling back into his 30- to 40-year role of running his two-office mortgage business as a self-employed business owner, working 50… 60… 70 hours a week, struggling to take any substantial time away from the business.
And for years, that’s the business he was satisfied with–two offices helping home buyers get mortgages. That was until he met a key mentor named Doug. About 10 years older than Morgan, Doug had built up several successful companies. Doug saw something in Morgan and decided to work with him to scale his company. Doug provided the capital, confidence, and counsel that Morgan needed to scale his business.
Over the next eight years, Morgan went from two offices with a handful of staff to 212 offices and 1,000 team members in 23 states doing over $1 billion of loans annually. Morgan made the first leap from one to two offices by himself in four years. With the help of his mentor, he went from two to 200 offices–a one hundredfold increase–over the next eight years.
As you can imagine, the systems and structure that helped Morgan run his 2-location company were not the systems he needed and eventually had to develop to run his 212-location company.
Scaling your business requires building it in such a way that your model and systems can be rolled out and replicated on a much bigger playing field.
Here are 6 tips to help you scale your systems and structure:
- Systems are reliable processes and procedures that empower your business to consistently produce an excellent result for your clients or customers. They’re documented best practices that increase your company’s efficiency and reduce costly mistakes.
- As you scale, one of the most important systems you need is the system of how you store, organize, access, and update your systems. In our business coaching practice, we call this your “UBS” (Stands for ultimate business system.) As you scale you must create your company’s UBS.
- Your need systems for both capturing historic company knowledge such as vendor agreements, client concessions, and joint venture partner idiosyncrasies. You also need systems to functionally help you do a task or perform a process.
Every successful business system has two layers: the process layer and the format layer.
- The process layer consists of the step-by-step process or procedure you’ve created. Does your system accurately capture the steps of the process so that when you follow it you consistently get the desired result? It does you no good to formalize poor processes. You want your systems to capture your best practices and winning moves, making it easier for your company to replicate and scale those successes.
- The format layer deals with how you package and present your system to your team.
Is your system easy to use? Is it transparent so team members intuitively understand how to use it? Can it be automated so much of the work happens via technology instead of manual work?
- As you scale, you need to refine both layers of your company systems.
To scale you need to have grown your personal muscles of letting them lead and own functions inside your business. 20 years of coaching business owners has taught me that this is not something to take for granted. Many business owners are scared to let go of control in their business and as a result, they remain trapped in the job of their business.
When you’re solving a business challenge, look for solutions that can be scaled. For example, imagine you were selecting a web platform to process orders from your field sales force. When evaluating which platform to use, I suggest you choose one that could handle the high transaction volume you eventually want to have, provided the cost for this greater capacity isn’t too high. If the cost doesn’t make financial sense, consider a smart alternative. Choose a platform that can be easily upgraded later as your sales volume increases and you have the excess cash flow to warrant the upgrade. You’d say “no” to any platform that couldn’t handle your expected sales volume or be easily upgraded and expanded later.
The bottom line is that you need to think about scaling as you run and operate your business. In many ways, you build a scalable company through the cumulative impact of hundreds of small decisions through time.
If you enjoyed the ideas I shared, then I encourage you to download a free copy of my newest book, Build a Business, Not a Job.