7 Problems With Scaling Your Business That Nobody Talks About
At some point, you’ll have to scale your business up if you want to make more money, compete with bigger fish and save up enough money to buy a Lamborghini in your favourite colour and a Ferrari in your second favourite colour.
People online tend to make scaling your business seem like a quick and easy process that anyone could do – in fact, some people even suggest hiring this process out to a virtual assistant as quickly as possible so that you can spend all your time biohacking or playing games or whatever.
I might just be an idiot, but I’ve found the process of scaling up pretty tough so far.
This article is a list of seven tricky things that people seem reluctant to mention about scaling a business up.
Hiring People Is Complicated
I have a couple of experiences in hiring freelancers. Now, I might have been unlucky, but I’ve found that it’s a lot harder than people online would lead you to believe.
I wrote yesterday about people applying to do freelance work for you when they don’t have a clue what they’re doing. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a freelancer and wanting the online business dream, but this is something you have to contend with when you’re hiring people.
That’s not the only problem. The problems I’ve had aren’t so much that people don’t know what they’re doing – my freelancers have been quite good once I’ve gotten their work. By far the biggest problem with hiring people is that they’ll say they can hit a deadline when they can’t. They might also go missing for days, weeks or months at a time.
Hiring people and making sure they do what they say they can might be a full time job.. and that’s just the start.
(By the way, check out my friend James’s guide to hiring people. It’s based on hiring software developers, but it’s pretty useful.)
Managing People Is Complicated
If hiring people is tricky, then managing people is worse.
It’s time-consuming compared to working on your own. When you set your own schedule, small fluctuations don’t matter. When you hire a couple of people and each of them have their own fluctuations, things get complicated.
Added to that, you’re fighting again against people who can disappear for whatever reason they feel like (good or bad.)
You also have to develop interpersonal skills, which, if you’re like me and you got into the whole “make money online” thing because you hate people (not serious there) is a problem. I’m very much an, “If it needs to be done, do it” kind of person. The people I’ve hired thus far… not so much.
Your Scheduling Has To Be Different
When you are doing all the work on your own, you can set the schedule, and if you’re like I am, then your schedule is very much a “let’s see what happens” kind of schedule. Regular readers will know I take massive detours if a new scheme comes to mind or catches my eye.
Needless to say, this set up is terrible if you’re hiring other people. “Today we’re building a video game, next week we’re writing medical documents” isn’t something the average employee – or even other freelancer – is built to handle, but that’s generally how my plans are.
When you want to expand – as I’m finding – you have to stick to a plan over the course of the long term, because hiring people means that you have to have work for them and you have to complete those projects quickly so that you can see a return on your manpower expenditure.
Also, the higher costs mean the risks are higher.
There Are Higher Risks
When you expand your business, the risks become higher.
Hopefully, you’re expanding in a smart way, and not letting anyone get a sniff of equity or control over your business. By this I don’t mean even literal VC funding necessarily – I know freelancers who have expanded when they landed a single big client. Guess who was really in control when said freelancers had their own staff and were reliant on a single customer to pay their wage bills?
A bigger business means bigger costs, tighter margins and more bureaucracy. One of the most annoying things with online business is that there’s a lot of information out there for the first steps, but beyond that, the advice is pretty limited.
A Lot Of Advice Online Is Rubbish
I’ve written before about entrepreneur forums and their limitations.
When it comes to scaling your business, there are a lot of people who’ve read books like the Four-Hour Work Week and E-Myth Revisited who then – without really having any business experience – go and regurgitate that information online.
Business is good and obviously expanding your business and making more money is better. However, it comes with more risk, as I’ve talked about above, and also it’s not just a case of “do the same thing but hire it out to Virtual Assistants” or, “do the same thing… but more of it.”
And you also can’t build your business exponentially just from running Facebook ads… if that were all there were to it, there’d be a lot more successful businesses.
One of the worst things about expanding is that there’s more boring business stuff.
I remember the good old days where it was just me and my keyboard, writing freelance articles. Now, I have to keep records, plan ahead and otherwise do boring stuff that I don’t want.
Obviously, the answer here is for me to tell myself to grow up, but there’s a serious point too – the bigger your business gets, the less time you spend doing what it is your business is about, and the more time you spend doing boring stuff like admin work.
Everything Becomes A Risk/Return Equation
When you expand, everything can become complicated very quickly. You have to become pretty adept at working out risks and return. (I use expected value as the benchmark for this.)
This is especially true if you’re hiring people, because that’s the biggest expense you can have, and you’ll have to pay before the work is done without really knowing whether you’re going to succeed or not.
Even without hiring, you still need to manage risk and return. If you’re investing in your business, then you have to work out whether you’ll get a positive return or not. This seems obvious, but when you’re expanding, all the other things I’ve mentioned in the article above this all come into play, and the choices you make will have higher risk and more time/effort/monetary expenditure than you’re used to.
Expanding is a good thing – and the negative things I’ve talked about shouldn’t be used to discourage you from expanding your business.
However, they are things you should prepare for. They’re also things I struggle with – my probably needing to hire some work out is what prompted this topic.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, and the more you know about the risks involved in business, the more prepared you’ll be to deal with them, and the better off you’ll be.