How to handle rapid online growth

2 October, 2013 Company

Looking around at the industry it’s hard not to notice that many online retailers are currently facing a fork in the road moment due to achieving strong growth. How to handle growth on this scale is one of the biggest tests I’ve faced as a CEO.

For the first years of business the challenges of our growth were met easily with simple solutions. Then came a point when we knew we had really made an impact on the market – we had found success, but also issues.

At one point we had to put a stop on all national marketing, as we simply weren’t able to deliver anymore orders during a pre-Christmas period. When you suffer from growing pains like this, you have to make some defining decisions.

Whether you are a small business just starting out on your growth path, or a larger business either looking for external growth partners or trying to handle growth internally, there are a few crucial things to take into consideration that could lead you down a more stabilising path.

  • It’s time for your role to change - Business owners faced with rapid growth will need to shift their focus towards opportunities and let go of all the facets that makes your business grow. You need a senior executive team that you trust to run different business segments.
  • You need to be connected to the future of the business - How many times have you heard the phrase ‘business isn’t personal’? I do agree with this to a certain extent; however you can’t be disconnected from your business if you want your business to flourish – even if you have an exit strategy. Your business has a personality, values and behaviours, which need to be nurtured to ensure it handles growth and can be set up for the rest of the company’s life.
  • Transparency becomes more important than ever - Being transparent and communicating with your employees throughout rapid changes of growth will help make any transition smoother. A united team is more likely to fend off any issues and rally together to overcome growing pains.
  • Don’t overcommit yourself, stick to your original offering - One of the most appealing things for a business owner to do when facing rapid growth is to commit to something new to solve issues. Remain true to your business’s original offering, to what got you to this point of growth, because it will be the same thing to grow you into the future.
  • Assess your operations and infrastructure - More often than not, the operational side of your business is where the cracks start to appear. Whether it’s the size and capability of your warehouse, your office location or reporting lines you should assess all facets of your operation and see how it can be improved.
  • Do your homework and plan - When I started out in business, planning wasn’t one of my strengths, but I’ve come to rely on how crucial it is. Not only should you review your business plan on a consistent basis, long-range planning can do a lot to relieve issues associated with growing too fast.

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