5 ways to build up your business

Nov 13, 2014


Most entrepreneurial companies treat marketing as glorified sales -support. Even worse, they fail to use it to crank up the flow of qualified job applicants they need to win. Take a cue from one fast-growing company I know that needed to lure workers physically fit enough for trash collecting. It posted ads in local gyms asking, “Would you like to be paid for your workout?” The fliers cost next to nothing, and the owner found plenty of energetic candidates.



Functions such as recruitment, billing, and customer care are like hallway closets. You have to clean them up once in a while—not just throw more people at them—so they don’t get sloppy. Nurse Next Door, a home health care provider in the U.S. and Canada, found that its payroll and billing accountant was working weekends before it streamlined her workflow. That saved her a good 20 hours a week. Now the firm teaches the same pared-down approach to its franchisees.



Most entrepreneurs undervalue—and understaff—their finance department, viewing it as a necessary evil to keep the tax collectors at bay, issue and pay invoices, and provide monthly accounting statements. Big mistake. Hire a sophisticated pro who can gather the granular data you need to see where you’re making money by product, customer, location, or salesperson. It’s the quickest way to double profits and cash
flow in a year.



If you want the company to grow by a factor of 10, you need 10 times the leadership skills among your key people. They’ll need to excel at predicting where the market is heading, communicating the company’s values, goals, and priorities—and delegating successfully to their teams. Give them time away from the fray to attend the conferences, classes, and seminars they need to make a bigger contribution—so you don’t have to pay for their on-the-job mistakes.



Fast-growing firms need to upgrade their infrastructure at three critical points or their teams will get lost in inefficiency: At 10 employees, you need a better phone system; at 50, sophisticated accounting software; and at 350, a single database that links all key information, so a simple change of address by a customer doesn’t trigger a cascade of mistakes. Procrastinating on this will kill your growth. Trust me: Your most aggressive rivals made these changes—last year.

This story is from the December 1, 2014 issue of Fortune.

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