In this article, Catherine Erdly, retail consultant and strategist outlines how you can look for the bottlenecks in your business that could block future growth.
It’s natural for business owners to want to grow their business – to sell more products, to develop their core team, and to increase their profits. However, not every company is growth-ready. Some businesses aren’t able to scale because their current systems, processes and resources are limited, causing bottlenecks in production or delivery. However, just because a business isn’t ready to scale at the moment, doesn’t mean that it will never grow! Potential bottlenecks need to be identified and overcome for a brand to develop and flourish, and every business owner can do this.
To successfully overcome bottlenecks in your business, several factors need to be considered to identify potential obstacles on the path to growth:
Do you have the physical resources in place to deal with a sudden increase in customer demand? If you hold stock, do you have systems in place so that you have sufficient time to order (and receive) more stock before you run out of an item? Do you have the storage or office space necessary to store your inventory and to pick and pack orders? Do you have enough computers and associated hardware and software to deal with customer orders, enquiries and general day-to-day business tasks? Think about all of the ways that a sudden increase in customer demand would affect your business, and highlight the potential problems that you could face. Once you have identified how your existing physical resources could limit growth, it’s time to think about how you could relieve the potential pressure that would have on your business, either by increasing resources or adjusting your existing systems and processes.
Do you have enough hands to deal with all of the extra work that is associated with growing your business? When you are starting, it’s all too easy to try and juggle numerous roles within your business, from buyer to warehouse manager, customer service assistant to accounts manager! However, if you’re working every hour of the day, I’m afraid the likelihood is that you aren’t working effectively. We all have our unique ‘zones of genius’ within our business, and for every business owner, there are tasks that can be outsourced (or passed to an employee) to free up precious hours. Customer service enquiries and picking and packing orders are just a couple of the tasks that are relatively simple to pass to another individual to manage. Why not create ‘how to’ videos to demonstrate tried and tested processes for packaging items or dealing with customer issues? That way, new team members can quickly learn your preferred methods and watch and re-watch the video as many times as they need to pick up all of the useful hints and tips you provide.
Are there enough hours in the day to deal with an increase in customer demand? Would your working hours increase far beyond a level that is healthy and sustainable if you were suddenly over-run with orders? If you answer ‘no’ to either of these questions, it’s worth seriously considering taking on help from freelancers or employed team members. Remember, if you have more time to focus on attracting customers and finding real business opportunities, you will likely be able to bring more money into the business to help cover the hourly wage (and associated costs) of team members. Admittedly, growing your core team can be an incredibly daunting process because of the increased financial demands on your business, so start small and be realistic with your business goals. Part-time staff or freelancers helping for short term contracts could be a better solution if cash flow is an issue in the early days of your business.
This is a bottleneck that affects every business, large or small! There are always things that even the most successful business can do to improve efficiency, so it’s worth regularly reviewing your systems and processes to make sure they are the best they can be! Something as simple as organising your work area so that you can quickly and easily find items you need to dispatch when an order comes in can help to improve business efficiency. Also, if you manually create emails for every customer to advise them that their order has shipped, have you considered using an automated email marketing tool that can send these personalised emails for you? Every minute that you can free up from these tasks gives you and your team longer to dedicate to other important aspects of your business.
When identifying potential bottlenecks in your business, it is essential to note that you are unlikely to find them all in one go! Set aside sometime every quarter to review your business systems and processes and establish whether you could be doing anything better. If you do encounter a bottleneck, don’t panic! You haven’t done anything wrong. Every business will face obstacles on their unique path to growth and success, and the vast majority of these can be overcome effectively with a little thought and effort.
Need some help mapping out your bottlenecks? Book one of Catherine’s intensive strategy days to review your business and plan for growth. Connect with her on Instagram or contact her for a 1:1 session quoting “small and mighty”.
Catherine is the founder of Future Retail Consulting and is on a mission to help people create the life they want by growing successful product-based businesses. She helps them make money by developing a clear strategy focused on their product offering, their pricing, and their sales channels.
Catherine brings nearly twenty years of industry expertise and an inspiring passion for product businesses.