According to her LinkedIn, Jenn Ash is a high growth Intrapreneur who excels at coaching people to outperform. Thrives in uncharted waters, but stays cool under pressure. According to me, her former employee, she is all that and more. Jenn is a high-energy executive who specializes in scaling companies and driving teams toward success. I invited her to coffee to pick her brain and find out how we could apply her knowledge to businesses of our own.
You’ve been an integral part of so many growth-oriented businesses. Have you found a common denominator? What is the key to sustainable growth?
The biggest link is finding a clear match between your main service or product offering and your core customer group. This “Product Market Fit” is essentially identifying a clear path from a customer’s need to the solution you provide.
Another key is a general awareness and focus on metrics. Choose two or three things, whatever they are, to monitor and you’re on the right track.
If you’re looking for SUSTAINABLE growth, the biggest factor is delegation. Empower and encourage delegation from all key functions of your business. If you’re in marketing, you shouldn’t be doing the same thing 6 months from now. Even if you don’t have the budget to hire someone, start to consider what tasks would you give up and what would you take on if your time was freed up?
Every function has to do that, otherwise you can’t “spin up” or fuel exponential growth. If one function can’t keep up, you’ll stay at the same level.
For business owners who are struggling with the investment it may take to scale, what are your recommendations for projecting results and income?
I recommend forecasting a range. Create a base case, an “up case”, and a “down case” when you’re forecasting. In other words, what you expect to happen, the best case scenario, and worst case scenario. If you do each of those three scenarios and the “down case” says you can afford to hire one person, do that and get started. Get going, and when you start to see you’re out-performing you can grow.
What systems and processes have you found to track success in marketing and business growth?
I’ve had great success by developing a standard, weekly report format for everyone in my team. It can be as simple as an excel spreadsheet or ppt slide. We use a color code with red, yellow, and green to monitor whether projects or tasks are on track. Using the same format allows me to see progress on a “Year to Date” basis.
A couple of apps that I use are Winstreak and Trello. With Winstreak, my team can track wins. It’s almost like a to-do list but instead of listing tasks, it lists accomplishments. Trello is perfect for project management. We keep idea lists and project lists. This helps us move ideas forward. When they’re given scope, a timeline, owner, and deadline, they get moved to the “project” list. Then, we can track projects.
How do you know it’s time to scale and what are the first steps?
First thing’s first, determine whether you’re in a lifestyle business or scaling business. If you’re running a lifestyle business, you’re constantly making choices to create a flexible business. It’s about building and maintaining a lifestyle. Growth businesses, on the other hand, are always looking for ways to optimize processes.
If you ARE focused on scaling, there’s always an area of the business that needs to grow. You just have to identify it.
In terms of knowing if it’s time to scale, start to notice if you spend your time constantly putting out fires. If that’s the case, you need more growth planning because you’re wasting time inefficiently managing small problems instead of managing change initiatives that will create big jumps.
How do you prevent scaling too quickly?
Define success for every new investment. If you hire someone, what do they need to accomplish for it to be a good hire? If you buy a new monthly subscription, how many new clients do you need for it to be a good decision. Keep that in mind to hold yourself to a good growth pace.
Do you have any tips for preparing your team to scale?
Challenge each person to document their role and responsibilities if they were going to go on vacation for 2 weeks. Have them list what they do, how they do it, where important documents are kept, etc. If you have them documenting their role, then you’re prepared for them to outgrow their job. It also gives you the ability to review and see if you can find someone to do their job cheaper and your current team member could move on to a more strategic role.
Final advice for business owners looking to scale?
In terms of scaling the marketing and sales function of your business, the biggest recommendation I have is to beta test new products regularly. Don’t spend too much time building the “perfect” product or service. Instead, launch the bare bones of your idea to your existing customer group. That will help you scale your offerings as well as your revenue.