Letter sent on Nov 14, 2016

Use this checklist to grow your business

Startups, Freelancers, Hustlers — Take Note.

When I talk about business growth, I’m not just talking about turning your company into Facebook or Google or Uber or anyone else who’s big enough for billionaires to take interest.

That’s a great goal, but what I’m really talking about is setting yourself up for the first year of growth. The first steps, the first cautious moves. I’m talking about growth 101.

I’ve worked in a lot of businesses that have tackled, taken and lost substantial growth.

Businesses whose growth depended on landing major corporate clients like Australia’s biggest Telco and Banking corporations, and businesses whose growth meant getting more coffee drinkers through the door before the morning rush ended.

In all of these businesses, the steps they needed to achieve their first growth girls were very much the same. And in many of these businesses, those steps were very much ignored.

Here’s what I’ve identified as the checklist that you need to support growth…

✔ Do you know what your processes are?

What happens when you onboard a new customer or client? Do you know what tasks have to be accomplished? These might be adding them to your project management software, adding them to a CRM, providing them with instructions on how to communicate with you, sending receipts, saving receipts, generating invoices…I can guarantee all this is living in your head or someone else’s. That’s not going to support growth. Get it out, get it in a list and make sure you know where that list is. Without it, you’ll be scrambling and things will fall through the cracks.

Process St is a pretty good way to keep track of these. Check it out.

…Otherwise, keep it in a damn spreadsheet and put that spreadsheet somewhere you can find it.

✔ Do you have the documents and templates you need?

You’re going to need a hell of a lot of templates and documents as your company grows, but there are essential ones that you must have now. These are going to include standard letters of agreement or contracts, FAQs, reports etc. Work out what you’re giving to your customers regularly and set those documents up as templates. Make ’em ready to fill in and send out.

I use PandaDoc for this.

✔ Do you have a CRM?

I can’t emphasize enough how important a CRM is to a company. Your customers are your life blood, so a piece of software that can let you effectively manage your relationship with them is going to be the pump that keeps you running. You’ll want to make sure you aren’t losing touch with anybody at any time, that you can run a report when you need it…

I use Insightly. They don’t fuck around, there’s a solid free plan so you don’t have to stress about the finances and it does 👏 the 👏 job 👏

✔ Do you have dashboards in place?

Seriously. Having a dashboard where you can view your entire business and run a quick health check is vital. You’ll be able to see where things are going well, where things need work, and where a fucking disaster is imminent. Using dashboards will allow you to feel like (and actually be) completely in control of your business.

I’m a Microsoft fan from way back so I use Power BI.

✔ Do you have project management tools?

Project management is where many businesses fall apart. So many businesses. They don’t know where their work is at, where their marketing is at, what their plans are, what their plans were, what tasks are being done…it’s insane. Without project management properly in place, you can’t do shit. It’s just the way it goes. Speaking of marketing campaigns…

Again. Microsoft nerd. Microsoft Project is my thing. But Basecamp is probably the best choice for most small businesses, startups and freelancers…

✔ Do you have a fucking marketing plan?

You can have all the right stuff ready for growth in the world, but if you don’t have a plan to attract the customers, it’ll be a waste of time. “We’re on Twitter” isn’t a marketing plan. “We write blogs” isn’t a marketing plan. These might be elements, but they don’t mean much. Have a detailed plan. Know what you’re going to do. Know why.

Try the canvas I made. A lot of folks have found this useful.

✔ Do you know what successful growth looks like?

Do you actually have a plan for what you want to grow to, how big you want to be, how many customers you would need to reach that? Do you know how much of X you need to sell to hit Y? Without that, you’re running where there’s no road. You also desperately need to know what’s normal. So you know when you’re winning.

Whether your end goal is to be a comfortably growing small business or a big tech giant, you can’t achieve the first steps towards growth if you don’t have your groundwork in the bag, if you don’t have your business set up and streamlined and designed to grow.

You don’t have to want your business to grow to a million bucks. If all you want is to grow to replace your full time income, that’s awesome. But you still need to have this checklist sorted.

This is going to apply to freelance designers and illustrators. It’s going to apply to writers. Tech founders. Service providers. Etsy store owners.

It’s going to apply to you.