Launching a startup is one thing, turning it into a profitable enterprise is a different ballgame altogether.
Once you have sailed past the initial rocky stretch of getting your startup off the ground, you’ll inevitably find yourself staring at the all important question of how to scale operations in a sustainable and effective manner.
A poor or unpolished scaling up strategy can quickly unravel all your previous work and send your company down the death spiral.
A study on why startups fail pointed toward premature scaling as the number one cause.
Scaling up your operations at the right time and with the right tools is, therefore, of paramount importance in charting your success story. However, when it comes to that, lack of funds always rears its ugly head as a stumbling block.
Scaling up operations certainly require additional capital investment in infrastructure, resources, and personnel. Not being able to balance growth and cash flow can quickly court trouble for your business.
This is no way implies that scaling up is impossible.
The odds of success solely ride on your ability to allocate the right resources for the right technology. Employing the right tech tools gives you the freedom of getting more done in less time, thus, revolutionizing processes and output in a number of ways.
With a huge array of technological solutions to choose from, business owners can often find themselves lost for direction to make a head start.
If you too are unsure about the right technologies to scale your startup with, these four will prove to be the most bankable choices:
1. Machine Learning for Automating Day-to-Day Processes
Machine learning can help organisations increase their efficiency and output by reducing human resource allocation for repetitive tasks.
It is for this reason that applied Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning have become the buzzwords in the business world today.
According to Gartner Analysts, within the next five years, AI processes will play a role in 50 percent of analytical decisions made in business organisations.
Applied AI and machine learning work on the basic premise of intelligent implementations in physical devices such as smart cars, robots, and electronics, app and services. Tapping in on this potential of intelligent implementations can help startups automate mundane repetitive jobs as well as complex processes.
This automation of operations can free up personnel and create more work hours that can be utilized in more creative and thoughtful aspects of business operations such as ideating, brainstorming and so on.
Several startups are already using AI-based apps and machine learning bots to bolster their workflow.
The growth story of such startups is indicative that employing these tech tools for automation has allowed business owners to free up more of their time and focus their energies on business expansion.
A fine example of companies turning around their output efficiency with machine learning would be Black & Veatch (B&V), a construction and engineering company with a history of employing a framework of robust processes for every new project it undertook.
This also meant that all its projects began as a clean slate and had to be built from the ground up.
The trend changed when B&V implemented a machine-learning solution that did the basic groundwork for the company, thus, saving it a lot of billable man hours and resources.
B&V worked with Amazon SageMaker platform capable of training historical performance data and automating design-based decisions according to project parameters.
As a result, this century-old construction behemoth was able to cut project costs by eliminating repetitive work.
2. Co-browsing for Improving Customer Engagement
Customer service today has exceeded the scope of making and receiving calls.
A recently published Forrester Research Paper has pegged visual engagement with customers as the key driving factor behind increased customer engagement and satisfaction. “Companies increasingly leverage visual engagement – video, co-browsing, screen sharing, and annotations – to cut through the customer conversation clutter, to be better understood, and to connect emotionally,” the report says. So startups thinking of scaling today can no longer afford to overlook the long-term benefits of co-browsing.
Using co-browsing technology as part of your scaling operation helps improve communication with your current and potential customer base.
Complex transactions or processes can often be boring and discouraging for customers fending for themselves. Cobrowse technology can help fill in this gap and improve communications with your customers by creating the illusion of being in the same room as a company agent and watching their problems addressed and fixed in real-time.
From filling up forms to trying product demos and completing an order, there are just so many aspects of customer engagement that co-browsing can be helpful in.
When people argue that co-browsing is the future of customer service, they are on point in that assessment.
For a startup aiming for long-term scalability, co-browsing is the way to go.
3. Onboarding Apps to Streamline Employee Induction
Scaling operations are often indicative of a company’s growth, which, in turn, points at the need for scaled up hiring.
In a traditional work setting, every new employee takes some time to settle into the rhythm of their new organisation and learn the ropes.
During this period, such a team member is not only shows inhibited efficiency but may also be susceptible to leaving.
According to an Academy of Management Journal study, the first 90 days of employment tend to be the most crucial for establishing rapport with co-workers and management.
The same research also indicates that employees are more likely to leave an organisation within 18 months of their employment.
This means that failing to put in place an effective onboarding process can lead to compromised efficiency and a high turnover rate. Neither of which is good for a startup looking at scaling up.
Motivating your human resource team to embrace tech solutions such as onboarding apps can help streamline process. Such apps can allow new employees to finish their paper work and familiarize themselves with their colleagues and superiors even before setting foot in the office.
These apps also help a great deal in giving a new employee insight into the company culture, making them feel more at home with their new work environment and giving them an opportunity to set professional goals early on in their association with your organisation.
A good example of a sound onboarding solution would be the app by Rippling that automatically adds new hires to Slack channels, Gmail lists and other relevant apps and platforms integrated with the HR system. In this way, these apps are capable of opening up communication channels and setting employees up for a seamless induction in a new organisation.
4. Chatbots to Improve Response Time
Scaling essentially means expanding your organisational capabilities to support business growth. For a startup, working within the monetary constraints and yet make the most of the situation is the biggest challenge in this process.
Now, imagine, you have a 50-strong customer service team to handle your existing base of 10,000 customers. The same team can stretch itself to perhaps cater to double this number. But what happens when your business starts posing exponential growth and crosses the 1 million customer mark?
If you do the math, it would mean adding 4,950 additional employees to your customer support team to offer quick, satisfactory services to your now exploding customer base. It doesn’t take a business guru to know that such an expansion may be way out of the scope of a startup.
Chatbots present a sustainable and somewhat inexpensive alternative that can be the perfect fit for a startup aiming to scale. These bots can take on a large chunk of your customer inquiries, thus, improving and maintaining a quick response time the elephantine expense of hiring and training new manpower.
Chatbots also serve as a screening solution of sorts, handling generic and repetitive queries on their own and only directing more complex customer inquires that require human intervention to the customer service representatives.
Scale for Success
Scaling the operations of your startup is a significant opportunity. But it can also pose as a great risk. Fortunately, with the right tools and solutions, it is possible to expand your business operations without having to break the bank.
Once your startup has taken off the ground, have faith that the practices that took you from zero to 1,000 are sound to serve as the foundation of your scaling operations.
Beyond that, all you need is the right set of tech tools to keep driving growth and doubling output without investing a fortune in the input.
Sawaram Suthar is CMO at Acquire, and also a founder of Jagat Media, a digital marketing agency. A digital marketing consultant, he has experience in things including branding, promotions and page optimization, along with research and strategy. He has an MBA from the University of Pune. Anyone can find him on @sawarams.