How does a startup balance the trade-off between being prepared to scale [ie prepared for growth – ed.] without over-engineering too early?
It’s a difficult issue to balance. On the one hand, you need to be prepared for fast spurts of growth. If your business can’t cope with growth, you’ll potentially lose customers and an opportunity to grow quickly. On the other hand, if all you focus on is scaling, you won’t have time to spend on marketing and sales and attracting customers to your product.
Getting this balance right is something we’re constantly focused on at Shoes of Prey. We currently have five software engineers working in our business and we split their time between back-end process/scaling improvements and front-end website design/sales and marketing improvements. We’ve recently improved our order tracking processes and automated tasks that previously required a lot of manual data entry. The next process we plan to improve is automating the accounting of our gift certificates, however, we’ll hold that project off for a few months while we focus on some additional website improvements we want to make.
In an ideal world, a startup would scale up its processes in line with a growth in sales, while optimising the time spent on both areas of the business.
How do you get this balance right in your business?
Michael Fox managed Google’s online sales and operations agency team for Australia and New Zealand before co-founding Shoes of Prey, an online retailer which allows women to design their own shoes. He blogs in detail about the process of running Shoes of Prey at his blog www.22michaels.com.