The art of scaling takes some mastery. Companies don’t grow by themselves.
If demand suddenly exceeds capacity, it could mean gridlock and death by success. Scaling up smartly is a critical balancing act. It takes a lot of skill, a little luck and it never hurts to follow in the footsteps of your predecessors.
Let’s say you’re starting a digital media company hoping to grow your readership to match and surpass the likes of Yahoo Tech and Business Insider’s Tech Insider. Sounds like an impossible? Well, you might look to a company like Digital Trends, because that’s exactly what they did.
Co-founders Ian Bell and Dan Gaul started Digital Trends from a shared love of home entertainment, cars and a belief that tech should be accessible and fun. Digital Trends is now enjoying its seventh year of growth.
After they doubled their traffic in September 2015 and followed up with their biggest year ever, they had to regroup to figure out where to go next and how to fix some “loose bolts” along the way. Based on their real-life experiences, here are some key lessons we can learn from for sustainable, healthy growth:
1. Establish a glossary of terms for your team.
This often overlooked step combats jargon, which creates confusion and inefficiency. Make sure you have a clear definition of all those terms that get thrown around in meetings and on sales calls.
Pete Jacobs, VP of integrated and content marketing at Digital Trends, points out that jargon words can mean different things to different people, and all the more to different departments. Make sure everybody’s on the same page about your terminology.
“Seems simple,” Jacobs notes, “but it can be very costly.”
2. Define success on a company level and within departments.
As your company gets bigger, departments will naturally become more insular.
Make sure communication channels are open and remember a win for an individual or department may not necessarily move the company forward. So take the company-wide success goals and break them down into departmental success goals.
This ensures your productivity translates into goal attainment.
3. Invest in what’s working best for you.
There’s never enough room in the budget to do everything.
It’s easy to imagine all the wild success you’d be enjoying if only you could spend a little more money. “With limited resources,” says Jacobs, “don’t fall for the software and headcount fantasy about what you would be doing if only you could afford it. Invest in the group making do with less and quietly getting it done.”
By putting your money into what’s already working, you’re empowering the company’s most competent and productive team members to go even further. That’s going to get more mileage from your budget.
4. Be smart, but get lucky.
“We dodged a couple bullets in the last two years,” Jacobs says of Digital Trends.
“While all of our industry was pivoting to video, we stalled on growing our video offerings. We felt like we were falling behind.” Now, he says, many of their peers who chased video as their business’ core offering have seen their valuations drop, forcing them to lay off staff members.