ecorating veteran, Tom Rauen, has acquired seven screen-printing businesses and moved his production facility four times. With each expansion, he contended with challenges on maintaining his level of quality standards, while handling the challenges of growth.
“It’s about not being the victim of your own success. Your company culture has to be about embracing growth and change. Your team has to be on board with it. If you can set the standard and expectations at the beginning, you’ll help your employees adapt and adjust to changes in systems and processes.”
- Tom Rauen, CEO of Envision
Whether you plan to add a decorating service, buy more equipment, move into a bigger facility, or acquire another business, it’s a big change to manage. We asked the experts for their best tactics, when it comes to growing your business without sacrificing quality.
5 Growth Mistakes to Avoid
Expanding a business can be an exciting and challenging process. Here are several common mistakes people make, which can lead to a loss of quality in what they offer to customers.
Mistake #1: Neglecting existing customers.
As your business expands, it's easy to become internally focused and lose sight of your customer experience. “However, customers should always be at the center of your strategy,” says Vladislav Podolyako, founder and CEO of Folderly. “By understanding and addressing customer pain points, offering personalized solutions, and maintaining a strong unique value proposition or unique selling point, you can ensure that customer centricity remains a priority as you grow.
Mistake #2: Losing focus on your core business.
“When you try expanding into too many areas, you can lose focus on the offerings that have made you successful,” says Dmytro Sokhach, founder of Admix Global.
“For example, a shop specializing in screen printing apparel might expand into promo products. While this may attract new customers, it could lead to a dilution of quality in the printed garments, which made you successful in the first place.”
Mistake #3: Stretching resources too thin.
“Expanding a business can be costly, and if a business doesn't have the resources to support that growth, you can end up spreading yourself too thin,” says Josh Dudick, a former professional investor for 15 years on Wall Street and who now runs Topdollarinvestor.com. “This can lead to a decline in the quality of products or services, which can turn off customers.” When businesses try to expand quickly, Dudick says, they may cut corners or sacrifice quality to meet demand.
Mistake #4: Trying to do too many decoration options in-house.
If you’re opening up shop or adding a new decoration method, it’s a good idea to focus on one or two.
“Shop owners often don’t calculate the real cost of adding a new decoration method, including all the time, training, trial and error, hiring and payroll it adds to your expense column, besides the initial equipment investment.
There’s also an opportunity cost involved in learning to use the new equipment, which can take your time and focus away from sales and marketing.”
- Tom Rauen, CEO of Envision
Mistake #5: Hiring more employees than your team can mentor and monitor.
As you expand your business, it's important to scale your team effectively. “This means avoiding the temptation to hire too many employees at once, which can lead to a lack of effective training and monitoring,” Podolyako says.
“From my experience, one team leader can’t effectively onboard more than two new employees simultaneously. By limiting your hiring capacity and prioritizing effective training and monitoring, you can ensure new employees are integrated into the team successfully.”
- Vladislav Podolyako, founder and CEO of Folderly
8 Successful Scaling Tips
Here are eight top tips for how to maintain quality and standards when expanding your shop.
1. Develop transparent company documentation, SOPs, and quality metrics.
As your business grows, it's essential to have well-defined documentation, protocols, and quality measures. These will guide action and maintain standards.
“By developing clear documentation and metrics, you can ensure that everyone in your organization is aligned and working towards the same objectives, to ensure quality,” Podolyako says.
2. Develop and follow a comprehensive quality control plan.
“To ensure consistency in quality when expanding your shop, developing and following a comprehensive quality control plan is crucial,” Sokhach says. Include detailed procedures for each step of the production process. Also, develop methods for monitoring and addressing any quality issues that come up.
For example, if a print shop is adding embroidery, they could create a quality control plan. This plan should include a checklist of procedures for each stitched product. “The plan may also include a process for addressing any quality issues identified during production or by customers,” Sokhach says.
3. Invest in training and development.
“This ensures your employees have the skills to maintain quality when you’re expanding,” Sokhacb says. “This includes initial training for new hires and ongoing training for existing employees, especially in the customer service area.”
4. Implement regular quality control checks.
“These checks can include regular machine inspections, product audits and customer feedback surveys,” Dudick says.
5. Monitor customer feedback and act on it.
“This helps identify areas where quality may be compromised when expanding a business,” Sokhach says. “This can include input from customer surveys, reviews or social media feedback.”
6. Be careful with your ad spend.
Every business wants to grow their leads and sales. However, it's essential to maintain quality standards while doing so. Striking the right balance between growth and quality is key. “For example, my team proactively evaluates the capacity of our customer success team and adjusts our ad spend accordingly,” Podolyako says.
“We know that it takes 100 good reviews to compensate for one bad one, so we focus on maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction rather than just driving sales.”
- Vladislav Podolyako, founder and CEO of Folderly.
7. Regularly review and update processes.
If you’re expanding through acquisition like Rauen, to ensure consistent quality and standards, you’ll need to do a full audit on how the systems and processes worked at the print shop you just acquired. The same goes for expanding into a larger production facility.
“You’re in a new shop layout and the workflow changes. It’s a constant evolution of making adjustments daily. In a smaller space, it is easy to be efficient when it comes to movement, because it’s only a few steps from the screen room to the press and to the main office.”
- Tom Rauen, CEO of Envision
When Rauen moved from a 7,000-square-foot production space to 35,000, simple things changed. “Going to the bathroom changed because instead of 20 feet away, it was now 300 feet away,” he says.
“The screen room was now 150 feet away instead of 25. The space and time to cover that space all expanded exponentially. We put new systems in place for approving artwork on press since, the offices were clear on the other side of the building.”
8. Keep your eyes off the bottom line, for now.
“While revenues are crucial, concentrating only on them might result in a drop in the quality of your products or services as you expand,” says Jon Morgan, CEO of Venture Smarter, a consulting firm that specializes in helping small businesses scale and grow.
“A shop that just cares about making money may take shortcuts and forgo quality to boost profits. Put quality and client pleasure above anything else. This could entail spending more on higher-quality supplies or machines.”
- Jon Morgan, CEO of Venture Smarter
Building a scalable infrastructure that meets the demands of your scaling shop without compromising quality is essential. “You’ll need to make investments in machines and technology, hire qualified people and implement repeatable processes and procedures,” Morgan says.
Start to Scale Confidently
Maintaining quality and standards is essential for the success and longevity of any business, especially when you’re expanding. By setting clear standards and processes, continuously monitoring performance, and investing in training and development, you can maintain your quality and standards as you grow.
Remember, quality isn’t just about meeting customer expectations, but also about creating a culture of excellence and continuous improvement in your shop. “Staying agile and adaptable is critical to successfully expanding a product-based shop,” Sokhach says.
“It involves pivoting quickly to changing market conditions, customer needs and internal operations—as well as embracing a growth mindset with a willingness to learn and adapt, despite challenges or setbacks. By fostering a growth mindset culture, your print shop can encourage employees to take risks, experiment with new ideas and embrace change.”