Most entrepreneurs dream of growing their small business. But when the realities of fast growth and scaling sets in, the challenges can feel overwhelming. To understand how the best in the game manage a rapidly expanding empire, we talked with global entrepreneur Luciano de Vries.
De Vries has been creating and scaling successful businesses for decades. What began as a simple small business he started with friends quickly transformed from a five-person operation into an empire. Over the last two decades, he has overseen a wide variety of companies that spread across Europe, North America, and South America.
He currently serves as the co-founded director of Bayswater Capital BV, the co-founder of the Dutch company Vast Goed Koper, and as CEO of the Gaet Holding.
Along his journey from a sales agent to CEO, he mastered the art of starting and scaling successful companies. Here are his top tips for ensuring success for a growing business.
Tip 1: Hire Professionals
When de Vries was working at his first company, which handled party supplies, he found that the demand for his services quickly outpaced what a five-person team could reasonably handle. As the company began to grow by 50 to 100 percent year over year, it needed new blood.
But instead of hiring new talent at the bottom rungs of the company, the sales people closest to the client, de Vries hired experienced leaders who could guide the company through its initial growing pains.
“So, in the beginning, when we were small, for an example, our own knowledge was sufficient because I had to do tax law and normal law, somebody else they do marketing. So actually we came quite far, but at a certain moment, you reach a stage where you need to get external advisors or external lawyers, not trees,” he said. “Yeah, physical advice is even and you hire a professional accountant. That’s more knowledge than you know about the system, so you hire internally and externally. Now we’re at a size that we are only taking senior level positions on board and we try to keep everything in-house.”
Tip 2: Always Keep the Customer in Mind
Unfortunately, there comes a time for a quickly growing business where things become less personal. Suddenly the mom-and-pop operation full of charm becomes a corporation. It happened for de Vries when his five-person company ballooned to include more than 200 employees. At that rate of growth, the original members could no longer oversee everything. Learning to trust new people was instrumental to keeping the company working well.
When a company is expanding that quickly, founders should devote special time to the hiring process. Although it may be more fun to focus on the bigger picture, companies that hire the wrong people pay a hefty price.
If new hires don’t buy into the company culture or understand what makes the service unique, their work suffers. What’s worse, it’s often the customer who notices this first. By the time upper management is aware that a problem exists, it can be too late.
“What I’ve noticed, if companies start to grow bigger, that’s also something I’m afraid of with my own company is the people that work for us lose the feeling for the company,” de Vries said. “What we notice with a big amount of companies we work with, they get slower because you’re dealing with a person in a company of 200 people.”
Tip 3: Expand Only When and Where It’s Needed
When a business first expands it is a dangerous time. Anxious owners can easily overextend their business by growing too big too quickly. When that happens, the entire company can collapse in a flash.
The best way to handle growth is to increase size when the market dictates it, not when leadership feels there’s more potential. For de Vries, that meant expanding into adjacent spaces that he saw needed help.
After his business began to grow, he found inefficiencies in the companies they hired to move their products, he created his own.
“Most of the companies we started were due to an internal demand,” he said. “For example, with the transportation companies. We did back in the day understand that we needed 25 trailers because of our growth. So, we’re going to transportation companies. We needed to use more trucks because we are growing. But … we know that [the company; was not working well, because we couldn’t get updates from their drivers about where they were. There were a lot of problems with that. So, then we decided, okay, if you guys cannot deliver what we want, we want to take over.”
It turned out to be a successful venture, even though it was never part of the plan. Recognizing when opportunities present themselves, even when they’re not in your industry, is a great way to grow your original business while making more money on the side.