Here are four tips on how to grow your business responsibly after you get your big break.
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Building a brand is a delicate balance of laying a solid foundation, staying ahead of the curve — and competitors — and hitting growth targets. It requires time, dedication and perseverance.
I’ve seen brands, however, that sacrifice everything in order to grow. It’s a dangerous game, which is why scaling a business at a sustainable rate is so important.
The secret to success as an entrepreneur is finding the perfect balance between growing quickly and growing responsibly — and who better to share those secrets than founders who have made it through the gauntlet on Shark Tank, where their companies find fame and fortune seemingly overnight? These businesses were forced to grow quickly, but had to keep their brands and products under control in order to find lasting success.
I’m lucky to belong to some entrepreneur groups that have some of Shark Tank’s most successful founders as members. I picked the brains of several to get their advice on how to scale a business correctly — and effectively.
1. Be mindful with marketing
Almost every founder I spoke with mentioned the dangers of today’s online marketing traps. Facebook ads and other digital channels are great for customer acquisition, but it’s easy to get carried away with spend, says Butter Cloth founder Danh Tran. To avoid bleeding money, brands should look for marketing platforms that provide a consistent and predictable return on spend.
“Be very careful to track your ROI each week and be prepared to quickly adjust to trends,” Tran shares. “It won’t do you any good to acquire customers if you run out of capital doing it.”
Consider how current customers and potential customers are responding online, and tailor your strategy for each platform. In Butter Cloth’s case, they found that videos grabbed attention of users and implemented that strategy even before appearing on Shark Tank.
Tipsy Elves co-founder Evan Mendelsohn, who appeared on the show with co-founder Nick Morton in 2013 and has since done millions in sales, agrees with this sentiment. He advises against relying exclusively on costly advertising, especially for young companies at the beginning stages of growth.
“It’s important to really dig into your advertising numbers and ensure you are getting the return on ad spend to grow sustainably,” says Mendelsohn. “If your ad dollars aren’t working for you, turn to tactics that can get ‘free eyeballs’ on the brand.”
2. Encourage excellence everywhere
These Shark Tank alums know it’s not always about dollars — sense counts, too. Scaling a business means so much more than just profit and loss. It means showing responsibility to your customers, expanding relationships in the industry, and even personal growth as a founder.
Bryan Cantrell, who started Radiate Outdoor Supply with co-founders Brent Davidson and Keith Davidson, found this out firsthand after leaving Shark Tank with an investment from Robert Herjavec for the company’s portable campfires.
“The customer experience is king,” he says, “and customers demand high standard. The spike in sales and attention from the show made Radiate double down its focus on quality control.” Cantrell advises that entrepreneurs scaling a company should first make sure that each part of the supply chain is meeting expectations, so customers stick around for the long haul. True success comes when the entire company is pushing for excellence.
It’s up to founders to set the example for excellence. You should avoid being consumed by fundraising or other high-level financial goals — leave room in your schedule to improve yourself and build relationships, so the rest can fall into place.
“Sometimes it’s money we think we need, but really it’s a strategy, a road map or a path that’s required to get there,” shares Cantrell. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice from successful people.”
3. Invest in people
People are key to sustainable growth, whether you’re talking about mentors, employees or customers. The co-founder of one Shark Tank success story, Sand Cloud, told me how building a mission people could believe in was the fuel they needed build a fanbase both before appearing on the show in 2017 — and after the show aired.
Brandon Leibel, along with co-founders Bruno Aschidamini and Steven Ford, decided early on that the company’s charitable mission to protect marine life would be the foundation on which the company would grow. They wanted each new team member to be invested in that mission, which can create a slower hiring process — but one well worth it.
“If you aim for quality over quantity, the growth will come naturally,” Leibel says. Leibel also says mission-driven employees help attract mission-driven customers, which in turn creates a community that grows through word-of-mouth.
4. Roll with the punches
The last piece of advice is about overcoming obstacles, as responsible growth requires flexibility when faced with fear. Caving into pressure can lead to irresponsibility, stress or a sense of failure. Sean and Jared Bingham, brothers and co-founders of Adventure Hunt, a company that hosts treasure hunts and other adventurous races, believe the best growth comes from founders who can stay the course while remaining calm.
“There are highs and lows all the time as an entrepreneur,” says Sean. “Stay even-keeled, know things aren’t going to go exactly as planned, and keep moving forward.”
Put bluntly, he says you’ll likely go out of business otherwise. Scaling too fast without the resources to sustain the pace isn’t a good move. He warns: “You owe it to yourself, your partners, employees, investors, and customers to stay in business and spend wisely.”