Every company experiences growing pains — they’re a normal and necessary part of the journey of building a company.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that too many orders or too many clients are “good” problems to have. On the contrary, scaling a company too fast can quickly ruin your entire brand. That’s why you need to be performing the best quality work at all times.
After all, it’s much easier to do things right from the beginning than to repair a broken reputation.
I learned this with one of my businesses, a beauty product company, where we grew incredibly fast. After running a marketing campaign, sales skyrocketed, and we needed to increase our manufacturing from batches of 2,000 products to 45,000 in a single week. But we ran into problems with fulfillment, and customers began complaining that we weren’t delivering on time.
In retrospect, we opened the floodgates without thinking about the course or power of the river. And then the water nearly destroyed everything in its path. Although we didn’t go out of business, we lost a number of customers as well as strategic partners.
What I learned from that experience was that when scaling a business, you need to have a plan for growth if you want to survive.
Here are some tips to keep your company afloat when you’re in over your head:
1. Make an annual timeline.
It’s vital to have a roadmap for where you want to go, how to get there, and when you want to arrive.
I always make an annual plan so I know how many clients I want to have by the end of the year, as well as what kind of time commitment is required once I have 10, 20, or more. Your timeline should also include your goals for partners, employees, and sales funnels.
The more you plan for, the better.
2. Monitor your timeline.
Once you have a plan in place, you should implement some kind of system to keep track of your progress and how much time you spend on each client.
If you can’t meet your timeline, or you’re in a situation where you get an influx of new clients all of a sudden, you have to figure out how to change your plan so that you can still do a good job. This may require you to temporarily pay an agency or consulting company to help you until you put a better system in place.
3. Find strategic partners.
Strategic partners are people who make life easier for you, whether they provide you with data, exchange clients with you, or refer clients to your company. Say you don’t make websites, but your strategic partner does. You’d include them on projects that require you to build a site for your client, and they’d refer clients to you — it’s a win-win.
Mutually beneficial relationships are useful because they can grow your business and help you focus more of your time on your core competency.
4. Find people to outsource tasks to.
It can be tempting to want to do everything yourself, but you don’t have enough time or energy to do all that’s required to run your company. Know when it’s time to outsource, delegate, and get things off your plate.
Rather than waste time on bolstering your weaknesses, focus your efforts on your strengths and the big picture of growing your company.
5. Make sure you don’t have too much on your plate.
If you or someone on your team feels overwhelmed, you have no choice but to help them.
Building a cohesive team means that everybody gets involved, and everyone owns a certain part of a project. So be proactive by asking your team how they’re doing and advocating for people by seeing who can help pitch in to assist them. If there’s too much on your plate or your employee’s plate, you can hire outside help, ask someone else to contribute, or just do it yourself.
6. Remember, it’s more important to deliver on time than to pull in more clients.
Nine out of ten startups fail because of bad management — the founders don’t plan what they’re going to do with their money.
When you have lots of clients, you have to prioritize.
Your first step is to deliver high-quality work on time, which is more important than landing additional clients. So devise a plan for scaling in a smart, effective way. Make a budget, come up with a forecast, and prepare for how you’re going to grow while also maintaining quality.
7. Build a deliberate environment.
There’s a balance between making sure that your employees are happy and performing at a high level.
A big part of building company morale is making sure every choice you make — whether it’s the vacation policy, chain of command issues, or workflow processes — is clearly communicated and well-understood.
Being a team member is a job in and of itself, so share in the stress and in the reward.
8. Know that communication is underrated but incredibly important.
Good communication solves almost any problem.
As a leader, the ability to communicate with your employees and your partners about an upcoming uptick in workload will help address anyone’s feelings of being overwhelmed. And if your team feels inundated with work, you have to motivate them and offer to help or outsource tasks.
9. Don’t be afraid to move on.
Some companies spend a huge amount of time and money trying to please difficult clients. But there are millions of companies in the U.S. alone to work with, and there’s no need for your business to stand or fall on one client.
If the terms aren’t working for you, negotiate them or drop the client.
Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail. If you scale smart, you can have a plan for delivering the best work to your clients while also growing as a company.
This article originally appeared on Crunchbase.