14 Strategic Ways To Scale Down When Business Grows Too Quickly

Expert Panel® Forbes Councils Member

Every business owner wants to see their business grow, but it can be difficult to meet consumer demand if it starts growing too fast. In such situations, it’s important to know how to overcome problems and scale properly.

When a business grows too quickly, it can cause problems if their operations can’t keep up. Below, 14 members of Forbes Coaches Council share the advice they would offer clients facing similar challenges to help them act fast and scale down strategically.

Featured members share strategic ways to scale down when a business grows too quickly.
Forbes Coaches Council members share strategic ways to scale down when a business grows too quickly.

1. Create A Waitlist

If the product is high-quality, the right clients will wait for it. My client could let their customers know that, despite the increase in demand, they want to ensure the product is of the highest quality—hence the waitlist. Waiting for a product can also increase the perceived value of the product in the eyes of the customer. Use the higher demand to create a niche. – Devika Das, CORE Executive Presence

2. Inform Customers Of Possible Delays

The most successful innovations have not actually improved processes or speed, but they understood the psychology of clients. Telling people how far their taxi is or where their courier is while waiting for food makes these experiences much more bearable, for example. My advice would be to be transparent and inform customers about possible delays and the reason instead of scaling down immediately. – Csaba Toth, ICˆQ Global

3. Revisit Your Strategy Mapping

I would encourage the client to revisit their strategy mapping of the business areas, to identify where to prioritize focus and where to consider alternative options, such as partnerships, affiliates, incubating entrepreneurial businesses or a sale. Recognizing where you are at this point in time and aligning it with your vision and purpose again will offer clarity in decision-making. – Arthi Rabikrisson, Prerna Advisory

4. Be Transparent With Existing Customers

First, for a season, close any pathway for onboarding new customers. Close your online/physical store. Then, be transparent with existing customers. Let them know that demand is presently exceeding capacity and offer the opportunity to either get a refund or, if their need is not time-sensitive, agree to delays in receiving their product. Honesty and transparency win the day. – Billy Williams, Archegos

5. Reengineer Systemic Structures

Growing too fast means the organization’s systemic structures cannot keep pace with the external environment. By scaling down strategically, the focus is to reengineer these structures to cope with current demand in a sustainable manner. These can be policy, process or people innovations that map the customer journey to desired operational workflows to optimize the business. – Thomas Lim, Singapore Public Service, SportSG

6. Find A Strategic Partner And Offload

I would advise them to find a strategic partner and offload some of the consumers to them in the form of referrals in the meantime. Best case, they’d structure a kind of a subcontracting deal, if possible and feasible, and still get something out of it. Regardless, I’d then identify where the breakdowns are happening, then focus on creating a scalable operation with significant process improvements. – Dhru Beeharilal, Nayan Leadership, LLC

7. Manage Communications, Capital And Control

Overwhelming growth can best be managed with the three Cs: communications to customers and suppliers, capital to support expansion, and control to better understand the key economic levers to growth. – Ben Levitan, Cedalion Partners

8. Hire, Pause New Sales And Assess Capital Needs

Rapid growth is a dream come true! But it’s also like drinking from a fire hose. Resist the temptation to jump in. Working on your business versus working in it is critical. You may need to hire, hit pause on accepting new sales and (to the surprise of many founders) assess capital needs. Growth takes money! The need for investment in a growth phase blindsides many founders and has sunk many a venture. – Darlene Murphy, Coachworth, LLC

9. Lead Employees To Engage In The Solutions

Poorly managed rapid growth often results in growing broke. The fix is two-pronged: The client must identify critical systems that are missing or broken, specifically around cash flow and operational workflow. But equally necessary is leading their employees to be adaptive, innovative and conscientious. You cannot just manage the problem away—you must lead people to engage in the needed solutions. – Philip Liebman, ALPS Leadership

10. Review Your Organizational Chart

So, your company has grown too fast. This can be exciting, but it can also lead to many complications. To work through the complications, review your org chart and ensure that everyone is sitting in the correct seat with specific and measurable goals to hit. You can furlough if you have to, but look to take other steps first. – Jon Dwoskin, The Jon Dwoskin Experience

11. Prioritize, Then Communicate

First, take a good look at the big picture: What and who is going to be affected, and what are the implications? Then, decide what must get done and what needs to wait. Set realistic yet ambitious goals and then deadlines, then start communicating to the affected parties and other stakeholders. Identify what is positive about the situation and communicate around that. – Michele Cohen, Lead to Growth Coaching

12. Slow Down The Demand Temporarily

A business that grows too quickly is a “good” problem. To scale down, the owner could implement a number of strategies—raising prices, shortening hours, using autoresponders or posting a notice that there is a waiting list—to ensure positive customer service and interactions throughout. By temporarily slowing the demand, the business owner can then redraw the operational requirements and hire more personnel. – Diane Hudson, Career Marketing Techniques, LLC

13. Reconnect With Your Vision

Remember why you started your business in the first place, and what it is that makes you feel fulfilled and motivated. Figure out what really matters to you, and how you want to prioritize your time and energy. Then, make a plan for what needs to change and reflect on how you can avoid being in this situation again in the future. – Josephine Kant, Google for Startups

14. Refer ‘Low-End’ Business To Someone Else

You can gently refer the “low-end” business to someone else if you want to focus on solving this problem, or even set up a referral agreement with someone you trust. So those are two options that should free up your collective mental energy as you focus on ensuring your ideal client is taken care of completely. Don’t jeopardize your best customer to keep your least critical ones. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.