Scaling Small Companies Today For Tomorrow.
You are busy, if I had to guess you are wearing ten different hats, possibly still working a fulltime job. You’re still drinking from a firehose learning about marketing, processing, sales, and procurement just to name a few things. I totally understand how you are feeling, when it is midnight and you are finishing up production, thinking to yourself how do I grow this company?
When I started my food company, I had years of experience in food production facilities, I was a food scientist and my wife and co-founder of our business is a chef with years of her own experience. Yet, still as we were wearing multiple hats, we needed to understand a way to scale our company. We knew the only way to be able to grow our company at a steady pace was properly scaling. We understood that while we both worked “real” jobs during the day and worked into the wee hours of the morning on our passion project turned full fledged company, we would need help.Scaling refers to several things in a food business. You can scale a recipe, scale your sales, Scale your processing. You can scale in different directions depending on what you mean and what you want to do. To be clear, what I am NOT talking about is weighing something on a scale, but you can do that also in a food business. I once was told, in business if you are not growing, you are dying. Typically, very small or small businesses want to grow to be medium businesses. This growth must come from a measured consistent pattern or at least try to plan out burst of growth. This is where the scaling comes in place you want to be ready for that growth, and because you never know when opportunity strikes you want to be ready now.
Where do you get started scaling your company? Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), is the first step in establishing a company that has a path for growth. Do you have your recipe in your head? Are you the only one who knows how to setup your production run? No one else knows where to buy that special ingredient. If you or only a few people know how to make your business run, YOU DON’T HAVE A COMPANY, YOU JUST MADE A JOB FOR YOURSELF.
Tribal knowledge (information inside a person’s head not written down) is how many small companies begin to grow and teach their employees. The pit falls of using this type of training or lack of training is the amount of missed opportunities, mistakes, profit losses, etc. that comes from a system that is not documented. Sometimes the leaders don’t know how to train their team or what to teach them. Other times departments might not know or understand what other departments within the organization are doing. Maybe your company is only 1-10 people and you all feel so busy that you cannot create a documented system or process for future employees that may never come.
Documenting your tribal knowledge helps maintain effective communications, trains employees easier, improves compliance, quality, and consistency of your product. When running your own company, you must be selling your product at every opportunity you can. Sometime that means, you need to get out of your kitchen, production facility, farm field, Greenhouse, etc. For that to happen though you need employees to help you. Even if you are die-hard into making your product, you need employees to go sell it. Either way don’t you think it would be nice to know how your employees are processing your brand’s products or representing your hard work in the processing plant to a new store? Your employees are also going to be grateful the you have documented these processes and procedures to make their job easier.
I suggest approaching the construction of an SOP with the idea in your head; of the person who has been asked to perform the task, just walked off the street this morning. They need to be to the point and straight forward, easy to read, in plan dialog, bullet points when possible, and photos where possible. Limit yourself to one page maximum, even if you must then create multiple SOPs for what you would have considered one step.
From a Food Safety and Quality prospective SOPS, SSOPs, Policies and Programs are very powerful tools for ensuring product safety, consistent quality, and compliance with regulations. You will want the above attributes of the product, process, and your company’s abilities to be incorporated into the writing of such documents. You can find Templates for SOPS, SSOPs and many other forms at www.mammothfoodsafety.com.