In life, some change is obvious — when kids need a new pair of shoes, they tell you their old shoes are pinching their toes. But as a business owner, it’s surprisingly easy to miss the signs that your small business has grown so much, you no longer fit in your small business shoes.
But where do you belong when you’re no longer “the smallest of the small” small businesses, but you’re certainly not an enterprise organization just yet? There is another category of growth and success known as the mid-market category. Identifying when you’ve reached this often-overlooked stage is critical to your continued success, because when you reach the mid-market, the needs of your business change.
There are many tools that cater to smaller-sized businesses or jump to the more costly and complicated enterprise level. It’s important to find the right solutions that fit the needs of your growing business, and save you from overpaying for unused features or suffering from a lack of support.
Here are three signs your business has graduated from the small to the mid-market.
You’re Scaling Up Fast
An indicator that your business may be in the mid-market category is how the business has scaled. This can apply to channels, team size, products or offerings.
Expanding to an omnichannel sales approach—combining online and storefront to reach more customers —is a strong indicator of growth, and the increased complexity that comes with it. Many businesses start online with one or two channels to maintain a manageable pace of orders then add more channels like Etsy and Amazon as they scale up. To keep up with orders across channels, businesses have to increase inventory. And of course, to keep pace you may need to hire more employees to keep up with demand.
New sales channels, increased inventory and additional team members are strong markers that a business is entering the mid-market.
You Crave Efficiency
There are several external facing indicators of growth for a business, but there are internal markers as well. When starting a small business, there are plenty of tools designed specifically for the size and budget restrictions of a new business. However, to keep pace with your business, maximizing efficiency is paramount. A key way to run a more efficient business is to select the right tech tools to run it.
An overwhelming 93% of businesses have outgrown at least some of their digital tools from when they first started the business and 23% report they have outgrown all of them, according to a recent QuickBooks survey. If you find yourself wishing for more out of your current technology tools and wishing that you were able to automate more, complete projects in batches or easily delegate to team members – this need for efficiency is a good indicator that the business has graduated to the mid-market.
You Crave Customization
As your company scales, there will be new phases and challenges that accompany this growth. Therefore, you’re likely to find the need for a tool that can be customized to fit the exact demands of your growing business. Often this means integrating more apps, effectively creating an end-to-end solution for a business. In fact, according to a recent survey, the average business uses 19 different apps! As your business grows you’re going to be looking for deeper insights and data to track overall health, and that means customization.
If you recognize these three signs in your business, there’s a good chance you’ve graduated to the mid-market category.
But now what? Now it’s time to evaluate your tools.
Almost half (48%) of businesses with 10 to 100 employees say that they aren’t currently using digital tools designed for a business of their size. That’s why it’s critically important you take time to evaluate your digital tool box at each stage of growth. By not doing so, you risk finding you’re overpaying or underutilizing existing tools. Think about it like eating at a restaurant: when you’re served a small portion, you leave feeling unsatisfied and craving more. But, when you’re in search of a sensible meal, you wouldn’t go to an all-you-can-eat buffet and overpay for food you won’t eat. The same applies to your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions – too small of a solution leaves you needing more, and too large can cause you to pay for things you don’t want or need.
Businesses’ needs will always evolve as they grow and become more complex. Growing pains are unavoidable and to be expected. But, hopefully with the right tools, a business will be able to get through challenges they face and emerge stronger.
So what do more mature, complex businesses need in their tools? I recommend focusing on the following and making not only the monetary investment, but the time invest to find the best option on the market:
- Supports Continued Growth. You’ve already graduated from your existing tools once. Do you really want to be back, looking for new tools again in six months or a year? Ensure whatever solution you’re moving to will support your business not just right now, but in the future, when (hopefully) you’ve continued to grow and expand – whether that means more team members, more diverse product offerings, sales channels or higher revenue.
- Preference for Personalization. The ability to customize is key. In fact, a lack of customization is one of the top disadvantages that business owners noted about their current ERP system, cited by 47% of respondents. Find tools that work best for you and your business.
- Creates Harmony. Ultimately, whatever tool you invest in needs to be able to work with other tools you’ll be continuing to use. For example, if you use PandaDoc for document automation, you’ll want it to be able to integrate with your financial management system so you can seamlessly manage your customers and vendors. Consider product integrations and tools that work well and compliment one another.
Now, you understand more about the often overlooked mid-market category and how to know if you fit into it. You also know that when selecting digital tools as a mid-market company, you want to invest in solutions that can integrate with existing tools, allow for customization and will scale with you as you continue to grow in the future.
With all this in mind and the power of digital tools, your mid-market business is poised for continued growth.
Kelly Vincent is the Vice President of Mid-Market Business at Intuit QuickBooks.