How to scale without adding overhead

Start with increasing efficiency

Every business wants to grow, but you need to balance that objective with a long-term outlook to ensure that as you scale, you’re not adding unnecessary overhead. In this article, we’ll look at how to scale by leveraging the tools and technology you need to boost productivity and get results.

Focus on what works

How To Scale Telescope
Photo: Drew Coffman on Unsplash

At the end of the day, scalability comes down to figuring out how to narrow your focus and hone in on what’s working well, and that means taking a closer look at the numbers. What is the ROI on everything you do on a day-to-day basis? What steps can you take to maximize that ratio of effort to reward?

For most small businesses, answering that question boils down to addressing what actually generates leads and, more specifically, looking at how effective you are at converting those leads into sales.

Basically, it all comes down to efficiency.


If an email blast results in a lot more traffic, whether of the physical or digital variety, then you’ve identified a great channel for building leads. From there, you need to focus on what you’re doing with those leads, and how efficiently you’re getting those people to say yes.

Conversely, if you have a channel that doesn’t have a lot of leads but the conversion rate is very high, then you’ve identified a funnel you need to feed more effectively. What are the ways you can maximize that funnel and get more people through it?

If you’re having trouble, a good way to get started is to work backward.

You know who your sales are, so look closely at their buying journey: where it started, where they may have switched from “maybe” to “yes,” and how you can make that journey easier for future customers.

If you don’t have that data, figure out how you can get more information on your buyers going forward.

Do a tune-up on your referral engine

The next place to look in terms of making improvements to what you’re already doing is your referrals. We’ve discussed how to create a referral engine here, but let’s go over the basics of why this is important. Research shows that referrals are the best way to consistently generate warm leads and, more importantly, turn those leads into even more referrals.

When you’re looking to scale, you want to look at how your business is generating referrals, and what you can do to make that happen more consistently.


One of the first questions to ask is if you’re teaching your customers how to refer you. If your small business depends on reviews, are you making it easy for customers to get to your Yelp, Google or Amazon listing and give you a rating in only a few clicks?

Email automation is a great way to get better at this, without the need to implement some sort of complicated tracking system. Persistence pays off, but you also don’t want to push that line too far and cross over into being annoying. Make sure you capture an email address at the point of sale and then follow up a couple of times: once immediately after purchase and then again after they’ve had some time to use your product or service.

And don’t be afraid to look for ways to incentivize reviews.

Implementing some sort of reward system for referrals can offer a great ROI, and a thoughtful gift can transform a buyer into a bonafide brand champion. Don’t be afraid to be honest about how beneficial a positive review can be to your business either, and let your customers know how much you appreciate it — it makes a difference.

Learn how to scale by delegating

If you want to scale, you need to be obsessed with delegation. You need to focus on process. Instead of asking how you can do everything that needs to get done, you need to ask yourself how you can get someone else to take care of it.

To put it simply: just because you know how to do everything doesn’t mean you should be the one to do it.

A good place to start is to take inventory of every task you currently do for your business and how much time you spend on each in an average week. Don’t leave anything out! Anything that you spend time on in the course of a given day or month should be included. Once you have your list, you can start categorizing by importance, and secondarily by things you hate doing, things you must do and things you can’t do.

From there, you can start looking at the value each task brings to the business and the cost required to have someone else do it. Keep in mind, there are probably some things that you’re doing right now that a specialist would be able to do far more effectively, such as content writing or bookkeeping.

After you’ve run the numbers, you’ll have a pretty clear picture of where you can improve. Tasks that aren’t that valuable to your business, but that you spend a lot of time on, are clear candidates for delegation. You should also run down the list of tasks that you hate doing and see if any of those make sense to hand off to someone else — they’ll probably be more efficient than you are, which means you get more bang for your buck.

Building your small business for growth

When it comes down to it, learning how to scale without adding overhead is all about finding ways to capitalize on what you’re already doing well. Find ways to work backward from what’s effective, and see if you can boost either the input or the output. Most importantly, make sure you’re spending your own time effectively — time can be more valuable than money. And, if you want to scale, you need to be sure you’re maximizing both.

John Jantsch
John Jantsch, founder of Duct Tape Marketing, is a veteran speaker and workshop leader with over 200 successful events under his belt. Event organizers and attendees frequently comment on the nature of the practical, actionable “takeaway” value of his presentations. He is equally effective facilitating a small group in roundtable workshop format and on the stage presenting to thousands. His practical take on marketing strategy, growth, referrals, social media and all things online make his a great option for those wishing to tap a resource they can count on to deliver.