For many small companies just starting out, scale-up is a distant dream. This is a topic for when their product is in full production and they will have time to devote to perfecting the pipeline and operational processes. Not so!
In many instances, operational systems can be set on a sustainable pathway from the very first instance. Think income tax time: If you start the year out just putting all your receipts in a shoebox, when it comes time to make out your 1040 you will have a disorganized mess of records (or non-records)! A lot of headaches and missed deductions/opportunities might have been avoided with a little forethought…
A good example is the quality system. For many start-ups, the quality system consists of the President saying “Call me if you have a problem – here is my cell phone number.” Invariably the customer will call at awkward times (at night, during meetings, etc ) when the President is otherwise not ready to focus on the product issue of immediate importance to the customer, or does not have the tools to respond in measured fashion. Later on a response is made, and perhaps the issue is resolved. Then the next call comes – same scenario as the first time – and so it goes on.
What happens when the company is successful? Does the President continue to answer every call to his number? Have issues all been resolved successfully? What modifications to product and documentation were done, when, and to which lots? How fast has the response been? Even non-issues can point to underlying opportunities for improvement if recorded and reviewed.
Ideally, customer concerns can be routed to a unique customer service number, where all calls and issues are recorded, along with information requirements (date, responder, lot number, delivery date, use mode, place in service date, justified complaint (yes/no?), response date, customer response, etc) which may make root cause problem identification easier and more robust. The Customer Question Line can be assigned to individuals on staff who are ready to respond at any given time. This need not be solely one person – the duty to answer can be passed around to qualified individuals in rotation. Likewise, basic recordkeeping (a spreadsheet or logbook is not too much to ask?!) will make for easier analysis and visibility of issues and answers.
Although the above (real-life) example calls out scaling issues in the Customer Response system, other operational disciplines such as Supply Chain, Warehousing, Quality Control, and Product Production all benefit from measured placement of sustainable systems which are future scale-friendly. A shoebox, virtual or otherwise, is not a scaleable solution, although it does bury the problem for a while.