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Please crush scale responsibly: A cautionary tale of getting too big for your britches

Apr 12, 2022 - Jenny Reese
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This is not a blog about golf, but what happened at this year’s Master’s tournament is the perfect tee-up to talk about what’s really on our minds (no more puns, I promise). Long-time legend Stewart Cink sunk a hole-in-one at this year’s Masters, wowing the crowd with an ace on No. 16. 

Aside from spotting the beer cart headed in your direction, there are few things more exciting on the links than the electrifying feeling of hitting (or even just witnessing) a hole in one. Why? Relishing quick wins is human nature, and these days, instant gratification is every internet user’s currency of choice. From scaring up a last-minute wedding date with a swipe right to next-day shipping on the dress you’ll wear to meet your new sweetheart, we live in a world where the adage of getting the impossible “good, fast and cheap” may be a thing of the past.

Today, no one is looking for quicker wins than ecommerce brands who have fallen victim to margin squeeze brought on by pandemic-era supply chain issues, inflation, mounting customer demands and a sea of merchants to compete with. But what happens when instant gratification has the power to cloud your judgment, or even endanger your business? In other words, how do you crush scale without crushing your capacity and customer experience? 

LuLaRoe: A cautionary tale of irresponsible scale

Even Amazon is sounding a warning bell on the pitfalls of scaling too fast, with a recent Prime Video docuseries exposing what went wrong when LuLaRoe – the multi-level marketing leggings company that exploded in 2016 – got a little too big for its britches. 

Long story short, LuLaRoe got big. Fast. We’re talking $1.3B in sales and 60,000 retailers big in just a few years. Aside from the pyramid scheme allegations, embroilment in lawsuits and major shift in brand sentiment (and revenue), there’s another important lesson to be learned from this retail renegade: making the mistake of growing too quickly to keep up. And because the company’s focus remained solely on scaling amidst controversy, failing retail operations and an assortment of accusations, everything else the brand stood for suffered: customer service, fulfillment, brand experience and even the product itself. 

The Startup Genome Project – a world-leading innovation policy advisory and research firm – describes this phenomenon as premature scaling, or what happens when business owners are “focusing on one dimension of the business and advancing it out of sync with the rest of the operation.” Bottom line, your customers and your products have to take precedence over your vision to explode into mega-brand status. If not, you could end up in the brand graveyard alongside other companies who didn’t heed expert advice to grow at their own pace. For any brands or brand lovers out there, I highly recommend you check out LulaRich at once. 

So, how do successful brands scale responsibly?

I’m so glad you asked. Scaling responsibly doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quick wins. In fact, thanks to smart software for brands and merchants, there are ways to accomplish both at the same time. 

Starting (relatively) small is tried and true advice, especially for brands and merchants who may not know exactly where to start in the first place. Pro tip: Go where your customers are. Hint: Amazon, Walmart and eBay. How? Multichannel management (MCM) solutions are one of the best ways to start your conscientious scale-crushing journey. Why? They’re built to automate and optimize your product listings across the world’s most popular marketplaces, which in turn means more customers are bound to see them. Once your products are available to more customers in more places, watch your marketing dollars go even further as your MCM solution learns to put your products in front of the customers who are most likely to convert. 

Plus, centralizing your product catalog with technology that makes it easy to list, distribute, ship and track your inventory from one place provides a low-risk solution to grow your business—all without sacrificing what makes your brand stand out. 

Multichannel management solutions are typically affordable for brands of all sizes, so seeing those quick wins is often nearly immediate. And once revenue begins to increase, you’ll have the profits to further invest in scaling responsibly – from marketing and customer service to competitive nationwide fulfillment.