As a business begins to gain traction in the market, it’s common to outgrow premises, suppliers and even exceed capacity to keep up with growing consumer demand.
Among other things, businesses that experience exponential growth must ensure that elements such as workforce, cash flow, inventory, logistics and workspaces follow suit at the same rate, all the while maintaining product quality and customer satisfaction.
Since founding My Muscle Chef with my brother Nish in 2013, the brand has undergone several stages of growth and upscaling.
What began in a small, rented kitchen with one part-time chef is today an innovative and agile leader in the fresh, ready-to-eat meal category, with more than 500 employees, producing 500,000+ meals every week for distribution direct to consumers via our orders from our website and app, as well as via a national network of over 4,500 retail stockists.
When navigating major change in business structure and size, understanding where to focus resources and where to remain flexible is key to avoiding headaches. Here are the key lessons I’ve learnt on this journey, so far.
Lesson one: Quality cannot be compromised
Maintaining the quality of products and services is fundamental to ensuring the success of a business as it scales. Customers expect and deserve high quality products and services, regardless of how a business may be changing behind the scenes.
When scaling up and expanding supply chain and workforce, it’s imperative to keep the crucial selling points of your business in focus and continue to deliver on what sets you apart, even if this needs to be delivered in a different way to meet growing demands.
Although My Muscle Chef has grown to mass production scale, all of our meals are still prepared by qualified chefs, assembled by hand, and checked by a team of experienced nutritionists and quality assurance professionals. This ensures that we retain the ‘home-cooked’ taste that our customers know and love with the fresh, high protein ingredients they expect.
By continuing to invest in a highly-skilled team, we’ve been able to build on our product offering and improve the quality of our products and services.
We’ll soon be opening our new state-of-the-art production facility which has taken into account all of our learnings from the past decade in business.
Lesson two: Walk in your customers shoes, every day
Regardless of how a business grows and changes, customer experience should always be top priority.
From the outset, Nish and I made it our goal that when a customer placed an order, they had to receive it on time. In the early days, this sometimes meant one of us spending an evening driving across the state to deliver a meal to a single customer. Since then, we’ve put in place a more streamlined delivery network with our logistics partners, but the end goal of ensuring our customers feel valued remains the same.
In 2018, My Muscle Chef conducted its first comprehensive consumer research and data analysis project which delivered surprising results, showing a growing number of young professionals and families turning to our products as fast, healthy meal solutions.
This data led us to rethink our marketing strategy, widening our target audience from gym-goers to include a more mainstream audience embodied by a new “Every Body, Every Goal” positioning. It also led us to fundamentally change our meal product offering, moving from frozen to fresh meals, and introducing market-leading vacuum seal packaging to maintain freshness and quality for longer.
By better understanding our customers and broadening the appeal of our brand and meals to a wider audience, whilst still remaining true to our then core customer base, we grew My Muscle Chef in the space of three short years from $27 million revenue per annum to now generating an annual revenue run rate in excess of $200 million.
Lesson three: Continuous communication
As a business scales up and its workforce grows, it’s important to find processes that work to ensure employees feel connected, engaged and empowered to drive the business forward.
Communication styles that worked when all employees could sit around one table at lunch have to radically change as numbers grow. What may once have been common knowledge within the business will need to be communicated clearly and deliberately to employees.
Internal communication is a common challenge for large businesses, and it’s never a one-size-fits-all when it comes to establishing communication channels. Requesting feedback from employees is key to understanding communication preferences and what information your team is, and isn’t, receiving.
For My Muscle Chef, forums that allow two-way discussion, such as our monthly town hall, quarterly offsites and weekly CEO updates, have been invaluable in keeping our team up-to-date, as well as positively impacting team culture.
We also keep an open-door policy to maintain dialogue, encouraging employees to share their own expertise and add value to the business.
Lesson four: Challenge ideas and champion solutions
Hiring the right people, and listening to them, is crucial to the success of a business. When a business is in its start-up phase, it’s typical that all of the decisions are made by one or two leaders. However, as new people with new expertise join the team, it’s important to be ready to pivot your business to benefit from this incoming knowledge.
Empowering your team to challenge ideas and champion solutions plays a big role in ensuring continuous growth and improvement.
The biggest mindset shift we’ve experienced in scaling up My Muscle Chef has been learning to incorporate data into all of our business decision-making.
The move to a data-driven culture has enabled our team to debate, challenge and champion ideas, rather than rely on opinions and assumptions to drive decisions.
Every business will face unexpected hurdles. From broken equipment to natural disasters, not everything can be controlled. It’s important, when those moments come, to stay flexible, think outside the box, and use the broad range of experience from within your team to find and deliver results.
Tushar Menon is CEO and co-founder of My Muscle Chef.