Whether running a small or big business, every entrepreneur categorizes their problems and finds systematic and appropriate solutions for those problems as an effective growth pattern needed for every business success.
You may believe that businesses characterize every issue and task differently. However, if you look at them closely, it will become obvious that whether you are running a million-dollar software company or a corner dry cleaning store, identical issues will arise at similar development stages (1).
In short, scaling any business is challenging. It requires effort. You will have to deal with sales, marketing, customer service, and much more. And if you are struggling to grow your small business, you are not alone.
Yes, it is difficult to scale a business, but it is not an impossible task either. And, if you clear your mind and dive deeper, you can look at things from a perspective and find multiple ways to grow your small business.
Yes, we know hundreds of business growth strategies already exist (2). However, we have decided to put together the following tips that you can follow to take your small business to the next stage efficiently, effectively, and expeditiously.
More importantly, no business growth tips can help you grow overnight. Like anything else in our lives, even in small businesses, you will need to put time and work into getting the benefits. The most prominent method is to focus on long-term outcomes instead of the short-term.
Offer an Excellent Product or Service
No matter how many strategies you use or tactics you apply in your business, you can only go so far. But, when your products or services are good, you can build life-long repeat customers who will also generate word of mouth.
At the same, focusing only on the end product is also not good for any business. You also need to create buzz and drive traffic. Turning your customers into brand ambassadors is one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to get your small business on the map. The key here is to create a solution that fulfills a market need and effectively provide that solution to people.
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Do Your Due Diligence
Even though your business can be personal, it doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind and run your business based on personal opinion.
For instance, you may think that walking a cat with a lease is an excellent business idea. However, is it going to be successful? Gut feelings can be good, but they are not the same as information.
Do your research and gather data. Find out your potential customer base, their characteristics and what would motivate them to purchase your offering, how you can effectively target them, and a lot more.
Research is one of the primary keys to success for any business (3).
Know Your Competitors
Whether you are starting a new business or running an existing one, you need to conduct competitive assessments to understand your playing field regularly. It will help you understand the market needs, how your competitors are doing, and how you can stand out (4).
Here are few questions you can consider in your competitive assessment:
- Who are your competitors?
- What can you learn from them?
- Who is the industry leader, and how did they get there?
- How can you stand out from your competitors?
Remember, if your business has no potential competitor, then it can be both a blessing or a red flag at the same time.
Find out why they don’t exist. If they did exist, learn about what put them out of business and what you can learn from them.
The research will keep the focus of your business to the point. It is also important that you don’t tweak the information to fit your impulses. Otherwise, you won’t be able to grow a successful business (5).
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Being Organized is The Key
We can’t stress this point enough. Whether file cabinets, storage, or folder structure in your computer, your small business will have a massive difference in its daily operations when you have quick and efficient access to information.
Make sure to organize folders for each aspect of your business appropriately labeled and organized in a way that anyone in your company can access when needed. It is also highly recommended to keep backups of all your information, especially when it comes to financial data, and store them in safe places (6, 7).
Know Your Numbers
Small things can go a long way to make a difference when it comes to business success. Moreover, when you know your numbers, you will not only know what can potentially become issues in the time ahead, but it will also aid you to move ahead with your business planning.
You need to thoroughly understand how much your business is making, how much you are selling, how much you are investing, your taxes, etc. Even though many entrepreneurs believe that hiring an accountant is enough, however, you can make a difference on so many levels if you know your numbers.
Here is an interesting interview of Mark Cuban which explains why you need to know your numbers (2:30 to 4:40):
It is recommended that you check your business’s statements monthly and know your company’s balance, your invoices, how much you are spending, production numbers, gross profit, bet profit, general ledger. It is also essential for you to understand all the numbers.
Knowing your cash flow and how it can affect your business on multiple fronts can help you make better choices when needed (8, 9).
Be Patient and Consistent
Whether operating a small or a large business, keeping the focus on your set goals is essential for success. It is recommended that you keep your overall goals and set smaller milestones that ladder up. Be consistent with your realistic to-do lists and achieve your milestones. Be patient while facing everyday challenges and your overall business expectations.
As mentioned at the beginning of the story, no successful businesses are built overnight. Be consistent and patient with your efforts. However, it doesn’t mean you keep attempting similar tactics and strategies to see your business grow.
“Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.”
– Albert Einstein (10).
Not only to scientists, but we believe this same concept applies to entrepreneurs as well. You will need to research and try multiple strategies to get different results. What worked in the 2000s may not work in the 2020s. Hence, stay updated and revise your business strategies and goals as per the market needs and demands (11).
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Keep Your Ego Aside
Your ego can kill your successful business (12, 13). You need to know that not all choices you will make will align with your beliefs and opinion.
You can start by accepting that there are people who know more about you regarding certain aspects of the business. And it is okay to seek their guidance.
It is recommended to keep your ego aside and listen to what others are saying, especially when coming from your customers. Yes, it may not be easy to remain humble and listen to others with an open mind, but it is the best way for you to make a good business decision.
Keep Your Expenses to Minimum
One thing businesses have learned from the coronavirus pandemic is how much cash you will need to cover your overhead costs if there is no income all of a sudden.
Your cash is your first line of defense in case of any unforeseen challenge. However, not all small businesses can comply with a huge reserve to absorb a sudden increase in expense or loss in income (14).
It is recommended that you don’t grow your business’s overhead cost above what your cash reserves can support. After all, it is easier to scale the company as you increase your cash liquidity instead of being forced to descale later if your business can’t cover its overhead costs.
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Know Your Business Requirements
Knowing your numbers is not enough. You also need to know every aspect and need of your business. You must understand what your company needs and doesn’t need for operational efficiency. It includes everything from equipment, materials, employees, etc.
When you have effective inventory management and efficient processes, you can reduce your operating costs significantly. You can research best practices in your industry and practice trial and error to test what works best for your business. Yes, it could be a lengthy and tedious task. However, it can help your business be more profitable and successful in the long run (15).
Your Team is Your Asset
You may have heard about the book Rich Dad and Poor Dad, which explains the difference between assets and liability. And when it comes to successful small businesses, they have one thing in common. They all have people they have hired becoming keys to their success.
Getting A+ team players for a small business is more important than any large organization. It is important to hire people you can trust to manage their everyday responsibilities with little interference.
As we discussed above, small businesses need to keep their overhead costs minimum. It means no small business can waste a position by getting a person not suited for the role. Hence, make sure you hire the best players for your business.
At the same time, you can’t afford to lose your star employees either. Remember, your team is your asset; listen to them, treat them well, and help them grow.
The best business leaders help grow their team because they know their people will grow the business in return.
Hiring goes beyond talent and knowledge. It is essential to consider what kind of organization you are trying to achieve. For small businesses, the best candidates include resourceful people who can wear multiple hats, especially when your business is taking form.
If you have any doubts, the best choice is to lean towards a trustworthy person who has soft skills and the capability to learn technical skills that fits the position and your company culture, instead of going with an individual who may excel at the technical skills but can cause issues with the team dynamic later.
Remember, attitude, personality, and compatibility is the first key trait you need to look at when choosing a new team member.
According to Tom Wright, an industrial-organizational psychologist and professor of management at Kansas State University, who also studies psychological well-being in employee retention and job performance, people who are happy and psychologically well tend to perform better. It is a fact that when the happiness, well-being, and morale of your employees is high, they tend to be more concentrated on their work activities and not waste much on daydreaming and other non-productive activities, which can immensely benefit the company (16).
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Always Learn and Improve
Avoid being blind to innovations. Once you establish your business and it starts growing well, don’t just remain there. Start looking for new ways to expand, scale, and improve your offerings. It can include automating manual processes, adding new products to your portfolio, opening extended hours, or whatever it may be; it is essential to know that every business has room for improvement.
You are at risk of being stagnant if you avoid moving. If you are looking to grow your small business and make a success story out of it, you need to innovate. Even giants like Blockbuster, Pan Am, Borders, Kodak failed despite having enormous liquid cash because they didn’t change with time (17).
If you start getting comfortable, take it as a red sign because your competitors may take advantage and find new ways to take the lead.
And it all makes its way back to our initial point: research!
Find out your consumers’ pain points in your business operation and the industry in general and start attending them. You can also look at your consumers’ suggestions to find new ways to improve that even you may not be aware of. Remember, you can always find a new way to improve and ultimately grow your business when you are open to observations and listening to your team and clients.
Read Also: 36 Best Small Business Ideas in India for 2020, Best Business in India
Don’ts of Growing Small Businesses
Even though growing your small business sounds exciting, many things can potentially go wrong.
That’s why you also need to know some basic don’ts in your tips to grow a small business (18, 19, 20).
- Don’t try to do everything yourself. Delegate or outsource your everyday tasks so you can focus on other crucial business matters,
- Don’t rely on informal agreements. Always take them in writing.
- Don’t overlook technologies. Automate as many tasks as you can.
- Don’t neglect your customers, their feedback, and their demand. You are here to serve the people. Hence you need to focus on your customer experience at every possible front.
- Don’t forget your operation strategies and business goals. Your business plan needs ongoing attention and periodic modifications.
- Don’t forget the value of backup plans and exit strategies.
And lastly, avoid shady growth-hacking techniques for business success. Growing as quickly as possible is not an optimal strategy for most businesses. Instead, excessive growth can kill a business if the revenue doesn’t scale in line with resource consumption. You need to focus on sustainable business, limit your overhead costs, and grow steadily: long-term results over short-term goals.
Moreover, don’t use growth “hacks” that can ultimately backfire on you and ruin your business reputation. It includes behaviors like pillaging users’ contact, bait and switch methods like freemium tweets, and shady SEO tactics.
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In conclusion, the key to small business success is celebrating them and learning from past mistakes of yours and others.
Use these fundamental keys for the success of your business and take well-informed risks to scale your business when you have to build a solid foundation. Make sure your business has big enough cash as a safety net in case anything goes wrong.
Always remember, running a successful business is not a sprint. Instead, it is a long and steady marathon. Stay patient, focused and always keep your goals in mind.