Calculated Risk: Growing a Small Business
Things have gone good for you to date, and you are contemplating expansion. This is a good thing. However, take careful thought as to which way you plan to go, as some will not so obviously be better than others. In my own experience running a small business, we at times would expand our service offerings just because we could, without doing any or little research to see if the demand was there. Sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn’t. Let’s take a look at a few ideas to think about before you jump the gun.
Company Culture: This can seem existential, but having you and your group on the same page mission-wise, will go a long way to allowing your team to have ownership. Ask yourself a few questions before you start.
- Why does our company exist?
- Why do we do what we do?
- What does our company believe in?
- What are our values?
- Where do we want our company to go, i.e. what’s our company’s vision?
You can take your business to a deeper level when you understand where you are going. It will also allow your customers to understand your vision and values in this day of ever-present social media.
Hire the Right People: This might appear to be stating the obvious, but none the less it is essential to know what you are doing. For instance, I was not exceptionally good in the human resources area. I tended to overlook one’s shortcomings and skills, and as such often made the wrong hiring decision. To avoid my scenario you could ask a candidate how they interpret your company’s vision to see if they’ll mesh well with your team. Startup life isn’t for everyone, so find employees who will be eager to take on the challenge.
Focus Expansion in the Right Places: As I have mentioned, the best laid plans will not come to fruition if you haven’t done your demand-side homework. Perhaps instead of adding services, you could enhance the ones’ you already have. One that I really like and has become popular is the ubiquitous live customer chat. Innovating your current processes will take up less of your resources, and it’s critical when growing your customer base. Once you’ve achieved more stability, then you can think about introducing new products.
Build Brand Recognition: This tip is much easier said than done. Look, we realize that you are not going to be the next Nike anytime soon. However, you can build brand recognition within your target audience. I’ve used the example of Tuckernuck before, the online retailer of the preppy American look (tnuck.com). An easy way to do this is to start networking more often on social media. The more times consumers see you online, the easier your company will be to remember. Building brand recognition while consciously sending product buy signals will cultivate over time.
Don’t Forget Current Customers: This one is so easy to do, yet we are all probably guilty of not being there 100 percent for our existing clients. In fact, according to statistics from Small Business Trends, just six percent of small businesses focus on customer retention. Hard to believe. By going into your expansion with a plan in mind, you’ll be able to stay true to your values, keep your star employees, impress your customers and attract new ones, all of which contributes to the recipe for a successful business.