Keys To Positioning Your Business For Growth
Positioning your business for growth means identifying the challenges and creating a solid plan of attack.
This post will cover the challenges and provide insight into how you can position your business for growth.
Owning your own business; it’s the American Dream, right? Needless to say that launching a start up and making one successful are two very different things.
As many have discovered, growing a small business is a HUGE accomplishment. A large part of this is due to the fact that 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start a business fail within the first 18 months. We’ve all heard the frightening statistics, so this post is going to start with the most common challenges that businesses face and then cover the main keys to positioning your business for growth.
The Key Challenges That Stand in the Way of Growth for Every Business
There are almost too many to name, but there are a few key challenges that if you’re prepared for can give you a big advantage. Andrew Beattie provides some wonderful insight into 5 of the Biggest Challenges in Positioning Your Business for Growth. Three of the most critical being:
Client Dependence – If a single client makes up more than half of your income, you are more of an independent contractor than a business owner. Diversifying the client base is vital to growing a business, but it can be difficult especially when the client in question pays well and on time. For many small businesses, having a client willing to pay on time for a product or service is a godsend.
Money Management – Having enough cash to cover the bills is a must for any business, but it is also a must for every individual. Whether it is your business or your life, one will likely emerge as a capital drain that puts pressure on the other. In order to head off this problem, small businesses owners must either be heavily capitalized or be able to pick up extra income to shore up cash reserves when needed. This is why many small businesses start out with the founders working a job and building a business simultaneously. While this split focus can make it difficult to grow a business, running out of cash makes growing a business impossible.
Balancing Quality and Growth – Even when a business is not founder dependent, there comes a time when the issues from growth seems to match or even outweigh the benefits. Whether a service or a product, at some point a business must sacrifice in order to scale this may mean not being able to personally manage every client relationship or not inspecting every widget. See full story on investopedia.com
The three issues listed above are three very common core issues. Moving past those there are literally hundreds of other challenges that small business owners face from registering a business name and setting up your tax ID to the unique challenges of hiring employees. All of these things certainly play a part in becoming successful, but let’s take a look at what real SB owners have to say.
Real World Problems from Local Entrepreneurs:
One thing to point out here is that all of the following business interviewed started with a business plan with realistic expectations for not only making it through their first year but how to build their business for continued success.
1. Getting Customers
Getting customers is no easy task and how to get them is probably the number one burning question with any new start up. There are hundreds of ways to begin building a presence locally. Most businesses start by setting up all of their local directory listings and then begin looking at local advertising opportunities. The one good thing about local advertising is that it is much more affordable to saturate the market with your goods or services, the trick is finding out what avenue is best for your business.
Loren Clear, owner of Men’s HangUps, runs a boutique men’s clothing consignment shop and faced all the same challenges that small business owners run into. Like many, he tried various avenues to bring in new customers. After growing his business successfully the first two years he shed some insight into what he felt were some of the best things that he did to get new customers.
With a local store location is key, which is why I worked with other local retailers in my niche to create “Consignment Row”, an entire retail strip with each of our shops dedicated to men’s, women’s and children’s gently used clothing. This was a huge benefit to all of us for multiple reasons:
Our three shops created a much larger visual presence than just one store.
Customers who shopped at one store were more likely to purchase from our multiple shops.
We were able to reach a larger demographic much more quickly via word of mouth.
Genevieve Keith, owner of Simply Smashing Events had some very creative ways to gain exposure and build her party and event planning business. Genevieve is not only a skilled event planner, she is one of the best PR spokesperson I’ve ever seen. Knowing that she had a limited budget created ways to get in front of her customers locally.
I’ve found that hitting the pavement and reaching out to other local businesses to find ways to utilize each other’s servcies has been very beneficial. I also take advantage of local events. If I can take part in local events that are attracting media attention then my business can draw attention from their marketing hype.
A good example would be when I reached out to the local news regarding DIY party planning tips. This was when there was a lot of news hype leading up to the Oscars, and I was able to get a featured spot each week for tips on how to host the best Oscar party from your home. This was great for my business and for the local new station who has had me back several times for events like Mother’s Day and Graduation.
2. Keeping Customers Happy
Getting customers and keeping customers happy are two of the biggest challenges for local business owners. Once you get them in the door how do you get them to come back, and more importantly; say good things about your business?
I’m sure you all know how important reviews are to any business and even more so to local businesses. Local citation from sites like Facebook, Yelp and Google can be a huge influence on whether or not someone will visit your store. Once you get someone in your store, your customer service has to be impeccable.
Patti Britton, who owns and operates Lasting Effects Permanent Makeup & Salon Treatments says;
My business has been built almost entirely by word of mouth. Aside from providing great service providing people with a great experience is the key to keeping clients coming back. Not only does it keep them coming back it makes them want to share their experience with friends and family.
For local businesses selling locally produced products, challenges can be quite different. Companies like Apple Outlaw or Cheesorizo may be locally grown businesses but their success depends on sales from a much larger service area. Acquiring successful distribution is essential to having a successful product.
I’ve seen too many businesses with great products fail, because they had no plan for distributing their product. Launching a product is expensive and generating sales in volume is essential. Apple Outlaw is a great example of a local organic farm who had a plan in place before the launch of their new hard cider product. Capitalizing on connections they had already made with retail outlets for their fruit, they planted seeds and anticipation for their upcoming hard cider.
We had been planting seeds with many of our vendors to prepare for the launch of our hard cider. We were able to generate a lot of buzz with our existing retail vendors simply by keeping them in the loop with our new release. Ultimately, we knew the success of our product depended on sales in volume, so we also cultivated relationships with beverage distributors, partnering with one who has been placing our product throughout the Pacific Northwest steamrolling our popularity.
One of the things I love about Apple Outlaw is that they had a clear idea on how to bring their product to market and show initial sales and popularity to potential distributors, providing them with something tangible to buy into.
Do you need a “sales representative” rather than a “distributor”?
You may actually need someone to call on retailers or wholesalers to encourage them to carry your product. These people are called “sales representatives” and may work for several independent manufacturers (until you have enough volume of work to justify your own salesperson). Theyshow samples or catalogs that describe items the companies they representprovide.Their responsibilities vary widely depending on the industry, but finding a sales rep is similar to finding a wholesaler, so following some of the suggestions below will work when seeking a sales representative as well as a distributor. Get the full scoop on finding a distributor @SmallBusiness.com
If you’re thinking of starting your own business, I’m sure you will find many of these same challenges and most likely a lot of new and unique ones, but hopefully some of these points from local business owners who’ve made it through successfully, can help ease your transition.
Keys To Positioning Your Business For Growth
Always have a plan and always surround yourself with people who are really good at what they do.
Wanting to grow your business is a great goal to have, but one you shouldn’t expect to achieve overnight. It’s going to take you approaching the situation carefully and having your eye fixated on all the right moving parts if you’re going to succeed.
You have to focus your time and energy on a few particular efforts if you’re going to be able to position your business for growth and make your dream of expanding a reality. It’s important you stay focused and not get off track trying to accomplish too much at once. Be methodical in your approach and motivated to keep going even when you run into roadblocks.
Your business won’t go anywhere fast unless you have a plan in place for how you’re going to reach new heights. Revisit your business plan and set new goals to help guide you down the right path. You will need to think about specifics like office space, a marketing strategy and how you’re going to continue on growing steadily as time goes on. Write down precise details and know exactly how you’re going to approach this new endeavor before you begin.
Your company is only as strong and successful as the people who you have behind you. Your goal is to build a solid team of people who you can take with you on this new journey. One idea for building team camaraderie and creating a stronger bond is to participate in one of the many Escape Rooms out there. This will force your group to have to work together and communicate if they’re going to solve the complicated puzzles and break free from their themed room. Continue to hold teambuilding activities throughout the year to maintain this bond and motivate them to perform well.
You aren’t going to get too far in your growth strategy unless you have a long list of loyal customers who will continuously stick by you. You achieve this goal by offering unparalleled customer service and quality products and services. Show your customers you appreciate their business by offering special discounts and sales and throwing regular customer appreciation events. The more loyal your customers are, the more likely your business will be able to retain their customers without having to speak time and money acquiring new ones which is, after all, far more expensive.
Innovation & Future Goals
You can’t grow your company unless you know where you’re heading, which is why it’s important for you to focus on innovation and what future goals you’re going to tackle next. Don’t get so focused in on your current growth plan that you forget to spend time outlining what you’ll be working on going forward. This is the only way you’ll be able to stand your ground during this transition and get ahead of your competition.
How to Fund Business Growth (Without the Growing Pains)
Money is always a hurdle, but the following methods of funding business growth may just ease the burden a bit.
Your sales have proven to be following a steady trajectory, and you see big things for your business in the not-so-distant future. But the excitement can give way to trepidation when you start to think about how to fund this next leap. Continuing to grow will require more personnel, inventory, space and resources. So where can you turn to afford all this? Here are a few options to consider when you’re in need of more cash.
Even though venture capital is technically an option for all businesses, it’s not one in which small businesses usually find much success. Instead of getting your heart set on being funded by a credible VC firm, be realistic that this is rarely a feasible or optimal path for a small business.
A better option is finding an angel investor. This person can be from any walk of life, as long as he or she is wealthy and willing to part with some cash in exchange for a piece of the business. The downside is that you do have to be amenable to handing some of the company over, but sometimes it’s more beneficial to have a smaller part of something big than a big part of something small.
The concept of getting a project funded through asking a large pool of individuals for nominal amounts of money has gained steam in the last few years, thanks to websites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter. When it comes to business funding, this has also become a real option. Sites like Fundable offer a way to raise money specifically for your small business. If you’re looking to get enough money to get you through the next cash flow hump, crowdfunding may not be out of the question. A good place to learn more about how this works is on the Small Business Administration’s website.
The main thing to remember with this method is that it’s not guaranteed. You may raise more than enough of the capital you’re seeking, or you could fail to raise any of it. This option is best for businesses that could use the extra funds but can also survive without them.
Small Business Loans
One age-old method for taking a business to the next level is through small business loans. While this approach has become less available than it used to be and layered with some new regulations, it still can offer a way to get the money you need without sacrificing any percentage of your business. Banks are no longer the only place you can go for small business loans, either, so research all your options.
Put Your Creativity to Work
The prior three funding methods are likely nothing you haven’t heard about at some point. If you’re in need of cash and feel like those three don’t suit your goals, don’t despair. A little creativity can go a long way in getting the financing you need. Think about things like having a presale, taking out a home equity loan or requiring deposits on large orders of your products. Through these ways, you may be able to land just enough dough to get you through the next payroll or pay this month’s utility bill.
Sometimes a little push through a cash flow hurdle is all you need. If you receive regular payouts from a structured settlement, you may be able to sell your future payments for a lump sum of cash now. These funds can help give you the momentum you need to grow. The point is, you don’t always have to be beholden to traditional funding methods.
So if your business is ready to go to the next stage, be sure you look into all the options available for financing. The way that worked best for your brother-in-law’s company or your competitor may not be the best way for you to go. Do your due diligence and don’t forget to be creative. You never know what untapped avenue might bring you the cash you need.
A Digital Checklist to Improve Business Growth
What items do you need to be paying attention to in order to grow your business online? This digital checklist covers the essentials for growth.
Just as eyes are considered the window to your soul, your business’s website is your customer’s window into your business: it is the first impression they get of it. We are told from a young age to never judge a book by its cover, if you want to grow your business online that it is exactly what we do! Keeping your website up-to-date and relevant is key to maintaining business success, but you may need to revisit your current design and upgrade your site to satisfy the more recent changes to search engine algorithms.
Here are areas that you need to checklist your website for to ensure that it is best optimized to help your business grow.
Links to social media
Your business website must have links to social media. Brand posts on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram influence consumers’ decisions to purchase. By interacting with your customers via social media allows their friends to see what they are purchasing, and they are more likely to follow suit as you are seen as a trusted provider of a product or service. By linking your sites together, you are opening the gates to a wider audience whilst strengthening your brand.
The vast majority of people access the internet through smart phones, which means you absolutely need a mobile friendly responsive website. By ignoring this, you will miss out and your competitors will certainly benefit from your oversight. It is essential for your business to upgrade your site to reach your audience through mobile search or display, companies such as Lucid Digital LLC can provide you with a tailored service to meet your business needs. Does your current website use Flash player? Not all mobile devices support Flash, and you will be missing out on all important website traffic.
Much like clothes, website styles adhere to fashions, and if your website is over 3 years old it will be outdated. Websites are no longer filled with text interspersed by headings and images, now they need to be more simplistic with regard to the visual design, with clear calls to action and product placement. Visitors to your site need to be able to navigate through it with ease. There are so many widgets and apps available that are designed to make the user experience as fluid as possible, and your site may need an upgrade or a redesign to take advantage of the technology. Your site needs to appeal to the visitors to ensure customer retention and new prospects.
When people visit your website, they have come to it with expectations of what may be on it. If you do not meet their needs, they will swiftly look elsewhere. If you really want to help your business grow, you need the content of your website to engage them within 2 seconds of their arrival. By having outdated, irrelevant or poorly displayed products and services that do not provide the visitor the prospect to interact, you are missing opportunities of sales and interest. Google in particular is very hot on the relevance and quality of sites’ content to the user, and so if you want your site to rank highly, you need to ensure that your site’s content is SEO friendly and conforms to Google’s latest algorithms.
These are a few aspects you’ll need to attend to as you position your business for growth. If it’s always been a goal of yours to develop into a larger entity, then now is your chance to do so. Follow these guidelines to help get you started and heading in the right direction.