Growth Doesn’t Automatically Happen—Plan for It
Probably the hardest part of having a small business is managing growth. It would seem that if your business is growing, you just do more of the same to reach those higher goals. Well it’s not that easy and if you think that way, you could jeopardize your growth path.
Talking to small businesses in our region, we’ve found four critical steps that small business owners should undertake to reach growth goals.
- Acknowledge when it’s time to hire: all too often small business owners spread themselves too thin. In the start-up phase, you have no choice but now that you’re growing you need to make hard choices. Where are your skills best focused? It’s unlikely that having you clean your shop, answer all the calls or manually price items is going to make a major impact on your growth plan. Sometimes the answer is automation and sometimes the answer is, it’s time to hire. There are so many new technologies out there that are designed to help small businesses. Consider the valuable trade-offs. Don’t spend your free time inputting data into your financial records. Convert to a system like QuickBooks so that you have all your financials at your fingertips. Do you need to be making every appointment? Consider online reservations or appointments? Let your customers order online. If technology is not the answer, it may be time to hire that accounting person who can produce all your reports in an hour or hire that social media person who knocks out really good posts in a few hours when it takes you days (and you avoid doing it). Oftentimes, you’ll find that you can start with a part-time employee or even a freelancer to allow you to focus on the areas that will make your company the most money. You’re wonderful but you can’t do everything.
- Remember that it’s your customers who got you here: as companies grow larger, it’s very easy to get real busy and react to customers versus manage your customers. Most customers come to you because they love the way they are treated, they love your environment, they love the service levels. If you lose any of that as you grow, you will lose those customers. Whatever you do, don’t cut your customer service budget. The business is all about your customers, not about you.
- What’s a larger business look like: you’ve done well and your business has taken off. That does not necessarily mean that you don’t need to make changes to the business. You also need to know where you’re going. Write down your vision for the business in 1 year and then in 3 years. Then take the time to create the business plan that will get you there. You’ll need to make some hard decisions on staffing and spending. Do not throw out the baby with the bath water (after all, you’ve done some amazing things) but balance that with the innovations that will take you to the next level. Will you be needing a loan to fund some of your new initiatives? If so, start talking with your bank now to fully understand what they require to approve a loan. Remember: growth does not happen overnight. It requires a well-thought out and well executed plan. Include your team in this process so they can help you get there. They want to be part of growth.
- Create a desirable environment for your employees: we all know how hard it is to find good employees. Don’t lose them. The focus has been on offering good salaries but to keep them you’ll need a lot more. Provide them with ongoing, actionable feedback—don’t wait for the annual review. Develop potential career paths for them. Show them how they can grow In your organization and if they need outside training, make sure they get it. This is a cost that needs to be included in your growth plan. It is so much easier, profitable and satisfying to keep an employee than it is to find a new one. You’re in a growth mode. Don’t underestimate the value of a strong team to help you get to your next goal.
Need help with your growth plan or have other business questions? SCORE Cape Cod & the Islands provides free, confidential mentoring. Contact us at [email protected], at 508-775-4884 or on our website at www.capecod.score.org