Your ambition is what makes your business great. It’s also what makes you a great boss and entrepreneur. You are where you are because you refused to accept “no” as an answer. Because you never stopped reaching to achieve your goals, even when door after door was shut in your face. You got sick of waiting for opportunities to fall into your lap. You were proactive and sought to create your own opportunities on your own terms. But you weren’t just out to create a business for yourself. You saw a gap in your markey where legions of customers were going without. A gap within which the businesses that would become your competitors were failing to deliver.
You took a big risk, incurred a lot of expense and ensured more sleepless nights than you’d care to count. But you made it happen! You created your own business and neatly filled that glaring gap in the market. And, global pandemic and inevitable recession notwithstanding, things are going well. Very well. So well, in fact, that you perceive opportunities to grow your business. But before you leap headlong into the opportunity to expand, take a moment to ask yourself if this is what you really want? While growing your business to enterprise level brings with it a wealth of great opportunities, it also brings with it a lot of costs, logistical considerations and yet more sleepless nights.
It may be worth asking yourself if you wouldn’t be better served by keeping your small business small. You may have only begun to become profitable, and sinking expenses into growth might just mean that you have to wait a half decade more to become profitable again. As your business grows, you may find that you lose the purity of intention and identity that you first had when starting out. You may have to compromise your brand in ways that actually alienate your core customers. But if you’re certain you can sidestep these concerns and pursue business growth, there’s still a right way and a wrong way to do it. Obviously the minutiae will depend on your business, your clientele and the industry you serve, but here are some broad “dos and don’ts” for sustainable business growth…
DON’T: Set your sights on new customers at the expense of your current clientele
You need to be able to secure new repeat customers if you’re going to grow your business, right? Well, that’s all well and good, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of the customers whom you’ve already won over. Many of whom may have been out of touch with you for much of the year because of the pandemic and its effect on their buying power.
We all know that it costs up to 5 times more to engage new customers than it costs to retain the ones you already have. So why sink your money into bold new marketing campaigns if you’re not also actively taking steps to bring loyal and lapses customers alike back into the fold? This is a good way for marketing costs to become a black hole that you’ll struggle to fill if you can’t rely on the revenue from loyal repeat customers. Build on a strong foundation and ensure that you secure the loyalty of existing customers before chasing new ones.
DO: Leverage loyalty schemes that kill two birds with one stone
Looking for a way to attract new customers while also generating more value for those who already use your business? Look no further than Uber for an example of how to do exactly that. The ride-sharing giant arguably grew so exponentially because it leveraged its existing customer base effectively, turning them into micro-influencers. Customers are encouraged to get their friends, family and work colleagues to try the service, earning free rides for themselves and their friends when they refer someone who joins the service.
Hey presto! You have added value for the existing customer, while also encouraging new people to give your business a try risk-free. All without incurring enormous marketing costs.
DON’T: Invest in new tech just to keep up with the Joneses
Tech drives business growth. It’s something that entrepreneurs are told all the time. Usually by someone trying to sell them tech or SaaS solutions. Like marketing costs, the money you spend on tech can indeed add value for your customers and result in outstanding ROI. But your tech spend can also become a black hole if you invest in technology just so you can say that you’re an early adopter or, and we can all be guilty of this from time to time, because our competitors are using it.
DO: Look at how your competitors are using tech in innovative ways
You don’t just need to look at what tech your competitors are using. Crucially, you need to look at how they’re using it. And, like everything in business, it needs to be addressed though the lens of the customer experience. Even if it’s not something that the average consumer is aware of. Not many of your customers will be able to tell you that Oracle 5G service communications proxy makes interaction with your brand more seamless and secure. They just know that they never experience any problems with your website or on-site infrastructure. Look at the clever, exciting and innovative ways in which your competitors are using tech, and think about how it delivers value to the customer. That’s what you’re really up against!
Remember that tech can be extremely useful in delivering added value to the client. But it’s never the value-added component in and of itself!
DON’T: Stretch your employees too thin trying to grow your business
You couldn’t have gotten where you are today without an amazing team behind you. And while your unique perspective, experience and talent are what give your brand its identity, it’d be churlish to say that you could have accomplished all that you have to date without amazing people behind you.
But even the most talented, capable and dedicated of us has our limits. Stretch your team too thin, and you may find that stress levels rise, mistakes and emotional outbursts become increasingly commonplace, and that your workplace becomes a much less pleasant space to spend your days.
And if your customers get the merest hint that all is not well in your business, or stress prevents your team from they could jump into the open arms of your competitors.
Before you set your sights squarely on growing your business, you need to be absolutely sure that you have the human resources to drive and sustain it. And if not…
DO: Seek out a helping hand when it comes to recruitment
You’re a hands-on kind of entrepreneur. You like to do everything your way. And when it comes to letting a new team member on board, you probably want to be the deciding voice in who gets to join your team. But believe it or not, the gut instinct that drives many hires can actually lead to some decisions that prove damaging to the business. Great candidates don’t always make great employees. Outsourcing your recruitment can not only lead to better hires, it may also save you money and will certainly save you time. So you can focus on steering the ship down the path to growth.
DON’T: Be crippled by “analysis paralysis”
Analytics are absolutely essential in you’re to build your business’ growth on a strong foundation. In the age of Big Data, you likely base a lot of your strategy on key performance metrics that point you in the right direction. Heck, if you’re thinking about growing your business at all, it’s more than likely because that decision is backed by data telling you that you’re in a position of strength.
But as your business grows you’ll find that you have a lot more data to contend with. So much so, in fact, that it stops guiding your way and starts to obfuscate it. Before you know it, you have more data than you know what to do with and you’re struck by analysis paralysis which can kill both productivity and profitability.
DO: Leverage Business Intelligence solutions for insights to fuel your growth
Big Data can either point the way to sustainable growth, or it can effectively tie your shoelaces together so that you trip up over yourself. It’s your ability to mine that data for clear and actionable insights that will make all the difference. And without the right solutions this can be an extremely laborious and time-consuming exercise. You need to invest in the right tools to make sense of your data. And that means you need to invest in the right Business Intelligence (BI) solutions. BI can help you to trawl huge sums of data and glean the insights you need to fuel your growth. While it will never replace the gut instinct and intrinsic knowledge of one’s business and industry that are often behind great business decisions, it can point you in the right direction and insulate you from the effects of those business decisions that don’t pan out the way you’d hoped.