Small business owners often wonder what they can do to grow their business, especially in tough economic times. It can sometimes be difficult to come up with new ideas. Here are tips on how to find ways to grow your business.
1. Employee suggestions: Employees can be a wonderful source of information about what is working well and what needs to be improved in your business. Most would be happy to offer suggestions if you just ask.
Depending on the size of your business, you could do this through informal verbal requests or a more formal written procedure. But if you ask, be sure to listen. While you cannot implement all suggestions, be sure your employees do not feel their ideas were ignored.
2. Customer feedback: Give your customers the opportunity to offer suggestions for improvement. One way is to simply ask customers for their feedback when talking with them. Interacting with customers through social media is another excellent way to get ideas.
3. Vendors: Not only can you get ideas from the people who buy from you, you could also ask those from whom you buy for input. Suppliers of your inventory and other products and services you purchase often have insights into your industry, customers and competitors.
4. Networking: Get out there and network with other small business owners and business leaders in your community. You cannot be everywhere, but do spend some time at meetings and events sponsored by local chambers and other small business organizations.
Great ideas can come from the relationships you build.
5. Executive roundtables: Chambers of commerce and other business organizations sometimes offer roundtable programs to help small business owners learn from each other. Look for opportunities to participate in these programs, which bring together a few small business owners to meet regularly and
share their knowledge and experiences.
6. Advisory boards: Create your own advisory board to meet regularly and help guide your steps toward business growth. Advisory board members may include other small business owners and business leaders from your community whom you know and trust.
7. Continuing education classes: There is a wealth of ideas for growing your business available through continuing education classes. Check your local universities to see what they offer.
There are also valuable seminars available through your local SCORE office, your city’s economic development department, your Small Business Development Center, your chamber and business networking organizations.
8. Online courses and webinars: Online courses are available through organizations such as the Small Business Administration and Small Business Development Centers to help you grow your business. Webinars presented by various nonprofit and for-profit organizations can give you valuable tips in just a one-hour session.
9. Competitors: You can also find new ideas by carefully observing your competition. What are they doing right? What is not working?
But do not just copy your competitors’ strategies. What works for them may not work for you, and you do not want to be perceived as a “me too” type of business. If you see something that works for your competition, you may be able to tailor that idea to your situation.
10. Articles, blogs and more: You can find excellent business-related articles in your local newspaper, local business publications, business magazines, etc. Look for reputable business experts who blog regularly on small business issues and learn from them.
To better learn how to grow your business, the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center in Savannah offers the GrowSmart™ (formerly FastTrac® GrowthVenture™) program. This program provides five full days of classes to help small business owners learn how to grow their businesses. Call 912-651-3200 or go to http://www.georgiasbdc.org/growsmart/ for more information.
Connie Edwards is a business consultant with the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center. Contact her at 912-651-3200.