Many small business owners would like to grow their businesses, but have not been able to because they are so occupied with handling day to day operations they have not developed or implemented any plans for growth.
Other small business owners have rapid, unplanned, uncontrolled growth that overwhelms them and depletes their cash flow, resulting in customer dissatisfaction and the possibility of having to close their doors because they cannot finance continued operation.
To grow a profitable business and be able to sustain that growth over time, you need to start with determining your vision for your company. Describe your company’s core values, how you want the company to interact with its environment, what you want to accomplish over the long term, and how you will eventually exit the business.
Once you have a vision for your business, you can ensure that the decisions you make and actions you take line up with that vision, thereby shaping the future of your business. But to take the proper actions to accomplish your vision, you must understand the environment in which you operate and the capabilities of your business.
Analyze your business to identify your company’s strengths so you will be able to capitalize upon them. Identify and understand your company’s weaknesses so you know what you must improve upon. Analyze your environment to look for opportunities you can take advantage of and potential threats to which you need to respond.
Another important step you should take is identifying your business’s competitive edge. To have an effective competitive edge, it is not enough to identify what makes you different from your competition; it must be something that is truly important to your potential customers. Will it really motivate customers to buy from you instead of your competitors?
Having an effective competitive edge means nothing if you cannot communicate it to your customers. Determine the message customers need to understand and identify the best way to connect with your customers. Investigate what marketing and communication tools are available and understand how your targeted customers obtain information and make decisions.
To implement your plan successfully and achieve growth, you have to put together the right team and be able to lead them. Finding, hiring, compensating and motivating your team will be a challenge. Take time to analyze what tasks must be done and what positions you must fill.
Consider not only basic employee qualifications needed, but what you are looking for in terms of the right match for your company.
Realize that as your company grows, it will change, and your role as leader will be changing too. So you will need to be able to adapt and change how you lead your team.
You cannot grow your business if you do not understand your company’s financial condition and how it changes when you implement new strategies. You must understand and be able to use your numbers. Keep excellent records and develop financial statements including balance sheets, income statements and cash flow statements. Determine the money needed to achieve your goals for business growth and investigate potential ways to obtain needed funding.
Developing and implementing operational systems is crucial if you are going to create a business that can move up to the next level and build value. Take time to examine and assess your operation. Look for ways to be more efficient and document your processes.
Poorly managed growth can be stressful, expensive, and can even kill the business. But if your business is well managed through consistent, efficient processes, it will be easier to grow it into a profitable and valuable business.
SBDC Growsmart™ is a five full-day program to help small business owners grow their businesses profitably. To learn more about the program and to apply to participate, please visit www.georgiasbdc.org/growsmart.