Every big business was once a small business — even those giants we admire like Amazon, Apple, and Netflix. In fact, it’s well-known that Facebook started off as a dorm room project built by Mark Zuckerberg and his roommates at Harvard.
Ask any small business owner about their goals, and you’ll learn that many aspire to grow their businesses. But what are the steps they need to take in order to get there?
Of course, every industry has its own secrets and processes for turning your small business into a bigger one. But if you’re interested in growth, there are some best practices you should keep in mind no matter what you’re selling or who your customers are.
Have a vision for your success
Having a “vision” sounds a little new-agey, but it’s the real deal.
Let’s say you’re currently a small team of 1-2 people with just a few dozen customers, but your 10-year vision looks much grander — say, 50 employees and 5000 customers. By setting your goals, writing them down, and keeping track of your progress, you will eventually create a realistic picture of what’s possible and where you’re headed.
Having a clear vision for your future also helps you and your team make those tough decisions. For example, when considering whether to add a team member, ask yourself how that new person will advance your progress toward your 10-year milestones. Similarly, if you’re considering introducing a new product, ask yourself how that product takes you closer to the company you want to be in the future.
Being explicit about your goals for your business will keep you moving forward in the right direction, no matter what decisions you need to make in order to get there.
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Stay focused on your core business
It’s easy to get distracted by shiny new projects when really, you should be sticking to your core competencies — the things you’re best at.
Most companies, even the big ones, are known for one or two key offerings. For instance, Google is best known for its search engine and email platform, even though it has come out with additional products like Google Glass and Google Home. And Coca-Cola, for all of its flavored varieties, is still most famous for the “classic” Coke taste.
Here’s the lesson to remember: even if you want to try something new, never let go of what already works. Your new ideas shouldn’t distract from the core business model that makes your company unique
If you do decide to diversify, listen carefully to customer feedback and keep a sharp eye on industry trends. And always remember — if your core business is already profitable and growing, embrace it and stay focused so that healthy revenue stream doesn’t wither away.
Hire talented people
Throughout your growth journey, you’ll hire a variety of people. And in the recruiting process, you may encounter a candidate who’s more talented than you. When this happens, you should embrace that person, even if the prospect makes you uncomfortable.
Here’s the thing: your growth strategy is already limited by your own shortcomings. The only way forward is to hire people who do stuff better than you. It’s all about building a team that can complement your weaknesses with their own strengths.
There’s one catch — talented people cost more. But as a growing company, there are many ways you can offer them value without necessarily seeing a bigger drain on your bottom line. One-time signing bonuses, stock options, annual cash top-ups commensurate with performance, and other incentives are common ways of rewarding employees besides offering larger salaries.
Remember the long game
If you have a 10-year vision, then you will undoubtedly have to make sacrifices along the way. Staying devoted to a long-term plan typically means bypassing some of the easy fixes that present themselves in the short term.
For instance, you may choose to hire an expensive subject matter expert, rather than a more junior professional, because you know the expertise they contribute will ultimately boost your revenue.
Or maybe you’ll ignore a trend that’s prevalent today in order to focus on building something stronger for the future. That’s what Apple did when it created its iPhone more than a decade ago, instead of building yet another one of the typical flip-phones of the time.
Being poorer in the short-term (in order to become richer in the long-term) takes discipline and vision. But remember that you don’t have to be alone while taking your business to the next level. Aim to recruit a team of trusted and patient advisors who are willing to support your way forward, even if it takes a while.
Finally, remember to take some time for yourself during the evenings and weekends. This ensures that you can fully devote time and energy to your business during work hours, without burning out prematurely.
Bring it all together with the right tools
A key part of turning your vision into reality is investing in tools to support your growth. As your business expands, it’s important to have systems in place that allow your team to stay organized and work efficiently. Otherwise, you risk missing out on valuable sales or alienating the loyal customers you worked so hard to acquire.
Luckily, a great CRM can simplify multiple processes at once, from managing your leads and opportunities to building strong customer relationships to eliminating double data entry with your accounting software.
Don’t feel that you need to wait until you’re “big enough” before investing in new tools. The sooner you implement a CRM (especially one that can be customized for your business), the more you can leverage it to promote further growth.
Growing a small business into a big business is never easy, and it rarely happens overnight. But with the right tactics and technology on hand, you can start taking steps toward your long-term goals today.