The economy is still going strong, and many small business owners are considering expanding their services. And whether you own a construction business, a food truck or a graphic design firm, how to grow your company successfully will ultimately boil down to the same seven factors. Here’s what to consider.
1. Brainstorm what “more” looks like.
Growing a company can be done in many different ways—you may want to offer more services to the same clients, expand your client base, hire more salespeople, move from an online presence to brick-and-mortar or vice versa, open more hours or days—the possible ways to grow can be endless. The key is to figure out which direction you want to tackle first, so that you know exactly what “success” looks like—and can, therefore, create a solid plan to get there.
2. Do substantial research to make sure your new direction is viable.
You have to make sure there is demand for your product or service and that your budget is in line with a well-thought-out business plan, or you could be misallocating a lot of time and money. First and foremost, you’ll want to line out all the costs associated with the expanded business and figure out how you will fund them; if you’re looking for a loan, you’ll need to develop a business plan that lines out how you will increase revenue.
Then research the viability of your idea by seeking input and potential pitfalls from a trusted group. Encourage feedback and questions to help you see your big idea through others’ eyes; not only will you be gaining valuable feedback, but you are also likely to be building a fan base who will help tout your expanded product or service when it launches. Make sure to pay special attention to existing customers to see if they would be interested in an expanded product line or if they would visit your new storefront as they are your first potential ambassadors.
3. Seek professional input.
It’s important to talk to friends, family, customers, employees, and others who have an interest in your business but don’t overlook seeking a third-party opinion from mentors who have experience in your space. Tap into all available resources for business advice, such as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Score program, which offers workshops and webinars and will even set you up with free mentoring.
4. Grow your infrastructure as needed.
The research and customer acquisition are often the exciting parts of growing your business. Less glitzy, but equally important? Thinking through what tools you need to keep your expanding business on a solid path—everything from additional marketing to an effective billing system—and have a plan in place to acquire and pay for them.
This could be a good time to research the impacts of different business entity formations to determine whether you’d be better off staying as you are or converting to an LLC or corporation. And make sure you have the business insurance needed to protect and maintain your investment.
5. Be prepared for potential dips.
If your company is going well enough that you are entertaining the idea of growing your business, you probably have developed what could be described as a “well-oiled machine.” Unfortunately, expansion plans can often throw the current system into disarray and take you back to some of these sleepless nights you endured when you were first starting your company. While you are likely wiser now, you may have grown a little complacent, so it’s important to remember that it might not be smooth sailing, especially at first.
6. Build your team mindfully.
Growing your business often entails expanding your staff, which can be a great opportunity to bring new ideas and talents on board. But often that can disrupt your existing close-knit group if you don’t consider how different personalities will work together, and that your current employees might feel some animosity toward new people moving in and assuming control. If you can, involve your current team in the hiring process—they don’t have to have the final say, but seeking their input can help them feel respected. And then make sure that you introduce the new employees to rituals or parts of your culture that make your team special and connected—whether it’s Friday Morning Bagels or ringing a gong when you make a big sale.
7. Never neglect what makes your current company structure successful.
It’s easy to focus on a “shiny new object,” whether that’s an expansion into breakfast if you’re primarily a lunch restaurant, or adding a mortgage offer to your real estate firm. But that can often come at the cost of your existing clients, who won’t appreciate being pushed aside. Make sure that in your haste to grow your business, you never neglect the very customers and employees who got you to where you are today.