Starting a business is not easy. Growing your small business may even be more challenging. According to some studies, approximately 22% of new businesses failed in their first year, 30% in their second year; 50% fail in their fifth year and 70% don’t make it past their 10th anniversary.
In other words, it may be easy to start a business but to maintain and see it grow is a different thing entirely. Maintaining and growing a business needs motivation, capital, time and patience.
James Sanders has started and successfully scaled 4 businesses in different economic sectors. I encountered this incredible entrepreneur in a zoom conference recently and was fascinated by his presentation on scaling small businesses.
Thereafter I sought and was happy to get his consent to share his recipe for scaling businesses with me. Here’s a summary of his key recommendations to growing a small business quickly.
5 Tips Growing Your Small Business Quickly
#1. Your Sales Funnel: Understand it, Create it
There is a sales funnel for all businesses, but not all business owners understand this. No wonder, some entrepreneurs don’t create one. Of course, “you can’t create what you don’t understand”, James told me.
Know this: you are not in business if you are not selling. So the first step to growing your business is to understand your sales funnel and create it.
But what is a sales funnel?
It is the stages that it takes a business to make a sale. These stages may be different for different kinds of businesses. Let’s take a boutique located on a street corner, for example. The sales funnel begins with somebody passing by and noticing your well-dressed mannequin, he stops and enters your shop (second stage). By now he has become a prospect.
He goes through the displays of wears, examining one shirt after another (that’s stage three) and finally settles for one, then negotiation begins (stage four of the funnel). You two agrees on a price and he pays (sales closed).
The process outlined above could have terminated at any stage if the prospect didn’t feel he was getting value. So your responsibility as a business owner is to make sure that your sales funnel is so effective as to avoid being broken at stage of the sales process.
Using an online method, your funnel may include running an ad, driving prospects to a landing page, getting them to take action and following up with a series of email even after you have made that sale.
To scale your business quickly, understand and create your sales funnel; above all, automate it.
2. Automate Routine Processes
If you are serious about growing your business quickly you must focus on your process excellence. Process excellence leads to high level of customer satisfaction and satisfied customers lead to more businesses, more businesses means growth.
What is process excellence you would ask? It is how you create and deliver value to your customer. How you do your business in short!
Big companies realize the importance of process excellence and that’s why they invest a lot of money in improving their processes. They call it different names: total quality management, business process re-engineering, business process improvement, etc.
They are all geared towards one thing: making the way they do their business efficient in order to deliver superior customer satisfaction.
As a small business owner, you should also focus on on your customer. The whole idea is to automate the processes of servicing your customer so that you become very efficient, that way you are able to draw your customers to yourself, keep them, get them to refer more customers to your business and by so doing so grow your business quickly.
These days, it’s easy to automate simple tasks like sending out estimates, invoicing, routine mails, payroll, bill payments and customer support can be easily automated with technology tools. Identify such routine tasks in your business and automate them using simple business tools and application that available online, some for free.
That way you free up useful time that you can expend on thinking and designing growth strategies.
#3. Promote Your Business
And do it consistently! In advertising they say “If you don’t say where you are no one will say there you”. Again, promoting your business these days is relatively cheap. You do not need to engage professional marketing communication firms that will charge you an arm and a leg to write copies for you or promote your business.
Again there are online tools you can use to promote your business cheaply if not for free. Add a signature to your emails announcing what you do and how you can be reached, state it on your social media handles such as facebook, twitter, linkedin etc.
Set up a google my business account and get seen on google map. What you may not know is that Google is not just a search engine, it offers incredible opportunities for small business owners to grow their businesses and one of such tools is the Google My Business. All you need to explore it is a gmail account. If properly set up, google my business offers you free advertising.
#4. Form Strategic Alliances
No matter how good you are in what you do, you can never do it alone. Look out for partners that can bring complimentary skills to your business. If your strength is in sales, think of bringing in someone who is strong in processes.
If you are deficient in networking, why not find someone who mixes easily and form a strategic alliance with to help push your business in the right circles. You need these things to survive as a business owner.
Yes it may not be easy. But you got to try. Look out for individuals or companies with the right competencies that you lack but need to grow your business. Approach them in writing and offer them your own complimentary skills by suggesting a partnership that creates a win-win value for you both.
#4. Get Outside Investment
A very quick way to expand your business is to get investors in your business. Money beget money. The more funds available to you, the bigger the project you are able to finance.
It need to be emphasized that getting equity investment is better than going the debt route. Taking debt capital will put pressure on your business. You will have to service the interest and eventually the debt will fall due. Debt capital if not well managed may cause your early exit.
Go for equity investment. The options available include angel investors, venture capital and crowdfunding.
Identify what’s best for you and explore it.
Finally, James added that how well you are able to scale will depend on how the market perceive you as the key individual behind the business. If people see you as an expert, the confidence will pass down to your business.
In reviewing companies to buy into investors will consider the management team of the company. How competent are they, are they credible, do they have what it takes to protect their investment? These are some of the questions that if positively answered create confidence in the prospective investor.
The same thing apply to your customers and potential customers and this is important particularly if you are into a service business. If you are able to create the air of an expert adviser to whom people run to get advice in your area of business then you are on your way scaling easily.
How can you establish your authority so that people see you as that expert they can trust? Start a blog, publish a newsletter, write a book or at least regularly publish articles in popular journals, blogs, or news media.
If your business is woven around you, then it is important that you establish a personal brand to be able to scale that business.