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From small business conception, small business owners are faced with making ongoing decisions with the daunting reality that the outcomes can impact future growth and expansion. These can be small scale day-to-day such as capitalising on recent successes. Or they can be more big picture such as using economies of scale to boost your profit margin. With both, you’ll need a solid plan first to determine what the best course of action is.
Here are six essential steps for growing your small business the smart way:
1. Figure out what growth means for your business
Every small business is different, so every small business owner will have a different definition of “growth”. The variation in growth can be anything including opening a new store in a different location, boosting sales to existing customers, expanding the traditional bricks and mortar into eCommerce and an online store. Or introducing new products. If you had a growth target in mind, this will help you narrow down how you’d like to grow.
2. Understand the business
It is important to take a step back and really understand how your business is performing. A big increase in profit is a good sign that you’re ready to take your small business to the next level. But if your main competitors have shown even larger increases, you’ll want to know the reasons why. You’ll also want to keep in mind the less tangible elements of your business, such as your brand values, corporate culture, and value proposition. Doing so will ensure you can keep what works or improve your strategy as your small business grows.
3. Plan your growth strategy
Once you have a thorough understanding of where your business is, and where you want it to be, it’s time to map out a route from beginning to end. One essential thing you’ll need to consider including is whether your staff have the necessary skills for your business growth. Also, think about if you have the physical space to accommodate for growth, whether your supply chain has the capabilities to support your business growth and how your customers may respond to the change.
4. Streamline operations
Small businesses are only profitable if they are making sales. So, it’s important to devote a good part of the day to selling directly, communicating with customers, and improving the sales process. For established businesses, this should account for at least 30% of your time, which means you need to sure that everything else needs is running smoothly and efficiently.
A great way to ensure this is by automating processes that would typically take up more of your time such as bookkeeping, invoicing, business reporting, and procurement. Make it easy for your customers to get the information they need by ensuring your website contains detailed product descriptions, a customer support chat feature, and integrated social networking.
5. Spread the word
Most email marketing platforms offer powerful tools for segmenting subscriber lists and tracking user click-throughs and conversions, to help you target users with information and special deals that will appeal to them. In addition, if your platform is fully integrated with your ecommerce or POS system, you’ll find it easy to sign up new customers and follow up on incomplete transactions.
6. Test and adjust as you grow
Monitor your progress and review your targets regularly, at least quarterly. Pay close attention to your cash flow. It’s one of the most common problems for growing businesses, as there’s often a lag between the increased operating expense and the flow-on increase in sales. If you implemented the right systems, and you have a good business analysis tool, you should have all of the data you need—including customer feedback—to know whether you’re on track.
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