7 Rules for small business growth

You can ask almost any Small business owner what they want for their company, and the answer is likely to be “more customers, more sales and more business.” In other words, they want their business to grow. Here are just a few suggestions that might be of help to you and your business.

  1. Know what business you’re in

You may think you know what your business does, but in today’s rapidly changing world, with more competitors, it may be hard to figure out exactly what your strategic position is and how your customers perceive you. Take our small business. We called ourselves a web design and internet marketing company. But the world of web design and online marketing changes almost every day. We needed to figure out what our customers really wanted from us and understand our core competencies so we could change to survive in this new competitive environment. What are your core competencies?

  1. Take care of your bread-and-butter business first

What business activities / services actually bring in the money to pay the bills? Never endanger these activities, even if they’re not exciting or “creative” It’s easy to get bored with your own business — but don’t allow yourself to be. After all, your employees need a paycheck, and your dog has to eat. Look at your financials to see where your sales come from and who your biggest clients are. Taking care of them is your first, though not your only, priority.

  1. Don’t bet all your money on one horse

Many businesses — including our own at one point — have only one or two clients or distribution channels that bring in the bulk of revenue. Being dependent on one or two revenue streams is perilous. It certainly made us nervous at the time, and we knew we had to add new revenue streams to reduce risk, which we did. And that boosted and sustained our business.

  1. Be clear about your target market

If you don’t know exactly who your customers are, you won’t know what they want and how best to serve them. The biggest problem of most small businesses is they try to serve too large a market. Find a niche and own it. When you try to reach too many customers — or types of customers — you spread your resources too thin and your message gets incoherent.

  1. Identify exit scenarios

Someday, you’ll want to leave your business — sell it, close it, pass it to your family members. Outline a few realistic exit possibilities and the steps necessary to make those happen. For instance, if you’d like to sell your business, what would make your company attractive to a buyer?

  1. Build one business at a time

Most entrepreneurs have many great ideas and see opportunities to grow in many different directions. But if you try to act on all those ideas — seize those opportunities — at once, you’re less likely to be successful at any one of them. A key rule is to concentrate on only one new direction — product line, target market, distribution channel — at a time. Get that done right, and only then expand.

  1. Choose a strategy you can afford

Growing a business takes money: for marketing activities, new staff, inventory. How will you fund that growth? Through your own revenues? That means growth will be slower. By taking out loans? You’ll have more debt and obligations. By finding an investor? That takes time, and you have to give up part of your company’s ownership. Figure out what kind of financing you can live with, and choose your growth strategy accordingly.