Cultivating a business is in many ways like raising a child. For one, there’s a certain element of pride in witnessing its success – and knowing that you were at least partially responsible. For another, what you do in its formative years will determine pretty much everything it becomes when it grows to maturity.
In other words, if you mess up when your business is young, it’s probably going to be messed up when it grows older.
All analogies aside, the early years of a startup or small business are pretty much what makes or breaks it for the future. Larger corporations can survive a bit of mismanagement – companies like Facebook, and Microsoft, that have reached the ‘too big to fail’ stage. Small businesses, though?
They can’t. Not really.
Now that we’ve hammered in a bit of doom and gloom, let’s focus on actually giving you folks something of value, shall we? Today, we’re going to talk about how you as a small business owner can successfully foster growth for your organization. In short, we’re going to go over how you can ensure your business grows up into a strong, successful syndicate and not a failing, dysfunctional firm.
Make Sure You’ve A Clear Vision For The Future
According to Virgin Group author and founder Richard Branson, the most important thing you need to do to ensure your business remains healthy is to establish exactly what you want out of it. What’s your mission? What do you aim to provide to your customers, and how do you mean to provide it?
For any small business to grow, it’s important to make sure you’ve got a clear vision for the future. pic.twitter.com/jRzLvdFsm1
— ServerMania (@servermaniainc) September 29, 2014
The how is just as important as the what, by the way. “Many times, partners can provide the back office, the infrastructure, or the raw materials,” writes Branson. “By building strong relationships with such suppliers, you are free to scale the operations without heavy calls on your capital.”
So, to sum it up:
- Establish a strong mission statement.
- Structure your business to expand in advance.
- Foster relationships with suppliers and partners.
Hire The Right People For The Job And Ensure They’ve A Sense Of Purpose
The right person in the right place can make all the difference. Do you think Apple would have grown as powerful as it did without Steve Jobs as the frontman? Do you believe Facebook would have gotten off its feet without Zuckerberg or Moskovitz?
It’s not enough to simply determine the strengths of your staff, either – you need to know their weaknesses, too. As a small business owner, you also need to be capable of working out which of your employees don’t fit the bill. What’s more, you need to be willing to part with anyone who’s incapable of keeping up.
“Many small businesses fail to grow because they don’t identify team members who can no longer keep up,” explains Branson. “It’s sometimes necessary to part company with senior managers who cannot develop the business, painful as that may be.”
Of course, even the best employee can be bad at their job if they aren’t inspired. That’s another thing you’ll need to do as a founder – instill a strong sense of purpose in your staff. We’ve already established that your company needs a strong mission statement to succeed – but even the strongest mission statement is worthless if an organization’s staff don’t believe in it.
Never Forget The Little Details
The business world can be a funny place, where a seemingly insignificant detail can float or sink an entire brand. That, I suspect, is why Branson advocates remaining obsessive about even the smallest details of your organization. While there’s certainly something to be said for delegation, you should always remain focused on the day-to-day of your organization. Regularly visit and chat with your staff. Keep track of what your competitors are doing, and consider how you can one-up them.
If it sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. Success in the business world is never easy, after all.
Treat Your Customers Like People, Not Sales Leads
One of the most significant ways in which social media changed the world can be seen in the relationship between consumer and brand. Traditionally, communication between a business and its customers was relatively one-sided – aside from a bit of market research and the occasional survey, no one really had much to do with their brand of choice.
That’s no longer the case.
People today don’t want to be sold to anymore, they don’t want to be treated like walking wallets. They want a two-way conversation with their brands. If your business doesn’t communicate directly with the people it serves – if you don’t make an active effort to talk and listen to your customers – then they’re going to find a business that does.
Go Local First, National Later
I’m certain most every business owner wants to be able to say they managed to transform their business from a small group of friends to a multinational conglomerate, but such a change doesn’t happen overnight. If you truly want to see your business grow and succeed, you need to start with local marketing – appeal to the customers in your immediate area first. Only once you’ve built up a strong base of customers in your home city should you think about expanding beyond.
Don’t Shy Away From Innovation
Last, but certainly not least – and this seems like an obvious piece of advice at first glance – never shy away from a new product or innovative idea. A lot of organizations have a tendency to stagnate after they’ve enjoyed a bit of success, don’t allow yours to be one of them. Unity CEO David Helgason put it best – “If you’re in your comfort zone, you’re declining or you’re dying.”
He may have been speaking about game development, but that advice can be applied to pretty much any industry in the world. Never let yourself stagnate, and never let yourself get too comfortable. Unless you’re actively challenging yourself – and actively seeking to challenge your business – you’ll never truly grow.
Nurture Your Future
In many ways, building a successful business can be likened to raising a child. Everything you do – from the values you instill to the example you set – impacts how that kid’s going to turn out when they reach adulthood. By that same vein, everything you do with your business – how you market it, how you relate to your employees, and how you run things internally – will impact what that business looks like when it matures.
Don’t be a poor parent – raise your business right, and it’ll grow up to make you proud.
Image credit: Steevven1
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