What is your strategy for growth? While most entrepreneurs know what they would like to achieve and that they want to expand their business, few have taken time to plan out how and to what end. A strategic plan can help you focus your efforts and align your team to achieve your long-term goals.
Here are nine steps to help you lay a foundation for long-term growth, without sacrificing short-term profits.
1. Keep Your Profits in Perspective
Use profits to pay down debt, recognize your team, create new products and services, and most importantly, set funds aside for lean times in the future – everybody has them.
2. Increase Sales from Your Current Customers
If you already have a captured audience- use them. Instead of focusing on the 90% of people who don’t know about your business, focus on the 10% who make regular purchases. They are your champions and often the best way to increase revenue. Look at different types of loyalty programs, discounts for repeat purchases, customer recognition, new product offerings to existing customers first, etc.
3. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
When looking to expand your products or service delivery, don’t reinvent the wheel. Instead create synergies with what you are doing. That way your cost of entry is lower and growth can be faster. For example, if you own a café, consider event catering. Or, if you’re a gardener, consider snow removal in the winter.
4. Value Every Relationship
Every person that you meet is important. They could be your next customer, mentor, advocate or funder. While not all relationships will end up with these ideal results, there is no reason to not try these different angles with each different people. The journey will help you learn about your business and yourself. It will also help you grow your network quicker, allowing for more rapid business growth.
5. Build Mentor Relationships
Mentorship is a buzzword in the entrepreneurship world. There are countless big named entrepreneurs like Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, who have each had their own mentors and explained how that voice of experience helped guide their business. One of the easiest mentor relationships you can build is with your fellow entrepreneurs, where everyone has the opportunity to grow and learn. Remember though, they’re not there to make your decisions for you, simply to offer insight and guidance.
6. Don’t Hire Someone If You Don’t Understand What They Do
Take time in your hiring process. Whether it’s your first hire or not, blindly grabbing the first candidate that crosses your path is never a route for success. Take time to understand why you’re hiring a person, what they’ll be doing and if that person will fit with your organization. In a small business, it is even more crucial for everyone to be on the same page, to ensure business growth.
7. Make Your Business Somewhere Fun to Be
Small and quickly growing businesses rely heavily on their staff. And more importantly their staff being happy. So creating a positive company culture is vital. It doesn’t have to be ping pong tables and free lunches. Simple things like including staff in decisions, being open to their ideas, flexible with their time, can go a long way to motivate a team. And a motivated team means improved output, which means faster growth.
8. Never Stop Innovating
The world is constantly changing so you can’t sit back and expect your popular product or service to be popular forever. It is vital to monitor trends and understand how your business can be developed to solve new problems and fill more gaps in the market.
And that innovation doesn’t have to just sit with you alone. Encourage your team to identify those gaps and see any trends when they are working front-line with your clients. Make innovation a job requirement. Whether it’s the speed or efficiency they do their current job, or if it’s an opportunity or new direction for the business.
9. Make Time for Long-Term Planning
Let’s face it. We’re all busy. And sometimes it’s hard to make time to just sit and think about the future. But strategic planning is important. Whether it’s planning for the year or planning for the next five years, it’s important to have a roadmap to understand where you are going and how you will get there. Of course, it doesn’t mean you have to take that route, but if you sent out your goals on paper, you’ll be surprised at how much you can achieve in a year. So make time to work on your business not just in your business.