Growing a business is a challenge at any time – and even more so with the current economic difficulties – so we’ve put together some top tips for helping your company expand.
It can be hard to prise yourself away from your business, especially in the early days, and trusting others with tasks can be difficult. But to grow your business, you have to delegate effectively and avoid the mentality that you have to do everything yourself to ensure it’s done properly. If you’re rushed off your feet but can’t afford a full time employee, look for a reliable freelancer, virtual assistant or student that can work on an ad hoc basis when you need them.
Use your money wisely
Planning your budget is arguably the most important aspect of your business; the old adage ‘if you run out of money, you run out of time’ often rings true. Continue to reinvest profit in your business and make wise investments to build it before you think about paying yourself a good salary or treating yourself to an expensive holiday. Always think about ways you can cut down on your outgoings, for example, do you really need an office building to yourself or can you opt for a virtual tenancy or shared office space?
Develop strong foundations
Many businesses don’t realise that their systems don’t do what they want until it’s too late. Put the time and money in to ensure that you don’t face problems further down the line, particularly when using pre-built or outsourced software and services. How scalable is your system? How easy is it to change the functionality? Can it be integrated easily into other areas of your business? If it’s a website, do you own the code? What happens if the business/product/service you rely on is shut down or discontinued at some point in the future? If you know you’ve already made a mistake, face up to it, fix it and move on – it may set you back a bit, but the problem’s not going to disappear on its own.
‘If you build it, they will come’ doesn’t apply – you need to go beyond your own four walls or your own website to market and promote effectively. Don’t just wait for people to come to you. Being proactive doesn’t have to be about the hard sell, particularly if you’re an online business. If you don’t have the budget for web or print advertising, offer advice, tips and resources for free to help develop your reputation, and get actively involved in communities where people need what you offer. Some of the biggest opportunities come from the most unexpected places, so don’t be dismissive or quick to turn down a lead or opportunity unless it’s completely impractical.
Get the work/life balance right
It’s easy to overwork and get run down, or underwork and become too reliant on one or two people running your business for you. Delegation and organisation will help you to avoid overworking, but it’s important that you know what’s happening within your business and what decisions are being made.
Get feedback from your customers
It’s not always possible or practical to implement all the changes suggested, but taking on board what people want from your services and products will help you to stand out in your market and encourage natural growth as well as giving you ideas for moving forward. Be proud to mention that you’re making a change or adding a feature because it’s been requested – let your customers know you care.
Fill the gaps
No one’s good at everything, so look to employ people with different skillsets to you to fill the gaps. Know what your strengths and weaknesses are across every aspect of your business, from budget planning to pitching to clients. It also helps to know what your employees’ and colleagues’ strengths and weaknesses are so you know who approach for advice or ideas in any given area.
Find out what your employees want
It doesn’t have to take a pay rise to make your employees more satisfied – simple things like improving resources, clarifying processes, or even just offering a friendly ear can make all the difference. You can’t pay your employees to care or be motivated, but you can create the conditions for it to happen automatically. Simply asking, ‘What would improve your job?’ is enough to get the ball rolling, and asking via email or even a poll can help avoid awkwardness and make it easy to compare suggestions.
Take a step back occasionally
It’s easy to become completely immersed in your business, particularly if there’s only one or two people involved. Ask unbiased people to review your website, assess how you come across and make some suggestions for change. Avoid getting complacent; there’s always room for improvement, and just because you’re ahead of a competitor now doesn’t mean you will be in the future.
What’s your top tip for starting or growing your own business? Leave a comment below!