Growth is critical for any business. However, a small business, in particular, may find it difficult to cultivate growth on a regular basis. Limited funds, throttled resources, and a lack of manpower can make investing in sustainable growth feel impossible.
Fortunately, there are many completely attainable ways that small business leaders can cultivate growth in their companies — even when they lack the huge budgets, massive teams, and unlimited resources available to a larger operation.
One of the best places to start working on growth is right within the four walls of your own business. These four walls may consist of a physical workspace or, as is more likely during the coronavirus era, a virtual one. Either way, here are a few of the best ways to grease the wheels for future growth within your internal operations.
Your employees are the heart and soul of your business. Just like any organism or organization, if your staff is uninterested and uninvolved in your company, it can cripple your ability to grow.
The solution? Engage your employees. Companies with engaged employees tend to outperform competitors by nearly 150%. They also engage customers better and have greater productivity, customer retention, revenue, and profitability. You can engage your employees by:
• Providing regular feedback.
• Fostering a sense of community and belonging.
• Setting up rewards systems.
• Maintaining integrity and transparency.
• Empowering employees through delegated tasks and avoiding micromanagement.
By striving to get your employees to engage with their work, you naturally create a team of individuals who are personally invested in your enterprise’s success.
If you don’t have a clearly set objective within your organization, it can be nearly impossible to truly grow.
With that in mind, always remember to set clear expectations both on individual and company-wide levels. Fortunately, in a small business, it’s much easier to keep everyone on the same page than in a larger organization. A few suggestions for ways to help your crew work towards the same goals and meet the same expectations include:
• Providing ongoing training and development to help perform activities and tasks.
• Setting up guidelines and codes of conduct.
• Establishing clear lines of both vertical and horizontal communication within your company.
• Setting, communicating, and regularly revising goals.
By establishing what is expected, you can begin to orient your team’s energy and work towards the ultimate goal of growing your company.
Active listening is a critical communication tactic in any and every workspace. If leadership cannot listen, reflect back, and empathize with their employees, it will create a sense of estrangement and disassociation.
From round table discussions to performance reviews, look for opportunities to truly listen to your employees. If they’re struggling with productivity or engagement, ask them for ways to create a sustainable work environment that they can thrive in. If they feel discouraged or overwhelmed by pressure at work, hear them out, empathize with their situation, and help them look for ways to manage the stress.
The simple act of genuinely being heard can do wonders in encouraging your workforce, leading to higher focus and productivity, and paving the way to greater growth in the process.
Along with optimizing internal activity, you can also help your organization grow by investing in marketing. While traditional options such as television and radio ads may be out of your price range, there are a variety of powerful online marketing tools available. These can bring you in contact with new customers, help you establish a growing community, and ultimately increase your bottom line.
Before you invest in pay per click (PPC) ads or begin working with influencers, start by creating a website. This is simpler than it sounds, as there are numerous e-commerce website builders like Shopify and BigCommerce that make the job fairly simple.
In addition, you don’t need a flashy, over-the-top website. You simply need a streamlined, easy-to-use, customer-centric site that provides a homepage, a store with your products, contact information, and a company blog. That last item is especially important, as a company blog allows you to:
• Provide quality resources to answer your customers’ questions.
• Establish yourself as an authority in your field or industry.
• Generate organic traffic through search engine optimization (SEO).
• Create content that can be shared through both readers and your other online marketing channels.
A dependable website serves as the cornerstone of your online marketing efforts and can help your organization thrive in the online marketplace.
Social media doesn’t just allow you to interact with potential customers, it also:
• Gives your brand a sense of identity and the human touch.
• Allows you to cultivate an online community.
• Can be used to provide timely, quality customer service.
Before you dive into setting up a free account on every social media platform in existence, take the time to do a little research. You don’t want to overextend yourself across too many platforms. Instead, narrow down which social media channels will work best for your business and then stick to those.
Email lists are powerful marketing tools — and they’re often free or very cheap, especially for small businesses that tend to have fewer names on their lists. Creating an email list and throwing an opt-in sign up form onto your homepage or shopping cart can be a great way to begin compiling a list of people who have asked to hear more from you in the future.
A list like this can be a great way to make announcements, share promotions, and generally communicate with the people who care about your company. This can lead to repeat business and better client retention rates, which are critical if you want to build on an existing audience.
If you’re a geographically focused business, look for local listings that can help to propagate your brand throughout the region you operate in.
First, claim your Google My Business Listing and completely fill it out. Then look for other listing agencies, like Craigslist or Angie's List, and make sure to get your company listed with the correct information.
Along with internal development and online marketing, you can also encourage long-term growth by simply taking the time to prepare for it. Here are a few subtle-yet-essential ways that you can plan for growth in your company’s future.
The business world has gone through several rather dramatic stages of digital maturity in the last few decades. E-commerce, in particular, started as a complex, overwhelming novelty, shifted to a focus on the customer experience, and eventually became an entirely customer-centric operation. Wise business leaders will strive to maintain a growth mindset that foregrounds an eagerness to learn from these changes and apply them to their preparations for the future.
When it comes to digital technology, breakthroughs like artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and both virtual and augmented reality loom on the horizon and are becoming increasingly accessible to small businesses.
A business owner whose mindset is open to growing and learning at all times will be able to take these changes and technological innovations in stride, and will be able to integrate them into their ongoing operations. This will position them at the forefront of their industry — which happens to be an excellent place to grow.
Not all planning ahead has to revolve around hypothetical futures and nuanced mindsets. Sometimes planning for growth is as simple as, well, creating a logistical plan to scale your operation. This should revolve around basic growth-minded activities, like:
• Delegating tasks as your workload increases.
• Maintaining a clear view of the big picture as you go along.
• Hiring experts and then trusting them to do the work.
By preparing for future growth, you’ll be positioned to take full advantage of it when it comes.
Finally, if you want to both grow and manage your growth successfully in the future, it’s important that you start tracking your progress in the here and now. Use tools like Quickbooks to track income and expenses and Google Analytics to gather online traffic and customer data.
As you collect data, analyze it to see where you’re growing, where you’re not, and what can be done better. For instance, you may find that you’re getting plenty of traffic online, but not many sales. This information can help you direct your efforts towards perfecting your on-site sales funnels rather than spending more of your precious time and resources on getting more of the traffic that you already have rolling in on a regular basis.
True business growth doesn’t happen at the push of a button. It requires a concerted effort on multiple fronts. Like a quality football team, you need to think about offense, defense, and special teams activities all at the same time. Neglecting one or even simply prioritizing one over the other can often drag the entire team down.
As you consider how to encourage growth within your small business, remember to approach the issue from three perspectives:
• Growth from internal operations.
• Growth from marketing, especially online marketing.
• Growth from planning ahead.
If you can address outward-facing, inward-facing, and future-facing considerations altogether, you can set your enterprise up not just to survive, but to thrive in the months and years ahead.
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