According to a survey of the owners of 1,000 small businesses that earn $250,000 or more in annual revenues, a large majority of them—72 percent, in fact—consider growth a priority for their business. Unfortunately, many worry about cash flow problems, while many others report that brainstorming ideas for growth “keeps them up at night.”
The following three strategies can help you create sustained business growth and avoid the “up all night” effects that worry so many other business owners and managers.
1. Define What Makes You Different
The first step to sustained business growth is to define what makes your business different. What is its unique value proposition? In other words, why do your customers choose you instead of your competitors? What is it you offer that others do not? What differentiates you, and makes you relevant?
For instance, Subway is the healthy fast food restaurant. Walmart competes on price. Starbucks’ unique value proposition is, perhaps surprisingly, not that it serves delicious coffee, but that it enhances the experience of drinking coffee for its customers.
When you define what makes your business different, you inherently narrow your focus to only what is important. The process should reveal your target buyer. It should reveal the problem you solve. It should explain why you are the best choice for your customers.
The reason it is important to determine these things is that, during growth periods, you may be tempted to tamper with the controls, to change the things that are working in favor of efficiency, simplicity, reduced overhead, or other factors.
Don’t fall for it! It’s a trap. This temptation is like a faerie light in the woods that leads you off your path and into the unknown, only to be lost forever.
Figure out what makes you different. Embrace it. Nurture it, and let it be your guide.
2. Define Your Key Indicators
The second strategy for sustaining business growth is to define your key indicators. To get where you want to go, you need to measure your progress against your ultimate destination. Similarly, business growth must be measurable, so you should choose meaningful indicators and keep an eye on them.
To do this, you first have to define your business’s goals. Do you want to improve web traffic by 20 percent over the next six months? Do you want to boost quarterly sales by 10 percent? Figure out where you want to go, and measure your progress using appropriate KPIs.
This does not mean you should monitor every possible data point. This is a waste of time. Rather, focus only on a few indicators that tell you what you need to know.
For instance, if you want to grow site traffic, keep an eye on traffic sources, click through rates on promotional materials, bounce rates, social shares, and, of course, overall site traffic. If you want to boost sales, keep an eye on conversion rates, site traffic, and daily sales numbers. Each of the indicators you monitor should relate to a core business goal and help you measure your business’s growth in that area.
3. Spend Your Money on Talent
The final strategy for sustaining business growth is to invest in human capital. To keep your business growing, you need capable individuals who can adapt, pitch in, and motivate others to accomplish the difficult feat of becoming a bigger, better, more sustainable company. As such, you should spend your money on talent rather than showplace offices, trendy furniture, or expensive parties.
Additionally, make each hire count. Choose flexible, self-motivated employees who are willing to play multiple roles and pick up the slack when they see something that needs doing. Pay them well to encourage their continued contribution.
Be sure to listen to these employees when they offer feedback, and encourage them to offer creative solutions. They are closer to the ground than you are and often have insights you lack. By encouraging feedback and solutions, you encourage your employees to engender an ownership or entrepreneurial mentality over their domain. Nothing supports sustained business growth more effectively than a team of creative, empowered, entrepreneurially minded employees.
Growth is a key goal of over 70 percent of small business owners, and the three strategies outlined above can help you achieve it. First, define your unique value proposition, embrace it, and let it be your guide through any growth period. Next, figure out your business goals, and choose key performance indicators to monitor so you know how and when you achieve your goals. Finally, invest your resources in talent, and empower your team to be flexible, self-motivated, and entrepreneurial. If you follow those three strategies, you have an excellent chance of growing your business into something exceptional.