We all know that starting your small business comes with its fair share of challenges, and staying afloat can be decided by the tiniest of margins. You’ve probably heard some variation of this statistic repeated time and time again—around half of new businesses will close within five years of startup.
The reasons are numerous and varied. Maybe the market changes, and demand drops for your chosen product or service. Maybe you made a few financial mistakes in the beginning, and you were never able to recover, or maybe you chose the wrong team to go into business with.
One thing is clear: the most successful small businesses—no matter the industry—are the ones that are constantly looking for growth opportunities. To this end, here are 7 proven tips for expanding your small business:
1. Market Research Should Never Stop
You’ll see thorough market research on every “how to start a business” list; there’s a multi-billion dollar market for it worldwide. But once many small business owners land on a concept and business model, they put research on the backburner.
This is a mistake given the speed at which markets change. No matter your business, there’s always the potential for a small change to suddenly put you at a disadvantage. If you’re not constantly performing research and competition analysis, you could be slow to adjust, which could spell the end for your business.
On the other hand, doing the research needed to identify opportunities before your competition can put you on the fast track to growth.
2. ABN—Always Be Networking
We don’t have to tell you that relationships are an important part of business, especially for a newer small business. There’s a good chance that your business consumes most of your free time, but you should still make an effort to go to local meetings and networking events.
You never know when a new vendor, strategic partner, or community PR opportunity will present itself.
3. Audit Every Part of Your Business
What matters to every small business? The bottom line. To that end, most small business owners stay laser-focused on their finances, and not without good reason: 30% of businesses fail because they run out of funds. The problem is that, sometimes, this means that other things slip.
It’s important to stay on top of every part of your business. This means taking a closer look at everything, from your vendors (just because a supplier is giving you a discount doesn’t mean that you’re getting the best service) to your marketing efforts (the highest-ROI marketing efforts aren’t always the least expensive).
4. Emphasize Social Responsibility
For more and more businesses, the focus is being turned toward a new generation: millennials. Growth and expansion mean knowing what your customers prioritize.
According to a 2017 report on the priorities of this generation, millennials care more about social issues than any group before them, something that plays a role in the brands they gravitate to.
For generations of business owners, social and environmental issues have been something we’ve supported “because it’s the right thing to do,” but today, it can be good for your bottom line as well.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Rely on Your Team
No matter how sustainable your business model is, 99% of small business owners need help. You can’t be expected to be an expert on every part of the business landscape—that’s why you surround yourself with partners that complement your skills and expertise.
The businesses that can weather the elements and expand despite uncertainty and shifting markets are the ones that leverage strong teams to succeed.
6. Invest in Technology that Saves You Time
A survey performed in 2018 found that 75% of small business owners say that they’re “eager to adopt new technology,” yet few do. The same study found that 30% say they struggle with onboarding, implementation, and cost, while 38% reported that they are “late adopters” of new technology.
Though it may seem intimidating to invest in new high-tech hardware for your business or a software program that promises to save you time, updating your internal processes may ultimately make you more efficient, agile, and set up for growth.
(Just make sure you do the requisite research to understand exactly what new technology can do for your business before you make a hasty purchase.)
7. Don’t Forget the Human Element
With the last tip in mind, don’t forget who most small businesses rely on to succeed and expand: the employees. There’s a bustling job market because of businesses like yours—in fact, small businesses are responsible for 60% of the job market.
We understand better than anyone that margins are tight in the early days, but that doesn’t mean you can forget about the people carrying your business on their backs. Investing in your employees (even if that just means giving them ample opportunity to learn new skills and develop in their careers) shows them that you’re invested in them. They’ll return that investment in the form of passion for their jobs.
The road to expanding your small business isn’t always clear. We hope you can use some of these tips not only to stay in business but to thrive, no matter what you’re faced with.