Many small-business owners want to grow their companies, and they want to do it fast. But if you rush into expansion without a plan, you risk losing everything you’ve worked so hard to build. Take Wise Acre Frozen Treats, which hired too many employees and bought too much equipment before they had the revenue or startup capital they needed; the company went bankrupt in just a few years.
To avoid making similar mistakes, heed these five tips for expanding your small business (the right way).
1. Develop a Company Culture
A strong company culture is what will keep your small-business team together during times of exponential growth. If you’re not sure where to start, ask yourself and your team questions such as: Why does our company exist? Why do we do what we do? What does our company believe in? What are our values? Where do we want our company to go, i.e. what's our company's vision? When employees feel connected to your company, they’ll be more likely to stick it out through uncertain times. Plus, a strong company culture can actually attract new customers to your business, so be consistent with it and splash it everywhere, including your website, social-media platforms, marketing materials, etc. When your target audience can see the values behind your company, they can connect with your business on a deeper level. Related: Steps to Starting a Small Business
2. Hire the Right People
The hiring stage is critical to growing your business successfully. It’s important to take your time and find the right people for the job. Do so and things will go swimmingly. Hire the wrong people, and all of your hard work will come crumbling down. To avoid the latter fate, consider recruiting people based on their technical skills and experience. You should also determine if they’ll be a good fit during this time of growth. For instance, you could ask a candidate how they interpret your company's vision to see if they’ll mesh well with your team. Startup life isn’t for everyone, so find employees who will be eager to take on the challenge.
3. Focus on Innovation ... in the right places
When expanding your small business, you might be tempted to spend a bunch of money on improving your product or creating/offering more products. Instead, focus on innovation in other areas. As one example, try innovating your onboarding experience or adopting new technology like live chat to scale your customer service, as with this savvy Petplan campaign. Innovating your current processes will take up less of your resources, and it’s critical when growing your customer base. Once you've achieved more stability, then you can think about introducing new products.
4. Build Brand Recognition
When a consumer sees your logo, advertising campaign, product packaging or slogan, you want them to be able to recognize it as your company. This all comes down to building brand recognition. Take Nike's Iconic “Just Do It” slogan. When consumers hear that phrase, they instantly know whose behind it. Your small business might not be able to reach Nike-levels of immediacy, but you can still work to become a well-known brand among your target audience. An easy way to do this is to start networking more often on social media. The more times consumers see you online, the easier your company will be to remember. Related: 6 Innovative Ways to Increase Brand Awareness
5. Don’t Forget about Existing Customers
Many small-business owners focus too much on getting new customers and not enough on keeping the ones they already have. In fact, according to statistics from Small Business Trends, just six percent of small businesses focus on customer retention. To make your existing customers feel valued, consider creating a satisfaction survey that allows you to gain insights on what your customers love about your business currently, what could be improved and what they’re looking forward to regarding your expansion. You can then use this feedback to improve your business and reduce customer churn. After all, customers who are happy with your business will be more likely to spend more money and recommend you to their family and friends.
Over to you.... Expanding your small business is exciting, so long as you don't get carried away. By going into the expansion with a plan in mind, you’ll be able to stay true to your values, keep your star employees, impress your customers and attract new ones, all of which contributes to the recipe for a successful business.