It’s a big world of business with a lot of competition—being an entrepreneur among so many others (let alone the giants already established in your industry) can be daunting.
Getting your business off the ground is hard work in the first place, but it’s only just begun. You’re looking for simple, practical advice, not just motivational quotes from success stories. For that reason, we’ve compiled some pointers for ratcheting up your small business’ growth in the year ahead.
1. Looking ahead to tomorrow, today
It starts with doing exactly what led you to look for this advice in the first place—planning ahead. Part of doing this is allowing yourself more time to look to the future. Try to extricate yourself from as many of the day-to-day operations of your business as you reasonably can.
That might not mean hiring on more people, just learning better ways to delegate. Sustainability begins with having a business that no longer needs you on site simply to function. Growth begins with you using the extra time at your disposal to think of new efforts or strategies for the future.
2. Lean on somebody who’s been through it before
Entrepreneurship, like so many other things, is complex enough that it’s nearly impossible to do it on your own. Everyone needs a support system and one of the most valuable components of that is having a veteran whose ear you can bend.
That’s because for all the information available on the Internet (this blog post included!), there’s nothing that compares to having a human being you trust who will answer your questions, especially when it feels like a crisis is imminent. Be they a mentor, teacher, or friend, there’s nothing quite as helpful as talking to someone who’s been in your shoes before and succeeded. (You can also check out our Resource Center for Entpreneurs for more advice.)
3. Stay within yourself
Growth doesn’t come from completely flipping the script, it comes from learning which of your efforts have been working and building on them.
Another word for this is focus: stay focused on what motivated you to start the business, the philosophy that led you to setting out on this adventure in the first place. Don’t get distracted by what the rest of the entrepreneurial world is doing, but pay attention to your competitors and learn from their successes and mistakes.
Success for entrepreneurs begins with excelling at what you're good at, and growing from there.
4. Keep your workforce small
Perhaps the biggest cautionary tale given to new entrepreneurs is “don’t have too much overhead.” Don’t spring for the fancy office space before you need it, don’t spend on the latest gadgets every time a new one comes out, don’t promise beer in the workplace every Friday, and don’t hire more people than you need.
While avoiding excess hiring can help you keep overhead costs down, the principle is also about surrounding yourself with employees you can trust to push your company to new heights. Hiring on a few true believers who will work hard for you to build the brand is far better than having more bodies but less combined gumption.
5. Build your own brand and culture
One major mistake entrepreneurs can make is to idolize a company too much. Sure, we all want to make our own Apple or Target, but that doesn’t mean you ought to emulate every facet of someone else's corporate identity.
When it comes to your company’s logo, the voice and tone used in your marketing, your corporate ethos, and your workplace philosophy, branding is a huge part of building the identity of your business. Greater still, these things make your business unique and attractive to both potential customers and potential employees (as well as existing ones).
6. Talk like an industry leader
One of the great benefits of social media and its effectiveness as a marketing tool is how freely you get to contribute to the wider conversation. Through interactions on Twitter or Facebook, you get to put a personality to your brand’s online presence.
Part of using social media to communicate about your business involves direct interactions with customers, potential customers, or social media followers on the whole, answering questions and offering fun and interesting posts. But there’s also using social media to promote your more serious content. As an entrepreneur, you can use your company’s blog to comment on industry trends, wax philosophical about the state of the business world, or inform the wider business community of what you know and what you’ve learned.
When you have good content you believe in, it’s worth spreading around and it can inspire people to follow your brand’s growth and development.
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