Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Have you ever wondered how some businesses take off and grow very rapidly in just a few short years while others stay stagnant and barely get by?
Some entrepreneurs make the mistake of achieving a certain level of success, sitting back, and losing their drive to push the organization forward.
This often results in business failure.
A frightening 20% of businesses fail their first year. And for businesses that can make it for ten, 50% of those will fail.
I attribute much of this to an entrepreneur’s resilience and leadership.
Business growth requires planning, strategy, and strong leadership.
So How Can We Improve Small Business Growth?
1. Articulate a Vision
To be successful, an organization must first be able to articulate what success looks like. Organizations develop vision statements, in an attempt to define why it exists and what it is trying to achieve.
Unless an organization has a clear picture of its future state it will be difficult trying to figure out how to grow.
Vision provides direction and a view of the future state of the organization. This helps the leadership focus on what it will take to get there.
2. Create a Strategy
Once a vision is articulated it requires a strategy to achieve a vision.
To do this every organization should go through a Strategic Planning Process to develop a specific strategic plan.
This plan maps out steps that need to be taken to achieve a vision.
As market conditions change, strategic plans need to be updated to reflect changing conditions – which keeps an organization’s vision fresh and relevant.
3. Goals to Get There
Goals are what make a strategic plan happen.
Develop SMART Goals so there is accountability for achieving those goals.
Not having written goals, and holding someone accountable for those goals, is an invitation for failure. At a minimum will stunt an organization’s growth.
4. Desire for Growth
There needs to be a desire at the top of the organization to grow.
As with anything else, with growth comes pain and some leaders just aren’t comfortable with the pain it requires to make the necessary changes to grow.
Pain comes when you need to hire your first employees and begin dealing with the management of human resources.
Other pain points are delegating to others and trusting them to do things the way you would do them.
Many small businesses fail because they simply cannot take this necessary leap.
5. Understand Customer Needs
Customers pay the bills so it is important to understand who they are and what they want.
This is where many organizations get stuck.
The world is changing at such a fast pace that unless an organization keeps in touch with its customers’ needs, and puts systems in place to monitor their needs, someone else will be there to take care of them.
Ensuring customers receive the best customer service possible is critical to the long-term success of any organization.
Spend time simply asking customers the question – how are we doing?
Do this by soliciting customer feedback and using that feedback to improve how and what you do.
6. Invest in the Business
While a small business is growing, it is important to invest profits back into the business.
Organizations that desire to grow need to reinvest profits back into the business.
All organizations need to invest in changing technology and facilities.
Antiquated facilities and equipment can impact an organization’s ability to meet customer needs. Invest in your people (training), equipment, and facilities.
For instance, have you ever walked into a small business and felt like you were stepping back in time?
What do you think about it, don’t you wonder why there was no reinvestment in the business?
7. Letting Go
The larger an organization becomes the more the founding person needs to let go.
You need to be able to develop others, delegate responsibility, and trust that others can and will help move the organization forward.
Once an organization grows to a certain size it becomes very difficult to manage every aspect of the business. The leader’s ability to let it go is critical to this stage of growth.
8. Use, Study, and Believe Data
Technology has provided us with the ability to track lots of data and successful businesses understand that data is one of their most valuable resources.
Take the time to identify and track indicators of success and monitor those key data points.
Make decisions based on the data you have gathered and use this data to drive changes and improvements to your business.
For instance, if one of your success factors is customer satisfaction, take what you learn from customer feedback and develop improvement plans to address customer concerns.
Be aware of market pressures and develop a quality management system to help you identify critical success factors to monitor, track, and use in decision-making.
9. Have a Process to Address Problems
Let’s face it, every organization has problems.
And the reality is as soon as one problem gets solved others pop up.
An example could be as simple as outgrowing office space, finding new space, planning for new space, planning a move, and moving offices.
Growth in and of itself creates problems – even though these are good problems to have.
Successful organizations have specific systems and processes in place to address problems. These systems are viewed as a normal aspect of a business.
With well-defined processes, good leadership, and an understanding of problems solving tools, there are no problems that can’t be solved.
Yes There Are Businesses That Do Not Want to Grow
Having said all of this, I’ve spoken to business owners who were not interested in growing their businesses because they don’t want to lose control of the day-to-day operations and didn’t want to endure the growing pains. These are sadly the organizations that struggle to stay alive!
Successful organizations have created models, systems, and processes to spur growth rather than hamper it.
Spend the time articulating what it is you’re trying to achieve, map out the steps to get there, and work really hard and you cannot help but succeed!