As I look back on growing my small business, I realize that I wasted a lot of time. I had a few clients and when my operations work was done for the week, I stopped working. It might have been that I was younger then and valued my free time as much as money.
However, now that I have had time to reflect, I realize that I could have grown my business faster if I had wanted to.
I think I knew some of the things I could be doing to grow my business, but I didn't know how to execute, or just didn't want to. Here are five things you can do as a small business owner to help grow your business.
Networking is a great way to grow your small business. The problem is that many people are just not very good at networking or they don't like to network.
Networking can be intimidating and tough if you haven't done it much. Like most things, networking becomes easier with time and experience. Try organized networking groups like your local chamber of commerce or a BNI chapter. While many business people have varying opinions on these groups, they are a great way to learn how to network effectively.
Look for other local networking opportunities by asking around through your current business network. Also, think about online networking opportunities like LinkedIn and Twitter. Networking leads to referrals and referrals will always be an important source of leads for any business.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you learn to network:
- Networking is not about sales, it is about relationships.
- Give selflessly to others without expectations of anything in return.
- When you do start conversations at networking events, refrain from talking about yourself. Instead, ask a lot of questions to people you talk to and think of ways that you can help them.
- Take this approach to networking: you are not trying to sell your product or services to the people you are meeting at a networking event. Rather, you are there to build relationships with people you are meeting to see if you can help any of them in their professional business networking.
2. Inbound Marketing
I wish I had devoted a lot more of my time to inbound marketing back when I was trying to grow my business. If I can give you one piece of advice regarding inbound marketing, it would be to start a business blog. When I first started blogging, I had no idea how many leads and customers it would bring to our business. I also didn't know how to effectively write blogs for our business, but I did it anyway.
Business blogging is like running a marathon; it is a very long term commitment. However, the payoff for your business can be huge.
I was the speaker on a webinar titled How To Close Inbound Leads. I am by no means an inbound marketing expert (I'm a bookkeeper, remember?), however, I was there to give my feedback to the solopreneurs and very small business owners regarding inbound leads. As I suspected, I learned as much from others as I had to contribute.
My biggest takeaway is that inbound marketing has changed a lot about the way a small business markets and sells. We now have the ability to target our customers with inbound marketing like never before.
With good content, targeted landing pages, and an inbound-oriented sales funnel, new leads and customers literally land in your lap. Don't get me wrong, successful inbound marketing is a ton of work if you want to do it right. However, it is well worth the investment of time and money.
3. Attend Webinars
If you told me that you were great at every aspect of running a business, I would call you a liar.
Good at every aspect? Maybe. Great? No chance.
Define a few areas in your business where you need help. Look around the Internet or Twitter for webinars on those particular subjects. There are so many free webinars out there that have useful content. People are who really want your business to succeed are everywhere.
I think that many business owners avoid webinars because they think they are going to be sold something. While many webinars require some contact information from you to attend, they are free. Worst case scenario, you might get a follow-up email where you can easily click the "unsubscribe" button. Believe me, webinars are a great way to learn valuable information to help you in areas where you are weak. I try to attend at least a few webinars a month in areas that I need help with or subjects that are of interest to me.
4. Get Sales Training
I can't tell you how important our sales training was to the success of our business. Don't get me wrong, I was landing clients when I first started out on my own. However, when I started taking sales training classes, I learned how to sell.
One important thing you need to understand is that if you are a small business owner, you are in sales. Once you come to that realization and accept it, then you will be ready to take the next step with your business.
It took me a long time to accept that I was in sales. After all, I'm an accountant, right? I didn't want to be in sales because both my father and brother are salesmen. However, when I accepted that a large portion of my job as a small business owner was being a salesman, I had a totally different mentality and approach to growing my business.
5. Hire Employees
I wish that I had hired employees much earlier in the process of growing my business than I did. Running a business yourself is a lot of work and scaling a business is difficult.
If you intend to grow your business, but you don't want employees, then you are limited. That is fine for some and not for others. The problem is that once you are full, you can't take on anymore work, right? Now what happens when you lose a client? You can scramble to find a new client or take a pay cut.
Hiring employees is a big step and a scary one for many small business owners. Up until the point of hiring help, there was nobody to rely on but you. No issues with internal communication, either. However, you were also limited.
Hiring employees is the only way to grow your business beyond the level that you can handle by yourself. Here is a bit of advice on hiring employees:
- Don't wait until you are full or over-booked with work. Measure your workload and hire when you are in the 70-80% range of being full. This will promote growth.
- Be very selective when hiring employees.
- Train your employees in the way that you currently deliver to your clients.
- Treat your employees the way you would like to be treated.
There is no secret formula to growing a small business. The fact is, you rarely have the time or money to do everything right. Just some thoughts on what I hope will help you grow your business.
What advice do you have for the new business owner who is looking to grow?
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