For many small businesses, the prospect of growth elicits a mix of excitement and fear. For some, growth entails expanding operations overseas or launching new products and services. For others, they want growth as a by-product of continuing business as usual, without the risks that come from innovation and expansion.
According to the whitepaper “The Small Business Growth Playbook,” here are the strategies to help your small business grow:
1. Stay true to your core
The more any small business grows, the harder it is to sustain the unique values and culture that attracted customers in the first place. The key is to scale up without losing touch with your customers.
Take, for example, the highly personalized customer service your business provides. As you grow organically, the operations of your business become increasingly large and complex, potentially threatening your ability to deliver the same level of customer service as before.
To achieve this, ensure that your small business’ USPs (unique selling propositions)—like customer service, high quality, and niche or personalized products and services—remain unchanged even as operations expand.
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Here are other growth tips to help you stay true to your core:
- Clearly define the brand values and goals that any new investment—technology, infrastructure or product development— will achieve.
- Get more from less: trimming overhead and boosting sales to existing customers can enlarge revenues without the risks of expansion.
- Don’t be afraid to slow down organic growth if it threatens to compromise customer service quality. Small businesses that expand too quickly may find themselves unable to cope with greater operational complexity.
2. Build strong partnerships
A key challenge for small businesses is to gain market share without risking too much of their own capital. You can achieve this by partnering with other, larger companies that can lend their market share and reach.
Partnerships can give your small business with immediate access to existing retail networks, supply chains and—most importantly—a well-established customer base. In some cases, they can also supplement the small business’ in-house resources, like customer service and support teams, with the manpower and infrastructure needed for successful expansion.
Here are some other growth tips:
- Partner with larger enterprises whose customer and distribution networks fill gaps in your own operations.
- Use exclusivity or other terms to negotiate for full control over logistics, staffing and other customer service essentials in the partnership.
- Keep complexity low by using a single team and technology platform to manage all operations, both those within and outside of the partnership’s purview.
3. Standardize and centralize
To help you cope up with your growing business, consider standardizing and centralizing your operations. The goal is to make the things you need to do as simple, consistent, and repeatable as possible. This includes tasks in your operations, supply chain, and business administration.
For example, you are trying to enter a new market. You can reduce your learning and adjustment curve if you adopt the same underlying technologies and operating processes regardless of location. These processes and technologies must be able to scale quickly and efficiently.
Other growth plays you should consider are:
- Adopt cloud-based platforms from Day 1 to avoid capacity constraints when the business expands.
- Embrace automation wherever possible, particularly for routine, time-consuming tasks like financial and inventory management.
- Maintain a small core of decision-makers and equip them with remote access and visibility over all markets. Doing so ensures small businesses retain their responsiveness even when they grow in scale.
4. Use the data
For your growth to be not just successful, but sustainable, it means improving the fundamentals of how customers experience their business. As your business grows, you will accommodate a greater variety and volume of customer demands than ever before.
But as transaction numbers grow, so does the amount of data that reflects the specifics of those demands. What worked to increase your market share? What is the feedback from your customer to help you further enhance your USP? By having data and learning how to use them, you will be able to make better decisions for your business. Keep your data simple, comprehensive and accessible whenever you need it.
Other growth plays include:
- Use data from ERP and supply chain platforms to personalize sales and marketing efforts, both online (such as email marketing) and offline (such as loyalty cards and in-store promotions).
- Regularly compare financial data from different stores or channels to identify trends that might impact long-term growth, such as cash flow and available liquidity.
- Automate how supply chains and sales channels respond to data. For example, e-commerce stores can automatically hide certain products when inventory levels fall below a specific threshold.
Download the full whitepaper “The Small Business Growth Playbook.”