Making the decision to start a business is a lot like deciding to go into training for a marathon. You don’t just show up on the day of the marathon, lace up your sneakers and start running. That would be unwise and you would simply be begging for an injury.
In this scenario, it is highly unlikely you would actually be able to finish the marathon. Every runner knows that you have to go into training for sixteen to twenty weeks in advance. You have to set a training schedule, stick to it, and measure your progress. That is the key to marathon training.
Growing your business is a lot like training for and running a marathon. A marathon isn’t the same as a sprint. It’s about endurance. Growing your business takes time. You may want to see results in an instant but it doesn’t work that way.
You have to embrace the virtue of patience and give your business plan time to work. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should sit back and do nothing. There are important things that you can pay attention to while you grow your business. Below we will look at seven tips for growing your business.
Use these tips and you will see strong growth over time, much like a marathon runner sees the finish line at the end of the race.
1. Assemble a Great Team and Help Them Shine.
Don’t underestimate how important it is to hire and retain the right people. Your employees are the face of your company—they will be interacting with customers. They will be doing the work that drives your company forward. You need the right people in key positions.
In order to accomplish that you need to have a clear idea of what you are looking for. Be active in the hiring process. Be precise with the requirements for each position in your company. Hiring the right people will set your business up to thrive.
However, hiring the right people is only part of the battle. You need to retain them. Hiring and training new people costs money. Continuity in key positions helps keep customers coming back. Having experienced employees who know your business inside and out is one of the best ways to grow your business.
That means you should invest in training and compensating your employees in order to retain them. It also means paying attention to morale. Sometimes it is the little things that create positive morale and make your company a place that your employees want to be. Invest in your employees so they will be invested in your company.
2. Focus on Your Existing Customers.
It can be tempting to chase new business. After all, isn’t a huge part of building a business attracting new customers? It sure is. You need to go after new customers if you want to them to come to you. You can’t just sit back and expect to see people beating a path to your door.
Nobody would ever tell you not to spend time and money to bring in new business. Ask yourself something while you are doing that: Is it worth bringing in new customers if I can’t keep the ones I have?
You need to stay focused on your existing customers. Don’t neglect them in your effort to attract new business. Don’t allow them to feel like you take their business for granted. Never give them the impression that you are not completely committed to them. Nurture the customer base that you have.
After all, it is often through a base of loyal and vocal customers that you gain new customers. Think of things that you can do to keep in touch with your customers. Make sure you get feedback from them so you know what you are doing right and wrong. Get to know them as individuals and show them appreciation. Your existing base of customers is how you grow your business.
3. Don’t Isolate Yourself.
You may feel like you know your business. You have reports that tell you what is going on. You read customer feedback. You talk to your managers. You feel confident that you have a pretty good picture of what is going on. The truth is that you are missing things. If you are staying in your office and getting second-hand reports you don’t really know how your business grows.
Think Undercover Boss. Get out there. Work a register. Attend meetings you wouldn’t normally go to. Take inventory. Answer the phones. Get to know your employees and your customers. Being right there in the thick of day-to-day business operations can be the key to noticing the things that are going wrong and the things that are going right. You can’t grow your business if you don’t see what is happening in it.
4. Set Clear Goals.
You want everyone on the same page. You can’t move forward if everyone in your company is not moving forward together. When you are growing your business you need unity. It’s like being on a crew team. Everyone needs to row together. That is why you need to set measurable goals. Your goals should define where you want to go as your business grows. It is your roadmap to the future.
Once you have a set of goals and a timeline for achieving them, you need to make sure your team knows what they are. Get everyone on board. Be clear about what the goals are and what part everyone plays in achieving those goals. You can’t expect everyone to work toward goals they don’t understand.
Explain your strategy so that your team can help you implement it. Check your progress on a regular basis. With effort, time and patience, you will meet your benchmarks for growth.
5. Remember That Running a Business Involves its Own Skill-Set.
Everyone who starts a business does so because they are good at something. They are passionate about something. A writer might start a publishing company. An IT expert might start a company that provides IT support. A scientist might start a research and development company. Each of them start out with their own skill-set. That skill-set is what allows them to offer a particular product or service, but it may not be the same as the skill-set that is involved in running a business.
When you are growing a business, you need to pay particular attention to developing your own business skills. There have been many businesses that failed because their leaders had passion and skill for the object of the business, but did not have the requisite business skills to manage things. Make sure that doesn’t happen to you.
Invest the time you need to hone your business skills so that you can be an effective leader who grows a thriving business. While you’re at it, make sure your employees receive the training they need to hone the business skills that will help them do their jobs.
6. Don’t Rest on Your Laurels.
When success happens, it feels great. You will have your moments of success and growth on the way. When that happens, it can be tempting to pat yourself (and your team) on the back. You want to hoist the mission accomplished banner. Take a moment to enjoy the good times. Applaud your hard-working team.
Don’t rest on your laurels. People talk a lot about learning from failures, but they don’t often talk as much about stepping back and learning from success. Analyze what went right.
When you grow your business, you should look to build on success. That means you constantly strive to improve. You continue to do what is working, but also look at ways to improve your products and services. Your customers will notice that you are constantly improving. So will the potential customers who might currently be using your competition. Building on success (as well as failure) and striving for constant improvement will grow your business over time.
7. Be Magnetic.
You have a lot of pride in the products and services that your business offers. This pride is well deserved, and you and your team have, no doubt, worked incredibly hard. If you have so much pride, why wouldn’t you show it? The Bible advises us not to hide our light under a bushel. Do everything you can to get the word out about your business. Develop a strong marketing strategy and use it.
Imagine that your business is a magnet. The goal is to attract customers to your business. In order to be magnetic, you need to get out there. Be proactive. Use old-fashioned techniques like print and radio ads, but also master the new digital world of social media. Keep up a personal presence in public places that will boost the profile of your business.
Don’t neglect any of the ways you can reach customers. Be an ambassador for your brand and have your employees also be ambassadors. You have built something when you built your business. Now it is up to you to make sure that they come.
These seven tips are a recipe for growing your business over time. Like Rome, businesses are not built in a day. In fact, you can easily make the argument that businesses are (or should be) always growing.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.