Having foresight instead of being caught off guard will keep you on track for business growth.
How do you know when you are teetering on the brink of business growth? You have successfully launched the business and have been operating full steam ahead for a few years now. You have spent the past few years mastering the art of networking, establishing a good presence in the marketplace for your products and/or services, and have created a pretty decent customer base.
Here are four clear signs that help you identify that your business is in need of a growth strategy.
1. You are experiencing the pain point of stagnant revenue growth. Revisit your business plan and assess how your projected sales figures and growth projections fare with actual past sales figures and growth in different markets. If you cannot identify an area of growth in the business, there probably is not one! What to do? Ponder and answer these questions:
Can you improve or refine your product?
Can you raise prices without sacrificing sales figures?
Can you cross-sell your product or service with another?
Can you enter a new market for an existing product or service?
Can you increase sales in a particular market? If yes, where will this business come from?
2. You and your staff are overworked and still do not have enough time in the day. Those long workdays have not eased up, you realize existing staff cannot take on additional responsibilities for new opportunities and you may notice they are putting in just their required number of hours before rushing out the door at the end of the day. By the way, when was the last time you truly had a full weekend off? Now is the time to examine your staffing needs. How?
First, understand the ultimate goal here is to define those tasks needed to support revenue growth; you will know what those are after answering the questions in Sign #1.
List every task necessary
Categorize these tasks – product development/enhancement, packaging or user interface design, marketing, advertising, product-launch event(s), sales, etc. (This helps you to further identify needed skill-sets.)
Decide if the work lies within your company’s areas of strength
Determine which function(s) is needed on a regular basis
Second, ask yourself – do you really need to hire someone on a permanent basis? Outsourcing, hiring a part-timer or a freelancer, and even crowdsourcing may be viable options. You are ready to seek new talent? How do you do this?
The first step is not so obvious. First, develop a thorough job description! Why? It defines that person’s major duties, their reporting structure, expected standards to meet for job performance, budget and fiscal parameters to work within, and their working conditions. Importantly, the job description acts as a great tool for performance appraisal.
Now, you are ready to search – one of the best ways is usually through networking – gain referrals from your accountant, attorney, current employees and business mentors and advisers. If you have exhausted these, and your staff’s, networks, consider searching smaller, niche job boards for talent – larger, well known job boards can result in you receiving an overwhelming and unmanageable response you cannot handle.
3. No one makes a decision without the CEO. Up to this point, you have become adept at wearing many hats: as Marketer, Bookkeeper, Manufacturer or Producer of your products or services, and the Owner, who has planned and pitched the business through several rounds of funding. If your staff cannot make, or will not, make decisions without the CEO’s okay, a tough look at creating a scalable management structure is key. An organizational chart must be developed with who reports to whom. The duties and responsibilities of each position must be defined in writing (see Sign #2).
How do you find this person? First, refer to Sign #2. During your search for new management support, seek someone who can inspire people, set the right vision, create the right culture and provide the right tools. Remember your business plan? What is the company’s vision, mission statement and goals and is the staff aware of what these are? Be sure those goals are measurable and always incentivize your staff to achieve these.
4. Your online marketing is stagnant and out-of-date. When was the last time your blog was updated? Are you even using social media? If you are using social media, are there unresolved responses to questions by your followers? If you have not faced certain realities, know that social media networks and social media are here to stay. As an example, many retailers are realizing their first customer touch points occur online! Developing a serious social marketing plan with specific messaging and constant monitoring are necessary to supplement your offline advertising and marketing techniques.
There is so much to accomplish on a daily basis. If revenue growth begins to stall, you will need to accomplish what’s necessary to get business back on track anyway. Do not wait for your pain points to become overwhelming. Get to work on a growth strategy to keep you, and your growing team, focused on the task at hand – driving business growth for longevity in the marketplace.