You’ve made it past the first (and biggest) hurdle: you’ve found the determination to run with an idea and launch a business. What’s more, you’ve reached the point of operational stability, which is another achievement given that 20% of small businesses outright fail within a year.
It’s commendable, but ambition is about looking ahead — so what’s next for your company?
Well, regardless of the specific direction, you’re obviously going to want growth. More clients, more deals, more employees, and more revenue. If you’re going to dream, you might as well dream big. But the problem with growth is that it’s hard to manage consistently, and many businesses that achieve it in the short-term end up sliding back to where they were (or even ending up in a worse place).
So how do you achieve growth you can sustain? It certainly isn’t easy, but it just as surely isn’t impossible. Here are 6 useful hacks to help you manage a long-term expansion:
Cut your regular spending
It’s all too easy to spend very freely when you’re running a small business — particularly if you haven’t done it before. After all, you don’t need to get approval from anyone, and it all seems justified: aren’t you investing in your future? But if you find that you’re repeatedly spending large sums on lunch deliveries or products to marginally improve the comfort of your workspace, you should reconsider your approach. Small costs add up quickly (try tracking them). By fractionally reducing your daily spend, you can save a lot of money in the long term.
Automate key tasks
I mentioned tracking small costs, and that’s something that you can (and should) be automating — along with various other things. The more of your workload you can automate, the more time you’ll have to focus on growth. Look for intuitive software tools like ActiveCampaign for email marketing or Buffer for social media, though remember that you don’t need to spend heavily on software: if you keep an eye out for free alternatives, you may find that you can get the results you need with a free tier (for instance, Wave stacks up well against Quickbooks at no cost).
Focus on customer service
The happier your customers are, the longer they’ll stick with you, the more they’ll spend with you, and the more likely they’ll be to recommend your business. A classic mistake made during the growth phase of a startup is forgetting about existing customers and concentrating entirely on earning new customers. When those existing customers realise they’re being mistreated, they go elsewhere, leading those startups to collapse. So don’t take your customers for granted.
If you do an excellent job with your customer service, you’ll pick up some referrals through basic word of mouth, but you shouldn’t stop there. Not only should you implement a full referral system along the lines of InviteBox, but you should also focus on providing solid incentives to drive fresh referrals. You could offer discounts, resources, or unique services. Reward people for saying nice things about you, and you’ll benefit from it.
Work with a mentor
While the challenges you face in your business life might be new to you, they’re very familiar to entrepreneurs who’ve been in your position numerous times. Why not take advantage of their knowledge? Business is inherently risky, and just one major mistake can ruin a lot of progress, so you really can’t be too careful. If you know someone with that kind of expertise, you can work with them, or you can find a mentorship scheme designed to support entrepreneurs like you.
Look after your health
As the head of your business, you’re also its heart, and the key to its performance. Even if you hire a great team, everyone will still turn to you for guidance. So what happens if you fall ill because your diet has fallen apart due to the stress? Or if you reach the point of burnout and just can’t face another working day? The business suffers. So watch what you eat, get a lot of sleep, and have someone you can vent your frustrations to. It’ll really help.