Business Growth: How To Grow Your Business

Before making plans to grow your business, think about your company’s strengths and weaknesses. You can do this through a business needs assessment by:

1. Creating a business needs assessment involves taking a no-nonsense, objective look at your company to see how you can improve in a number of different areas, including management, marketing, sales, finance, and operations.

2. Start by identifying the weaknesses in each of these areas and considering how you can improve.

3. Then, look at your strengths and think about whether you can use them to grow in a way that would help your customers. Thinking about how to improve on your weaknesses and build on your strengths can help you define what growth means for your business.

Ultimately, growth should lead to the lifestyle you want. That might mean making a mint, having time for other interests, or using your business to help others. It could also mean finding a way to do 2 or 3 of these things simultaneously. That’s why each business can have its own definition of growth. For some, it’s increasing revenue or hiring more employees. For others, it’s adding a new location, new products, or just upping sales.

But no matter what, how you grow is up to you. Knowing what growth means to you is a good start towards getting to your goals. But it also pays to know where your business is in its life cycle. Many people think of businesses and industries as having 4 life cycle phases: startup, growth, maturity, and decline. Knowing your stage can help you see some of the challenges you might have to tackle as you try to grow and thrive.  For those in the startup and growth stages, things might be moving quickly. Challenges can include finding financing, staff, and systems to help you get off the ground or expand to reach new customers.

Mature businesses have probably been around for a little while, to the point that they might be struggling to find new ways to innovate. This means they’ll need to seek out new areas for growth, so they can keep succeeding in their industry. Over time, facets of your business or industry may become obsolete, leading to decline. This can happen rapidly due to a sudden event or slowly, like the publishing industry’s issues adjusting to the Internet. Businesses that might be declining shouldn’t curl into a ball and hide – reinvention is great for growth. For example, many marketing firms have grown by finding ways to reach people through social media, rather than the ol’ TV screen.

All right – you’ve assessed your business’ needs, its life-cycle phase, and what growth means to you. Sounds like it’s time to make a strategic growth plan. A strategic growth plan is a handy roadmap for your business. You can use it to help you know where your company is, where you want it to be, and how you’ll get there (which hopefully helps you from getting lost on the way). Need a plan for making your plan?

Most strategic growth plans involve 3 things: a vision statement, a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (or SWOT) analysis, and a goals list. 

Creating a vision statement for your business gives you a chance to focus on some of your company’s big picture considerations – y’know, “vision” stuff.

* First identify your business’ purpose. If you run an online hardware store, your purpose might be to help everyone on the planet feel comfortable around power tools. Or it might be to just put a hammer in every hand.

* Next, consider what your business provides to people. Do you need to add to the products or services you currently offer to achieve your purpose? If so, have a friend give you a high five – you may have found opportunities for growth.

* Lastly, think about what values are important to you and your business. Income equality? Environmental responsibility? Keeping dogs happy? Adding values to your vision statement can help you stay true to what matters to you as you grow.

A SWOT analysis is also important as you mull over your company’s next steps. It’s tough to grow your business if you don’t know your business. You may have delved into your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) in the business needs and life cycle assessments. Still, it can be worthwhile to organize this info to decide how to tackle whatever comes next. As you think about your strengths and weaknesses, see if sales data or other measurable info can help you take an objective look at your business. Listening to your gut on goals is great, but your brain should help figure things out, too. Try going beyond your own sales figures to imagine opportunities and threats that your business and industry might face. Market changes can create chances for growth, especially if you recognize them early. So – you’ve stated your vision and finished a SWOT.

Now, it’s time to figure out the goals list that’s going to energize your business and help bring your vision to life.

* Start by specifying your goals as much as you can. “I want to increase sales,” for example, is a bit murky. To achieve that, do you need to open new stores or offer new services? Digging into the details can help you stay focused on what to do. Part of specifying your goals is making them measurable. If your goal is to “hire new people,” it’s easier to see when you’ve hit your mark if you’ve specified that you’d like to hire 10 employees as opposed to 30. Don’t discount the time it’ll take to reach your goal. Knowing whether it might take 6 months or 12 months to increase your online sales by 50% will determine how aggressive you need to be to make it happen. No matter the size of your goals, keep them attainable. Increasing online sales 50% in 6 months may sound great, but is it realistic given your company, customer base, and competition? If not, maybe adjust your aims a bit. Lastly, make sure your short-term goals align with your vision. Growth can bring new people, products, services, and ideas to your company. But if you keep your purpose in mind, you can grow in a way that’s right for your business.

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