So you started your own business? Each sale, each new client and each business connection you make grows your small business just as you dreamed right? But maybe you want to continue to broaden your client base. There are many options to consider when thinking about expanding and growing your small business no matter what field you are in.
What are some of the most effective small business expansion tips to grow a business beyond its current status? Let’s take a closer look at steps you may want to initiate to grow your small business.
- Social Media – If you are looking for a fairly cost effective and easy way to reach more of your targeted audience try a social media campaign. Do some research on which social media platform attracts your demographic and start posting in that medium. The more your name is seen the better. Social media can be an invaluable tool for engaging with consumers and expanding your brand recognition.
Open Another Location – This is often the first way business owners approach growth. If you feel confident that your current business location is under control, consider expanding by opening a new location.
Merge With or Acquire Other Businesses in Your Market – There are bound to be other companies in your field who may have similar goals. Explore merging, partnering or possibly even acquiring those companies as a way to expand.
- Stay Competitive – Technology changes so rapidly these days that it would be easy to be left behind if your new company does not keep up with the latest and greatest technology. This is especially true if your company is in anyway related to the tech world or relies on technology to provide a product or service.
- Target Other Markets – Your current market is serving you well. Are there others? Probably. Use your imagination to determine what other markets could use your product.
Did you know that approximately 543,000 new businesses get started each month? According to the Washington Post nearly half of those will fail within the first five years. This is a staggering number. Are you considering starting a new business venture and are frightened at the possibility of failure? One of the best things you can do is research what others have done to be successful in launching a new business. Here are just a few ideas compiled from the professionals at the U.S. Small Business Association, Forbes Magazine and Entrepreneur.
- Plan, Plan, Plan – “Planning carefully before launching a new business is not limited to preparing a business plan”, says Bruce Bachenheimer, clinical professor of management and director of the Entrepreneurship Lab at Pace University in New York City. While writing a business plan is certainly helpful, the real value is not in having the finished product in hand, but rather in the process of researching and thinking about your business in a systematic way.
- Know the Market – This goes hand-in-hand with creating a comprehensive business plan. Ask questions, conduct research or gain experience to help you learn your market inside and out, including the key suppliers, distributors, competitors and customers.
- Make the Right Contacts – Get in touch with people who can assist you all along the way. The U.S. Small Business Association has helped many business people launch successful businesses. They even have a step-by-step program to follow and experts to guide you. Read More.
- Cash Flow and Financing – While there is not enough room in this blog to get into the nuances of financing your new venture, be sure to have all your ducks in a row including understanding your cash flow, how to keep costs low and where to turn if you need financial help in a bind. Entrepreneur online offers that they have, “Never seen a startup business where expenses were at least 30 percent more than initially planned or anticipated, and revenues are at least that much less.”
- Have your Marketing Plan Ready to Fly – Too many new businesses are focused on the plan, financial issues or other issues to get the marketing plan set to roll the moment they are on the ground. Be prepared with a website, social media marketing, digital marketing and traditional marketing methods to kick off your new business.
The concept of temporary retail establishments, or “Pop Up” stores, has been around for years. In fact, the idea can be traced all the way back to ancient times when merchants sold their wares on street corners or in an established marketplace. Just a few years ago pop up stores were fairly common during the holiday season when malls would introduce seasonal products. Fast forward to today’s ecommerce world and pop ups are gaining serious momentum and traction in places like malls, airports, shopping centers, and even inside other retail stores! Why is this becoming so popular when so many of us shop online with the ease and convenience of our smartphones and tablets? Let’s examine the pop up phenomenon and why they are so beneficial for small businesses.
- According to Storefront, temporary retail, more popularly known as pop-ups, are expected to generate $80 billion on an annual basis.
- An online directory (www.popuprepublic.com) featured over 7,000 pop-ups in 2014 alone and we are expecting that number to explode in 2016.
- The following categories are the biggest players in the pop-up market: farmers markets at $8 billion, flea markets at $30 billion, food trucks at $1 billion, yard sales at $1 billion, and pop-up stores, festivals, crafts and classes at close to $10 billion.
So what are the benefits that so many small companies are reaping from these pop up stores?
- Affordability – For retail stores that want to gain exposure while minimizing its overhead costs, they are able to take advantage of premium space at a fraction of the normal cost. Pop-up shops are often temporary in nature and smaller in size than conventional retail stores, the cost of rent is usually lower.
- Brand Awareness – One of the primary benefits of pop-up shops is that they help a brand generate buzz. With so many online stores it is hard to rank in high on Google search but fairly easy to gain attention if your “store” seemingly appears out of thin air overnight. People are interested in the sudden existence of a store, especially if they have a unique angle or appearance.
- Encourages Testing and Trials of New Merchandise – Since there is little money at risk, companies can try out new products that they want to market in the future. A pop up store will give immediate feedback as to the success or failure of a given item or service. An added bonus includes the education of consumers as they try the new merchandise. This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about your brand and company.
- New Revenue Stream – A natural benefit of a pop-up store is increasing sales by taking your store to where your customers are and making it more convenient for them to buy from you. There are significant profits with minimal risk for adding a revenue stream in a local area.
Going from “startup” to “successful business” is a dream of every entrepreneur. Unfortunately, navigating the bumpy landscape of the business startup world can be difficult and fraught with mistakes. The harsh reality is that most startups have only a 50% chance of suceeding in the first five years. Without the right information and action regarding financing, marketing, customer service, human resources (and the list goes on and on), startups can stumble and even fall due to some common mistakes. Let’s examine the most common mistakes that new businesses make.
- Lack of Focus– When first starting a new company it is easy to get distracted by all the work that needs to be done. Pivoting from one area to another can be a huge problem for startups that need to focus on core values. New owners need to prioritize and seek development guidance from business mentors, coaches or even a consulting company that can help your business get going in the right direction.
- Financing Headaches– Remember that old adage that “You need to spend money to make money.” Well this has a ring of truth in that every business needs solid financial advising including a plan for: marketing, hiring, pricing of goods, and of course, physical maintenance of your brick and mortar office. Be sure to have all of your ducks in a row before you begin any business venture. This should include researching all forms of financing from self financing to taking on investors.
- Hiring Poorly– Startup employees need to be versatile and able to wear many hats depending upon the work that needs to get done. In fact, many times the work goes beyond the job description. If owners don’t manage this expectation upon hiring, there could be employee issues six months down the line.
- Not Listening to Customers– Believe it or not startups can sometimes forget that the customer is the most important part of the business equation. Customers can teach new owners quite a bit about what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong. Listen to those customers by becoming involved with them at each step of the process no matter what the product or service is that you are marketing.
One of the essential features of a successful business is a trusting and professional relationship between employer and employees. One of the best ways to ensure that this relationship is properly established from the very beginning is the use of an employee handbook. While it is definitely not the most interesting document to read(or write for that matter), it is a document that is necessary to establish a uniform, well-defined personnel policy. It is a convenient method to clearly communicate employer standards, legal obligations of the employer, legal rights of the employee and many times can reduce the risk of employee lawsuits.
Using tips from Human Resources online, the Employment Law Network and the U.S. Small Business Administration, we have crafted a list of items you will want to consider including in your employee handbook.
- Company Goals and Mission – While reading a lengthy document about company rules and regulations may not sound thrilling, a short mission statement will help introduce your company to the employee officially. This list of goals will give the employee a better sense of what should motivate them and where he/she fits in the larger purpose of the company.
- Anti-Discriminatory Policies – Employers must comply with the equal employment opportunity laws prohibiting discrimination and harassment, including the Americans with Disabilities Act. Handbooks are a perfect place to spell out these laws and how employees are expected to comply with them. Read More about Discrimination and Harassment Policies.
- General Policies and Procedure – This is a great place to go over the basics such as: dress code, pay periods, time sheets, company holidays, defined work hours/week and other incidentals. This may also include computer use and telephone usage.
- Employment Policies– This section of the handbook should include items such as: employment eligibility, job classifications, employee referrals, employee records, job postings, probationary periods, termination and resignation procedures. Read more about Labor Laws.
- Employee Benefits – Detail any benefit programs for employees and eligibility requirement including: health insurance, retirement plans, wellness plans and other optional benefits. Be sure to include a list of legal benefits. Here is a list from the US Small Business Administration of required Legal Benefits.
- Safety and Security – We all want employees to be safe at work so include your policy for creating a safe environment for employees. Include compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s laws (OSHA) that require employees to report all accidents, injuries, potential safety hazards, safety suggestions and health and safety related issues to management.
- Leave Policies – Your company’s leave policies should be carefully documented, especially those you are required to provide by law. Family medical leave, maternity leave, jury duty, military leave, and time off for court cases and voting should all be documented to comply with state and local laws. This is also a good section to include vacation policies.
- Problem-Resolution Procedure – Even with all of these rules and regulations spelled out completely in writing, there will always be questions and issues raised throughout the year. Create a procedure, whether is is within Human Resources (or with someone in a leadership position if your company does not have HR) of how you will deal with such issues.
There is still a month left to enter the Enterprise Center’s annual North of Business Plan Competition!
Competition deadline: February 20th, 5:00
If you have a business idea, a company less than three years old or an established business with a new strategic direction located on the North Shore consider entering this year’s Competition.
Entering the competition is a win/win proposition. You need visibility, funding and the feedback and advice of regional business leaders. We want to fuel regional economic development by identifying and encouraging businesses to start, stay, and grow north of Boston.
Click here to learn more about the Business Plan Competition –>