More than half of 28 million small businesses in the United States are home-based and more than 22 million operate without additional employees.
But even small businesses have big dreams. Do you know how to expand your business?
In fact, the Infusionsoft Small Business Market Survey found that 60 percent of small businesses expect a higher revenue than last year and California Bank and Trust reports that 87 percent of small business owners expect growth over the upcoming year.
Clearly, the future is bright.
Regardless of the current size of your business, it's best to plan and structure so that you’re ready for the future. When it comes to small business expansion a little proactivity will pay off in the long run. Here are some tips on how to expand your business.
11 tips to set yourself up for success
1. Invest in systems
I know you’re superhuman and that you can leap tall buildings in a single bound. But continuing to try and do it all yourself may be limiting your potential for growth.
A business powered by systems (not a single superhero) is one that can handle the multi-layered demands of expansion.
(Don't worry—you can still wear your cape.)
Having robust systems such as a solid CRM or powerful e-commerce software in place can help you focus on the important parts of growth and expansion. Review your business to see what aspects are repetitive or monotonous and make it your goal to automate or outsource as much possible so you can remain focused on growth.
2. Focus on scalability
When money, time, and expertise are in short supply, it can be tempting to go with the quick (or cheap) fix, and investing in basic solutions that don’t require a huge financial investment or learning curve can seem wise.
But things are not always what they seem.
Yes, that dream solution may be a stretch and have an intimidating learning curve. But ending up in a patchwork maze of multiple inexpensive and inefficient systems that only appear economical will end up costing money in the long run.
3. Don't forget the value of strategic planning
If you fail to plan, you're planning to fail.
Ben Franklin (and my grandma) had it exactly right.
Strategic planning is the link between a great idea and true success and growth. More of a philosophy of operation than a one-time event, it requires ongoing attention to detail and time investment.
Embrace strategic planning. Develop a series of quarterly and annual priorities, a mission that sets the tone for the next three to five years of operation and a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) to keep you reaching for success.
A true strategic plan can also help you identify your personal Kryptonite and in the process, develop your business to avoid potential pitfalls (and the occasional radioactive space rock) whenever possible.
4. Always have a backup plan
Even the best superhero has a sidekick. Batman would be nothing without Robin; Clark Kent undeniably needs Lois Lane (and a phone booth). And you need a backup plan.
When you're a one-person shop, you're usually able pivot quickly when things do not go as expected. As your business grows and becomes more complex, these quick adjustments are more difficult.
Have a plan in place for emergencies or unforeseen contingencies so that you can deal with the inevitable bumps in the road.
5. Take Calculated Risks
Is Spider-Man always 100 percent sure his web is going to stick? Nope. But a vigilante superhero has got to do what a vigilante superhero has got to do.
Small business expansion is not without risks. To make the right decisions it will sometimes be necessary to move outside your comfort zone. At times, you may feel you're swinging above the city with nothing but a complex and delicate web keeping you from crashing to the ground.
We're not saying you should rely only on good luck (and those spidey senses). By focusing on the end goal and proactively identifying potential roadblocks, you’ll set yourself up for success, even when your next move feels like a risk.
6. Invest in staff and culture
Growing beyond solo-preneurship is a big step. But if you talk to others who have grown their small business to include employees, contractors or freelancers you'll soon learn just how vital the right people are in making your expansion dreams a reality.
Any significant staff expansion will come with an adjustment period and require devotion and effort from everyone, but establishing a culture and a staff of devoted employees will pay off in the long run.
7. Forecast for intentional growth
Sometimes business growth takes you by surprise; sales suddenly increase or an unexpected opportunity falls in your lap. In these cases you'll find yourself scrambling in a stressful game of catch-up.
But expansion can be carefully considered and planned for. By taking a slow-and-steady approach and planning ahead for each step along the road, you’ll set your business up for successful proactive growth, instead of a stressful reactive response to an immediate need.
8. Stay focused on your core strengths
What is the one thing you bring to the table that others do not? Keep your focus on that.
If you make the most amazing widgets on the planet, then do just that. As many things as you may feel like you should/could/would do in a perfect world (where time was unlimited and sleep was not required), what you NEED to do is keep making your widgets better and better and better. Hire or purchase other solutions, staff and expertise to take care of the rest.
(After all, you don’t see Superman trying to spin webs, do you?)
9. Be financially savvy
Even superheroes need to watch the bottom line.
Always leave extra padding in your budget for things that you overlooked or didn't account for in your expansion. Even small things can derail your budget.
Keep your eyes on the bigger picture AND the bottom line. Ensure your investments make sense for your dreams AND your bank account, and always overestimate the projected costs to ensure you don’t end up in a tight spot later on.
10. Trust yourself
All the advice in the world is no substitute for your finely honed instincts (this is where you really learn to trust your spidey sense).
This is your small business. These are your dreams. And there will be times where opportunities come along that fall outside of your plans and projections.
If you’ve set yourself up for success with strategic planning, scalable systems and a solid bottom line, you’ll be in a position to listen to your gut and make that leap of faith in a way that feels secure and sensible – not risky and rash.
11. Feel the fear and do it anyway
Growth is scary. Sometimes it may feel easier to stick with the status quo and not take the risk, even for brave superhero types.
But you’re ready for this: You’ve done the groundwork and your foundation is steady and strong. So tie on that cape and take the leap – you and your business are ready to fly.