When you go into business on your own, the roadmap to success is a critical component. No one opens shop with plans of staying stagnant, or worse, declining—growth is the only option. But like most things in business, it’s much easier said than done.
Growth is the top priority for the majority of small business owners (72%), as found by American Express OPEN in their recently completed Small Business Growth Pulse survey.
“As the U.S. economy has improved, small business owners are becoming more optimistic and are thinking about their next growth opportunity,” said Janey Whiteside, SVP & GM of American Express OPEN.
The inaugural survey of 1,000 small businesses concluded that in line with growth being the top priority, 63% of respondents are approaching their growth with a “slow and steady” mentality. But slow and steady doesn’t mean unprepared; roughly two-thirds (65%) have formal growth plans in place, most of which reach three years out.
So how do you not only plan for growth, but also achieve it?
Lay a Strong Foundation
Business planning is the crucial roadmap for which you will steer your venture. Without it, you’d be driving aimlessly with hopes of getting somewhere but no idea how.
The Small Business Growth Pulse found that “for more than four-in-ten (41%) of those who have grown, the majority of their growth has been planned, while a quarter say their growth was organic/spontaneous (27%) or equal parts organic/planned (30%).” As Thomas Jefferson once put it, “I’m a great believer in luck, and the harder I work, the more I find.”
For help building a business plan, check out these three uber-actionable business plan articles:
- 7 Best Free Business Plan Templates
- 9 Helpful Guides and Tools to Develop a Smart Business Plan
- Need a Business Plan Fast? These Apps Are at Your Service
Learn From Your Peers
As an entrepreneur, you are well aware that the connections you have are worth their weight in gold, and continuing to build those relationships can directly impact your bottom line in more ways than one. The Small Business Growth Pulse survey reflected this: "the top way for business owners to proactively seek out opportunities for growth include networking with like-minded small business owners and business experts (49%)."
Not only do these relationships provide the connections that can lead to lucrative transactions down the road, they also give you the insights as to what's working for others in similar lines of business. As evidenced in the survey, more than half of SBO's ask other business owners for advice on business growth. Some great places to start are continued learning opportunities like conferences and seminars, joining professional organizations or your local Chamber of Commerce and Meetup.com.
Get the Word Out
Building a marketing plan is almost as crucial as your business plan. Getting the word out about your business means extending your reach to new potential customers, and that all comes back to marketing. In today's digital age, more than ever, savvy business owners are savvy marketers. You need a diversified set of marketing avenues that work together, and your marketing plan should outline what those are.
Here are some helpful articles for building a marketing plan that delivers results:
- Plan Your Marketing Like a Pro: Sample Marketing Plan Outline
- Baked to Perfection: Creating an Inbound Marketing Strategy from Scratch
- Plan for a Win: The Most Critical Business Marketing Tactics
Measure, Analyze and Be Flexible
Every plan, whether it's marketing or business, needs to be a "living" entity. Set goals and KPIs that allow you to benchmark your success. Regularly measure the performance of your marketing tactics, and when they don't work—change them. The same goes for other areas of your business. Maintaining an analytical and flexible mindset when it comes to your growth plans will help you to better harness the power of organic growth. In the same way you'd change something that's not working, when something is working, you should recognize it and alter your plan to continue replicating that success.
These articles contain helpful tips on measuring the success of your business, particularly on the web: