Growing Your Business
While there are a select few that are content with things as they are, by nature, most business owners are forward-thinking and always working to grow their businesses. What it takes to grow a business and a business’s trajectory as it grows will vary for each, as will its needs in doing so, but there are some core pieces that are relevant to the growth of all businesses regardless of the type or industry.
There are several needs that come along with the growth of a business which seem fairly obvious, and one of those is having enough physical space to accommodate. The most likely options include a move to a bigger and/or better location or the addition of a location. With the advent and growing popularity of coworking spaces and office complexes offering private space that also comes with amenities and shared meeting spaces that are able to house multiple businesses, there are more options than ever. No matter what stage or scale of growth a business is experiencing, or the budget allotted for rent and resources, there is likely something that fits the bill available.
“HIP OffiCenters is designed to help a business grow,” explains Michael Holroyd of Holroyd Investment Properties. “With the variety of packages available, we can help any company succeed. When a new company begins, the overhead costs can be overwhelming. We offer fully-furnished offices of different sizes and styles. A new business will have a full-time professional receptionist, conference room, and personalized phone service. By keeping the startup costs low, a company can focus on their product instead of hiring a staff and furnishing an office building. As a company grows, HIP OffiCenters will grow with them. We are able to add phone lines and additional office space to benefit each company on a timeline that works for their budget.
Every business must be diligent in planning for the future. HIP OffiCenters is constantly working to modernize our services to best fit today’s businesses. We have found that the advances in technology have allowed professionals to work outside of a traditional office environment. Because of this, we have developed a virtual office option for this type of business owner. Our virtual office clients are able to have a professional address and mail forwarding. They have access to our conference room, drop in office, copier/fax/scanner and kitchen. Our full-time professional receptionist is available to meet their clients and deliver outstanding customer service. By listening to the professionals in the community we are able to learn how to best serve them. We continue to grow our options to best fit all types of professionals and their businesses.”
He also offers the following advice for those out there who are pursuing the growth of their enterprises. “I have learned that the key to growing a business really comes down to one thing: Great customer service. With technology today, our customers have unlimited access to businesses providing the same product or service. Many of those customers start by comparing price, but in the end, they choose the company with the best customer service. If you can make the process easy and efficient, you will have the advantage over other companies. HIP OffiCenters provides that for our clients. Our front office staff works for our companies to do just that. We strive to make every client and visitor have an easy and efficient visit to our office. Outstanding customer service is what allows a company to achieve long-standing success in their industry.”
Side note: Along the same lines of what you’ll need to have in place to support the daily functions of your growing business, office equipment and supplies are things that you don’t necessarily notice when you have what you need at your disposal. However, you’ll find that you run into trouble quickly if what’s required isn’t available or working properly. Furthermore, as far as managing expenses goes, it’s an area to examine carefully. There’s plenty of potential to save money that you can allocate to other areas that will support continued business growth. “At Cartridge World, we provide top quality printing products, local service, and expert advice for our business clients,” says Andy Neil of Cartridge World. “With the business class print solutions we are able to deliver, you could save up to 30% off big box store prices while you enjoy the brand selection you want, the quality products you need, and the unsurpassed value you simply can’t find anywhere else. In addition to guidance on choosing the right device for your needs, we’ll also help with related tasks such as ordering supplies and servicing equipment. Not only will our exclusive approach to office printing save you money, but it will also help you improve efficiency and print greener. We’ll help you reduce the burden and expense of your printer-related activities so you can focus more on what you do best.”
Back to location, if you’re not in the position to build, or it’s not required, not the right option for the growth of your business, etc., it’s important to take a thoughtful, tactical approach to the process of finding the perfect existing space to occupy. “I believe, to successfully grow a business, it’s essential to have the right support and a smart approach,” says Tara Galaviz of Greenleaf Properties. “Another key factor in growing your business, regardless of the industry, is to know your market. At Greenleaf Properties, we are able to assist business owners by offering a complete spectrum of commercial real estate services which would include market research. We have a team member dedicated solely to market research; therefore, we can provide numerous reports on the market to help our clients in making an informed decision.”
The funds you have available after operating expenses are paid will determine how much you are able to invest in the growth of your business. Business finance is fairly complex in nature, with a lot of factors at play. Thus, it’s wise to assemble a team of professionals so that you can maximize what you have to work with while also ensuring accuracy and minimizing your risk of incurring losses or errors that would set you back.
“An important consideration when growing your business is the impact that taxes will have on your cash flow,” advises Jason Hardy of SP Group, P.C. “Understandably, an owner of an expanding business wants to reinvest the profits to continue the growth, but it’s critical to factor in the tax liability when determining how much free cash is available to plow back into the business for growth.
When someone comes to us about growing their business it usually concerns spending a large sum of money on a new piece of equipment or hiring additional staff. We can help a client review their cost assumptions and the potential revenue stream to see if it makes sense and to discuss possible tax implications of an expansion.”
When it comes to growing a business in general, he also shares the following advise based on his experience. “One of the key factors in growing a business that often gets overlooked, and seems almost too obvious to mention, is simply letting people know you want to grow your business. Communicate this through your social networking accounts, your various advertising media, and through contacts with your current customers. Your existing clients can be your best advertising, and thanking them with a handwritten note or a small gift for referring new clients to your business is essential.
Another key factor in successfully growing a business is to understand your strengths and your weaknesses. Business owners are generally, by nature, highly competitive people that want to excel at everything they do. Don’t be afraid to admit you have areas of weakness and seek out professional advisors to fill the gaps. At SP Group we want to be the best at what we do and team up with other individuals that are the best in their field. We want to bring our team of experts to bear on helping businesses grow.”
As to the role they are able to play, Troy Stentz of SP Group, P.C. explains, “We want business owners to focus on building customer relationships and making sure they and their employees are empowered to give their full attention to customer satisfaction. Payroll processing, including remitting taxes and filing federal and state payroll tax forms, is a potentially time-consuming task that business owners often attempt to manage on their own to the detriment of the bottom line and the wise use of their limited time.
In addition to the hours spent on this task, lack of compliance with payroll tax filing requirements can lead to costly penalties and the added work of communicating with tax authorities and fixing errors. SP Group offers technology solutions and the one-on-one support business owners value to implement a payroll program with convenient features like direct deposit, web-access for employees to paystubs and W-2s, and accurate tracking of deductions for retirement plans, insurance premiums, and health savings account contributions.
A piece of advice my father frequently repeated was that every business owner should have trusted advisors in accounting, banking, and law. The professionals your specific business needs may vary based on the industry you are in, but the sentiment is the same. Surround yourself with professionals that have extensive experience helping others navigate the challenges and rewards of growing a business. Leaning on them for their expertise will almost certainly save you from learning the hard way through unnecessary missteps.”
With respect to revenue, accepting payments is an important part of conducting business. This includes having systems in place for accepting payments at the time a product is purchased or service is rendered as well as billing and accounts receivable.
When it comes to accepting payments at the point of sale, Adam Roberts of First American Payment Systems explains, “First of all, to grow your business you must be able to avoid the pitfalls of the payment processing industry. See our article in the January issue of Strictly Business. In short, we help a lot of companies by simply educating them on what to avoid and even more so by offering a level of service that is second to none. We help them to keep selling widgets and take care of their customers while we handle their processing.
Here’s a true story. We process for Roca Berry Farm which, during the 6 weeks they are open, has 25 wireless credit card machines spread out over 100 acres. Before we came along, they were spending a great deal of time on the phone with an 800 number walking around trying to resolve issues with their machines. I told the owner: ‘Ma’am with us you’ll never have to do that again! I want you to go back to selling pumpkins. It’s my job as your credit card man to take care of any issues for you so you can get back to serving your customers.’ And we did that. The last several years we’ve been down at the farm taking care of them while they serve their customers.
In addition, with our promise that if we’re not in a meeting or an appointment we will literally BE THERE, on site, within an hour, we provide a level of service that the big companies simply can’t. In fact, I don’t know ANY processor that provides the level of fast and free onsite support that we do. To me, that’s the only honest way to do business and that’s the way we take care of our customers. Make sure you’re getting a level service that is second to none from all of your service providers so you can get back to running your business and serving your customers – which will ultimately drive growth.”
In addition to underscoring the importance of working with someone locally, Roberts further advises, “Growth will be dependent on keeping and retaining your current customers and bringing in new ones that keep coming back. Our systems can help with this by tracking those customers, their spending trends, and whether or not they continue to keep purchasing from you and why. It’s our goal to help you serve your customers with incredible data and informative analytics about your customers’ spending habits.
With our data analytics systems geared for restaurants especially, along with other business types, we can determine how often customers are coming in and why. How many new customers did you have last week/last month/last year? How many returning customers did you have last week/last month/last year? How often are they coming? What are they ordering? Who are your top customers? Which items are bringing people back? Which items do you need to get rid of? And our system can do this all through the credit cards.
In addition, we are setting up a network that will potentially eliminate ALL of your merchant credit card fees, which will drastically reduce costs and strengthen your bottom line. Much like when you go to the DMV and pay for your car registration, we can give you the option to pass along the credit card fees directly to the end user and give them a positive incentive to pay cash.
These two systems are the future of payment processing and we’re at the forefront of revolutionizing the payment processing world. If you can better understand your customers you can better serve them. It’s our goal to help you do that.”
Next, your accounts receivable is another area that when outsourced, will allow you to focus on doing what you do best while simultaneously bringing in more funds that will be instrumental in the growth of your business.
“For businesses that utilize a billing process, the number one thing to keep in mind is that rarely will 100% of your receivables be paid upon receipt of an invoice,” says Aaron Newell of AR Solutions. “While nobody goes into business thinking that their valued clients with whom they have built a relationship won’t hold up their end of the deal and pay their bills, unfortunately it’s a reality. At some point in time you will need to use a law firm or collection agency to pursue payment on past-due accounts. By outsourcing this part to a third party that you trust to uphold your reputation as an extension of your business, it takes the emotions out of it and you don’t have to be the bad guy.
Fine-tuning your intake and billing processes so that you’re able to adhere to them as closely as possible will ensure that you’ll eventually get paid at some point. Consulting with a collection partner periodically is a good idea as they can advise you based on the specifics of your business. Gathering all of the details when the contract is implemented, and then signatures or initials to any addendums if at all possible as changes are made to the original agreement, so that it’s enforceable by law, will greatly help to protect your interests as the business owner. Recorded oral contracts and documentation of emails are also options that although not fail-safe, are strong enough to hold up most times. For most healthy businesses, past-due receivables won’t exceed 10-12% of gross revenue, so it’s important that your processes aren’t so cumbersome that it hinders the majority of your business. Aside from the processes, just make sure you have your Plan B in place as you grow and there are more accounts to maintain. If the original plan was for the client to pay the bill, what are you going to do if that doesn’t happen? It’s like playing a game of chess; there are alternate routes to pursue in order to get to the same goal.”
Your Branding, Promotion & Network:
Marketing is also at the top of the list of the most important factors that will influence the successful growth of a business. Having a healthy media mix is key, along with consistently getting in front of your target audience and capitalizing on the other prime opportunities and innovative methods that will allow you to be seen and get the word out.
“The most important part of growing a business is visibility,” advises Jared Shald with Sign Pro of Lincoln. “If your company is not visible to potential customers it will be tough to grow. Being visible in today’s market is not as simple as it used to be. Vehicle graphics and wraps, storefront signage, advertising banners/flags, and yard signs are a few ways that Sign Pro can help you spread your message across the community.
Different types of signage can help grow your business at any stage. If you are just starting out, we can help with building signage, interior graphics to help finish your office or retail space, and banners/flags to advertise your opening. Trade shows are another way to get your business in front of potential customers. Sign Pro offers a full line of trade show packages from roll up banners, to full booth displays. Do you have service or delivery vehicles, job site trailers or shipping containers? With a graphic wrap from Sign Pro, all of these can serve as mobile billboards for your business.”
Andrew Tuzson of Evol Empire Creative further advises, “Location, location, location now means wherever your customers will see you. Hiring an expert will help you better determine those points of exposure. We have so many agency-level tools at our disposal to aid with analysis once we know the client’s goals and understand what they do, including what’s going on in their market and what their competition is doing. At Evol Empire Creative, our discovery process is very in-depth and goal-oriented. We zero in on what success looks like for that business and what the ultimate goal of the campaign would be, and then work backwards from there.
Before a business can properly scale and efficiently grow, it needs to understand itself. You get into trouble when you’re trying to be everything to everyone. Once you know what your focus points, audience, differentiating factor, and goals, it will set the stage for growth moving forward. It will also help you to target your promotional efforts and with branding your business. Particularly with your audience, once you’ve figured out who they are, it’s time to make sure you’re in front of them. With any platform you plan to utilize, a good marketing strategy will present the problem or pain point, the solution, and make sure you are present when the consumer is in the mindset of consumption. That will look different for everyone, so targeting is a big deal. A significant part of our job is to make sure our clients have a solid sales funnel online, and that they’re able to get prospects back if it didn’t convert the first time around.
Finally, understand that advertising is a dynamic variable. There are no set steps in place to follow; it’s not an A, B, C, repeat deal. If there was a surefire way to be a millionaire, everyone would do it. It’s really about understanding who you are, the value you provide to your consumer, and then designing your messaging to influence the action you want them to take. Then, you’re only as successful as those you surround yourself with, whether you put together an internal creative team or outsource that work. There’s no more build it and they will come, you have to find ways to drive that traffic. If you’re going to hire an agency, hire the best one you can afford, and if you’re going to build a team, get the best talent out there.”
In agreement, Darren Lichty of Panology Tech Solutions adds, “The most important factor in growing your business is brand recognition. If potential customers do not know that your business exists, or what it does, they cannot seek you out when they have a need for your products or services. Getting into that coveted ‘top of mind’ position takes time and persistence. Placing yourself wherever your potential customers are is one approach. But you can’t be everywhere, or in two places at once. This is where building a strong referral network will help you reach more potential customers. Organizations such as the Chamber, LIBA, BNI, and CenterSphere can help you build your referral network. Start early, give it plenty of time to build, and remain persistent.”
As for his offerings, Lichty notes, “Our cloud-based, self-service solutions are designed to grow with your business. Traditional methods required you to spend a lot of time and money building all the capacity you were going to need for the next few years. With the cloud, you only have to pay for what you need today, and growth is almost limitless. Cloud-based solutions also allow your workforce to access your information and systems from anywhere on a large number of devices. So as your workforce grows, you get them out in front of your customers, while empowering them to remain connected to the resources they need.”
In conclusion, he offers the following advice: “The pace of innovation keeps increasing. This is not only true in the technology field, but in businesses of all varieties. The key to keeping up with this pace is continuously challenging yourself to try new approaches. Continuously making small bets can add up to big wins. Just as important is continuously measuring the success and failure of these steps along the way.
Likewise, prepare yourself to be uncomfortable, as it is an indication that you are moving. Don’t fear failure, as it is a very powerful tool. Thomas Edison once said ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’ He also said ‘Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.’
We have a great business community here in Lincoln. There are many people and resources here waiting to help you grow your business and succeed. As just one example, SCORE, the volunteer arm of the Small Business Administration, provides mentoring and education to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Engage them at https://lincoln.score.org. There are many other great resources out there, you just need to look (or ask).”
Another one of the more prominent resources that can aid in the growth of any business is the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce. With regards to the specifics on how, Jaime Henning of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce provides the following details:
“You may ask yourself if joining a Chamber is a good idea as a growth strategy for your business and we can assure you this is true. Membership can help you accomplish several things: Get your name out there, create networking opportunities and establish a sense of authority. In marketing your business it is important to think about and consider your business and target clientele. Are you looking to build local B2B relationships or grow a local business? If these are your primary goals, the local Chamber of Commerce is a good place for you. We have programs, services and opportunities for every size business and are a great partner in taking next steps toward growth.
The Lincoln Chamber of Commerce is Lincoln’s leading business organization, with over 1,600 businesses with one strong voice for business advocacy and growth. As a community builder, we have helped advocate for key projects and have promoted a new atmosphere that embraces talent and entrepreneurship. We want you to be part of our organization and we will go to work to help you grow your business as we advocate for a positive business climate in Lincoln. If you would like to be part of our organization, call us at (402) 436-2350.”
Speaking of talent acquisition, with the growth of a business comes adding members to your team as it becomes clear which areas would benefit from the additional support. These individuals will be critical to the success of your efforts. As many business owners can relate, across all industries, hiring the right people is no easy task. For those who don’t yet have the resources to allocate to an HR professional or department in-house, a partnership with a local staffing company is advised.
“As I mentioned recently pertaining to those who are starting a business, there are a lot of unseen costs when hiring your own staff,” says Sue Ellen Stutzman of Nesco Resource. “The same of course holds true with those who are working on growing their businesses. There is the time that it takes to run the ads, screen resumes, and schedule the interviews, not to mention all of the new hire paperwork, insurance, payroll and payroll taxes, workers comp, and unemployment. All of these things can be very costly to a small business owner. Nesco Resource will come alongside to help you with any or all of those items.
It is always best to be prepared for the future growth of your business. Don’t wait until the need is so overwhelming and you feel as though you are drowning. Instead, plan ahead have your lifeboat in the water and waiting. By doing so, you will be able to partner with those who hold your same core values and want to see you succeed. Similarly, talk to others in the small business community and learn from their mistakes. Be open to new ideas and ways of doing things, as it can only enhance your business and your customer experience.”
Expanding on hiring while also focusing on talent development once the right people are in place, Dr. Kim Turnage of Talent Plus further advises, “Recruiting and developing the right people is the number one factor that will drive the growth of your business. As Jim Collins said, ‘First who, then what.’
Every time you hire a new person, you’re making a bet that this person will drive the growth of your company. Talent Plus ® offers scientifically validated assessments that substantially improve your odds of getting it right, and provide the insights necessary to engage and develop that person. Our new book, Managing to Make a Difference (Wiley), brings together decades of experience and best practices into a practical handbook for managers and leaders who want to build high-performing teams, fully engage every person on those teams, and maximize the performance of individuals and the business as a whole.
All companies must embrace the accelerating rate of change. To remain competitive, companies must rapidly adapt. This requires employees at all levels to have learning agility, receptiveness to new ideas and an appetite for change. Scientific assessments can detect these traits (or the lack of them). When managers have insight into their employees’ strengths, they can empower their people to be the engine for change and growth.
Currently there’s a lot of buzz now about Millennials, and that generation is the workforce of the future. Leaders and managers need to retain and build on the talent that has grown their business in the past and seamlessly integrate it with the talent that will grow their business for the future. Talent selection and talent development are the great equalizers in that process because talent transcends age and experience. Understanding talent allows you to build high-performing teams of people who bring their A-game to work every single day. When you do that, you can’t help but achieve the growth goals you have for your business.
After investing in your people and optimizing their growth, earning the loyalty of your existing customers should be your next priority to optimize the growth of your business. Retaining customers and winning their continued loyalty costs less and returns more for your investment relative to finding new customers. Your people are the tip of the spear for cultivating healthy, long-term client partnerships.
Visit www.talentplus.com to explore selecting, developing and retaining the right people in your organization today.”
After taking into consideration everything we’ve covered so far, you’ll want to incorporate those items and any other things that will play a part in the growth of your business into an actionable plan to follow moving forward. In relationship to your processes in place, John Fulwider of gear80 offers the following insight:
“Six Key Components™ must be managed and strengthened to grow a great business.
- Vision: Get everyone in the organization 100% on the same page with where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.
- People: Surround yourself with great people, top to bottom, because you can’t achieve a great vision without a great team.
- Data: Boil your organization down to a handful of objective numbers that give you an absolute pulse on where things are.
- Issues: Become great at solving problems throughout the organization and making them go away forever.
- Process: ‘Systematize’ your business by identifying and documenting the core processes that define the way to run your business. This is the secret ingredient in your organization.
- Traction: Bring discipline and accountability into the organization, taking the vision down to the ground and making it real.
This model applies to big and small businesses alike, in any industry. The same 136 issues bug entrepreneurs in every industry, in every business climate. To the extent you can strengthen the Six Key Components™ of your business, those 136 things fall into place
Lincoln startups like Bluestem Fiber and Bulu Box, as well as long-established businesses like Executive Travel and Firespring, grow using the Entrepreneurial Operating System® described in the book Traction by Gino Wickman. Three of the four Lincoln firms on the Inc. 5000 List of America’s Fastest-Growing Companies run EOS®.
The power of EOS® is that it is real world, simple and practical. There’s no theory here or flavor of the month; no magic pills; just timeless, field-tested tools that really work.”
He concludes, “‘Vision without traction is hallucination.’ You must manage and strengthen the Six Key Components™ of your business—Vision, People, Data, Issues, Process, and Traction—to achieve your dreams for your business. But you should not, and cannot, do it alone. Use the Entrepreneurial Operating System® to build a healthy, cohesive leadership team to whom you can Delegate and Elevate, freeing you up to do those things you love to do and are great at doing.”
Many of us here in Lincoln would consider ourselves on the mission of growing our businesses. Being in such good company, we can all benefit from each other. Having a team of trusted professionals at your disposal when needed is invaluable, and we encourage you to get in touch with local experts to help you take your business to the next level.