Growing Your Business in Lincoln, NE – 2018
If you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re among the legion of business owners who are actively working to grow their companies and/or professionals who are tasked with business development. While not all businesses have the goal of growth or are investing their resources in it, it’s safe to say that the vast majority do and are. Mirroring that, there are a wealth of resources here in Lincoln with specific offerings that can help businesses grow. To learn more about exactly how, keep reading!
To successfully grow a business, you need to be in control throughout the process. Do you have a grip on your business, or does your business have a grip on you? You can probably guess which one of the two will allow you to grow your business effectively.
When it comes to what’s considered required reading for entrepreneurs, business owners, and professionals who want to achieve business success, Traction by Gino Wickman has earned a spot in the permanent archives. Based on the principles outlined in the book, an Entrepreneurial Operating System® has been developed for businesses and organizations of all types and sizes. Here in Lincoln, we are fortunate to have our very own EOS Implementer who guides businesses through this practical method for gaining traction.
“Vision without traction is hallucination,” says John Fulwider with gear80. “Most business owners’ plans for growth fail because they don’t have traction.”
“Traction means executing well on your vision,” he continues. “It’s about bringing discipline, accountability, and focus to your company. Without traction, you’ll:
- Push way too hard on the gas pedal (that is, work too many hours);
- Spin your wheels;
- Throw up a bunch of mud; and
- Frustrate yourself and others.
That’s not what I want for the people creating jobs here in the city I love, so I offer entrepreneurial business owners and their leadership teams EOS®: The Entrepreneurial Operating System®. It’s a complete, proven system with a set of simple, practical tools that get you great at three things:
- Vision: Everyone on the same page with where you’re going and how to get there.
- Traction: Everyone executing on your vision with discipline and accountability.
- Healthy: Your team’s a cohesive group of people who enjoy working together.
Three of the seven Lincoln companies on the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing companies run on EOS. But you don’t have to be Firespring, or Bulu, or Berry Law Firm to get these results. This model applies to big and small businesses alike, in any industry.
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.”
Are you out in front of potential and current customers? If you aren’t, is referral business alone enough to support the sustained growth of your business? Although integral to the growth of any business and a common way to generate business, especially here in the Lincoln community, it’s highly unlikely to be enough on its own. Making contact with people who have never been exposed to your business before and offering new ways for people who are familiar with you to engage with your brand are both equally important.
“Exposure is one of the most important factors in growing a business,” says Jared Shald with Sign Pro of Lincoln. “People cannot become customers until they know who you are and what you offer.”
As far as his specialty area, signage, Shald further advises, “Sign Pro offers many different advertising options for any budget. Depending on your business type, we can put together a package to help you reach potential customers. One of the most effective ways to get your name out is through mobile advertising on vehicles. Whether you have a fleet of service or delivery vehicles, trailers and mobile equipment, or even a personal vehicle that you drive to and from your business, vehicle graphics are a great investment. Effective design can bring great results. Sign Pro can get this done through vehicle lettering, partial wraps and full wraps.
Along with mobile advertising, we offer many options to bring attention to your storefront. Depending on your location, yard signs, banners, and feather flags may be a good option. If you have large exterior windows, window graphics are a great way to add to the appeal of your store and advertise your products to people passing by.”
Similarly, promotional products that display your brand are also excellent ways to get noticed and promote brand recognition, which ultimately drives business and growth.
Along with increasing your visibility, video content is a great way to promote engagement.
“Having a professional video production firm to help make dreams become reality drives online engagement in a way that is hard to match in by any other form of media,” Justin Kyser with Digital Sky remarks. “The work we do is extremely instrumental to growing a business–that’s the sole reason people hire us. Rather than hiring marketing or advertising agencies, oftentimes all a company that’s looking to grow needs to do is come up with an idea, then work with a video professional to make it come to life. We’ve found that professional video production outperforms the work produced by agencies that specialize in marketing planning and strategy, but that offer video and media production as an afterthought, often times by as much as 30-40%. That’s a difference that means a lot when it comes to getting the most out of your marketing budget.
Similarly, a trend we’re seeing that is potentially dangerous when trying to grow a business is spending a lot of money on things like branding, but settling for low-quality video when it comes to content creation. It’s really easy to spot a company that’s fallen into this trap. Low-quality audio, shaky and low-resolution video, cheap transitions and low-quality editing are all things that can reflect poorly on your business.
He concludes, “Be very cautious of what you spend your money on. Test out what works, choose companies that you trust will do the right thing for your brand and that will work with you to help you get what you want.
Moreover, I think that every business is different when it comes to determining success. For us, we determine success by the success of our clients. If they’re happy and the work that we’ve done for them has helped them achieve their business goals, we consider that success. To date, we’ve helped over 70 clients achieve their video production goals, and we don’t see that slowing anytime soon.”
Also weighing in on the importance of visibility, Cris Trautner with Infusionmedia advises, “It’s a trite phrase, but if no one knows about you, they can’t do business with you. Effective marketing not only increases awareness, it educates your target audience about your offerings, establishes you as an expert, and adds to your credibility.
One of Infusionmedia’s core services is content marketing, using blogs, books, and social media to share valuable, useful information that over time proves expertise, builds trust, develops leads, and grows market share. Content marketing is especially helpful to startups and smaller businesses, allowing them to make end-runs around competitors with larger ad budgets. You can’t win against better funding, but you can win against competitors who don’t understand the value of content marketing.”
There’s no question that your people are a big part of the success, or failure, or any business. Do you have enough people in place to support growth? Even more important, do you have the right people?
Talent acquisition and retention are a big deal right now with competition being fierce due to a labor shortage in many industries. With historically low unemployment rates, you need to know where to find the right people, and then be ready and willing to do what it takes to seal the deal.
For those looking for staffing solutions, whether it’s contingent or permanent, Manpower can help. “Now more than ever, the ability to tap the power of people with the right skills and experience can make or break a company,” says Angela Caldwell with Manpower. “And that’s how we can fuel your company’s success. For more than 60 years, we’ve been at the forefront of the world of work, giving us unparalleled expertise in leveraging human potential and an in-depth knowledge of business evolution. We apply our insight to create a continuum of staffing solutions designed to enhance business agility, productivity, and competitiveness, with extraordinary results.
Through our leading expertise, you can make smarter hiring decisions, benchmark your company against others in your industry, and better understand workforce trends to sharpen your competitive edge. Our ultimate goal is to set you up for success by helping you secure the talent you need to drive your business forward.”
How are you currently utilizing technology? What’s out there that you haven’t tapped into yet? Today there are so many ways that technology can be leveraged to power business growth.
“As a business grows, so do the demands upon their technology,” says Darren Lichty with Panology Tech Solutions. “It is at this point that small nuances can become major problems. Worse yet, the technology that is serving your business needs fine today can, and often does, hinder your business as it grows. This can be avoided, if you have a trusted partner who will explain these things to you, in a way that you understand.
Like any relationship, this partner must possess the capacity to see things from your point of view. What is the right decision for your business, not theirs? Are they presenting you with all of the options, or just the one that is going fill their sales quota? In the end, it is your business; it should be your decision. If they cannot educate you on why this is the right decision for your business, seek out a partner who will. Technology does not have to be a thing that only the experts understand.
Our most important core value is Client Obsession. It is our strong belief that if we help our clients succeed, then our success will follow as a side effect. If Panology is unable to bring significant value to a particular client, we will be the first to direct you to the resources that will.”
He adds, “Sometimes it’s the little things that can be the most impactful, particularly for small businesses with limited resources. Take for example something as simple as Google’s G Suite. It’s perceived to be more professional and there’s a higher trust and credibility factor with an email that uses your domain name as opposed to @gmail.com or @yahoo.com. You can also take advantage of improved email security, a full suite of productivity apps, and accessibility from anywhere on any device.”
In conclusion, he advises, “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. That said, prepare yourself to be uncomfortable, as it is an indication that you are moving forward. 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. SCORE, provides mentoring and education to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Building a strong referral network will also help you grow by reaching more potential customers and developing strategic partnerships. Organizations such as the Chamber, LIBA, BNI, ELBA, and CenterSphere can help you build your referral network. There are many other great resources out there, you just need to look (or ask). And of course, if you have a computer, network, or cloud question, give us a call.”
When you think of technology, what first comes to mind is usually devices – computers, tablets, smartphones – and software/applications. But having a technology strategy, and planning thoughtfully for how you’ll use these things to grow your business, is just as important as the things themselves.
“The purpose of Virtual C is to help companies navigate the business ocean,” says Adam Walter with Virtual C. “The advantage of working with us is that you no longer have to think about technology strategy. You can focus on business strategy and product development knowing that you have a partner guiding your technology and staff to better solutions.
Specifically, we are currently focusing on technology growth. Companies tend to get stuck relying on a product or single vendor to make technology decisions. Our company comes in with unbiased advice to help your company scale. Sometimes this means coaching services for your management staff, sometimes it means a review of your company’s strategy. We work with a variety of businesses from small non-profits to large fortune 500 companies. At Virtual C we are not interested in forcing you to buy more technology; we are interested in helping your business grow.”
He also sheds light on another common pitfall. “So often we see experienced people who are working in silos. They know how to do their job and try to show up with the wow factor in hand. Our company encourages an iterative approach to involve the customers throughout the process to get continuous feedback. By doing so, a customer doesn’t ever experience radio silence; they instead get to see the inner workings of the business as the product is delivered. My advice is to stop hiding things from employees and customers and start sharing as much as is possible. Utilize technology that increases communication in a seamless way.”
In response to the question about any current trends and new resources or concepts that would be particularly useful in growing a business, Walter articulates, “Being in the technology consulting industry we get asked this question a lot. Everyone wants to know what the latest and greatest technology is that they should be using. Our advice is to stop thinking about technology and start thinking about what will empower your people. A good example is PowerPoint. The business world is obsessed with PowerPoint slides. But WHY? Research shows that PowerPoint is ineffective at disseminating information yet we can’t get businesses to stop requiring it for every meeting. You are much better served with a whiteboard and marker!
Ok, getting off my soapbox now. But the trend is technology minimalism. Technology should be seamless; it should fit naturally into your business flow. It should take what you already do well and make it easier. Investigate agile frameworks and bring this into your company so that when you need to scale or evolve you can.”
Tying everything together, he emphasizes, “The single most important thing you can do while you’re in the process of growth is to evolve. Don’t get into the mindset of ‘this is our product’; instead, spend more time on ‘this is who we are’ and create workflow that fits that. Apple is not an iPod company, they are a culture. What kind of culture is your company, who are you?”
Growth can mean a number of things when it comes to the space where you conduct business. When you think of the future of your business, would growth require more space? A better location? More locations? It could mean adding another location, whether you’re building it from the ground up or finding the ideal space that’s move-in ready. It could mean moving operations out of your basement or garage into a physical storefront or office location. It could mean outgrowing your current location and making the move to a larger space that better fits your needs and supports expanded operations. Whatever that may be for you, there are plenty of options to consider.
As far as office space goes, as previously mentioned, coworking spaces have become popular for SMBs. Similarly, leasing space in a building that has numerous business suites still remains a popular option. This is mainly due to being more affordable and having more flexibility with lease terms, but it’s also nice to be in a community environment with neighboring businesses. Today, there are even office suites available that have additional services tailored to business clients, such as HIP OffiCenters, where tenants have an attractive reception area and receptionist services, all utilities paid, phone system, free parking, mail pick-up, janitorial services, complimentary coffee, use of a conference room, break room facilities, or the option to just have a virtual office instead.
“As we get more mobile, our habits are changing and agility has become fundamental to growth,” says Michael Holroyd with Holroyd Investment Properties. “There’s been a shift away from working at home or in coffee shops to designated spaces to conduct business that promote creativity and the exchange of ideas with others, which has also been shown to increase productivity. As a result, there are more ‘middle of the road’ options for office space that fall between the two extremes of working from home or having a standalone place of business and singlehandedly shouldering all of the costs that come along with it.
HIP OffiCenters can assist any new or established businesses by not only leasing them office space, but with all of the other services that come along with it as a package deal that provides significant value for our clients. For us, I believe the determining factor in growing our business has always been looking ahead. In our industry, things are changing all the time. In order to grow our business, we’ve kept changing with the market, especially in the services we offer. If we go above and beyond for our clients and give them a positive experience, they will share this with others and in turn, we grow our business. We always strive to give five-star service in everything we do and identify ways we can change for the benefit of our clients.”
In closing, he reiterates, “You should always be prepared for change within your industry. Your growth is dependent on how well you can keep up with these changes. Keeping up with technology and social media changes are always incredibly important.”
Commercial developments in high-traffic, high-visibility locations have also become much more common today for similar reasons. Being a part of a neighborhood of complementary businesses helps generate more traffic and business for everyone.
As was just touched upon, developing strategic partnerships within the community or communities in which you do business will contribute greatly to the growth of your business and gives you the opportunity to help others grow theirs at the same time. Do you have a support system in place? If not, you definitely should – the saying “no man is an island” rings true here.
Another way to go about growing is through strategic acquisitions, which is also complementary in nature.
“At No Coast Business Advisors, we come alongside our clients to help develop a growth strategy that works for them,” says Jethro Hopkins with No Coast Business Advisors. “Primarily, we assist our clients with their expansion efforts through strategic acquisition. In certain instances it may make more sense for you to purchase a business that complements your current one, allowing you to diversify and expand your market share.
This might even be in a neighboring market, as strategic growth is no longer limited to local availability. When you’ve reached the point where you’re no longer looking for customers locally, strategic acquisition in other markets is an extremely viable alternative to building up your existing operations. Upward trends all point to the fact that the opportunity is there. Do be aware of the changes to the tax code in 2018 that affect how acquisitions can be done, because what you think you know from past experience or research may no longer be the case. Or, if you’re considering an SBA avenue of funding, they have changed their standards, so definitely schedule a time to sit down with your banker or intermediary to discuss what’s recently been implemented. Whatever the situation, to best handle any matters related to the growth of your business, rely on your team of experts to advise and guide you through uncharted territory. This way you can discuss your specific scenario and how something applies to you, not just in general. Consult with them early and often to ensure you stay on the right track and nothing major catches you off-guard.”
Also on the topic of strategic growth, he further advises, “We can also help our clients to identify avenues of marketing to bring in more clients and other ways to generate more business. Technology has made the market increasingly more diverse and far-reaching. In turn, our ability to handle having clients and operations in multiple states is getting easier. With respect to my business, the ability to search for buyers for my clients’ businesses nationwide instead of just locally is improving as technology advances, which is at a rapid pace. This applies almost across the board to any business. As was previously mentioned, be sure to utilize the technology that’s available to you as you put the work in to grow your business. Even something as simple as shipping to clients, opening an online storefront, using video conferencing to do business with clients – there’s a lot of organic growth opportunity. That said, don’t underestimate the importance of face-to-face interaction and customer service when you do grow using technology.
Many times when a growth campaign is implemented, the costs exceed what was originally budgeted. Expect that going in and plan a cushion accordingly in order to avoid launching your initiative and then being undercapitalized. If you’re unable to take advantage of the opportunities that are generated by your investment, there’s no point in putting yourself in that position. It could actually end up doing more harm than good if you’re not prepared to handle the growth in a way that doesn’t detract from your brand or compromise it. Many owners of SMBs are already in uncharted territory and don’t have the experience to handle a growth spurt gracefully. Having the resources available to act when it’s necessary goes a long way in supporting positive outcomes as you navigate the learning curve that comes along with growth. For the same reason, when you’re in growth mode, strategic partnerships will help you a lot. By forming alliances, you can help each other – we can all do more together than we can alone and each has our own experiences to share.”
Also with respect to forming strategic partnerships, Jaime Henning with the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce notes, “Being a member of the Chamber can help you accomplish several things: Get your name out there, create networking opportunities, and establish a sense of authority. We have programs, services, and opportunities for every size business and are a great partner in taking next steps toward growth.
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. 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. 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.”
So, the final question is: What is it that you need to facilitate the growth of your business or organization? Finding the answer, whether it’s simple or complex, is critical to connecting to the resources that can help you make it happen. Then, once you’ve identified them, be sure to use them to your advantage!