Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council
For many startups, the ultimate goal is to "scale up" and grow bigger. It's certainly an admirable goal, and achieving it may gain you attention from investors, customers and the media. But growth for growth's sake will only leave you understaffed and overwhelmed. That's why it's critical to ensure a solid business foundation before you start expanding.
The members of Forbes Coaches Council frequently work with small businesses and startups that are looking to make the leap to their next phase of growth. They advised looking at these 11 important areas as you start to plan your expansion.
1. Embrace Your Own Brand First
I work with my entrepreneurial and small business clients by focusing on creating their personal brand through articles, public speaking and content development that they author. Instead of delegating marketing and outreach, I want them to own it like they own and embrace their business. Your brand goes with you no matter what you do. Work on it. Embrace and release it with a purpose. - John M. O'Connor, Career Pro Inc.
2. 'Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time'
Focus on how you cultivate more energy, instead of obsessing over your time. Schwartz and McCarthy's Harvard Business Review article titled, "Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time," maintains that while time is a finite resource, energy is more flexible. For that reason, energy management is the true key to productivity. Take brief breaks, express appreciation and reduce interruptions. - Maria Pastore, Maria Pastore Coaching
3. Find Creative Ways To Reduce Your Customers' Risk
Assuming you have properly identified who is most in need of your service, the next thing to do is to come up with creative ways for them to try your service. There is always a risk when trying something new and unproven. Think about creative ways to reduce the risk for your prospects, while still getting paid for the value you deliver. Simply saying "you can try for free" often is not enough. - Donald Hatter, Donald Hatter Inc.
4. Stabilize Your Operating Model
Before expanding your venture, stabilize your operating model. This means having your strategy in place by updating your marketing, website and fulfillment processes, and preparing your people. Strong, developed talent will give you an advantage. Growing pains will come, but by ensuring these aspects of your venture are solid, you will avoid costly mistakes to your operation and your brand. - Julianne Cenac Ph.D., The Leader Channel
5. Throw Fuel On Your Biggest Fire
Often times, small business owners want to be involved in every venture possible. However, this results in these owners being spread way too thin. Instead, focus on building one or two really strong products or services that your customers fall in love with. Once you find your niche, just keep growing it. Throw fuel on that fire. - Kyle Elliott, Kyle Elliott Consulting
6. Understand Your Own Motivation for Growing Your Venture
The assumption is that business owners have to expand their business to be successful. Question that assumption -- sometimes the best thing to do is increase efficiencies. Know what is important about growing your business and be sure it aligns with your purpose and your financial goals. Often I find that bigger doesn't mean better or more profitable. Be wise about your decision to expand. - Jennifer Thompson, Deviant Thinking
7. Focus On The Customer First
Follow the best customer-centric company: Amazon. Their key value is "customer obsession." This is a fantastic value for any business owner looking to expand. How is this going to affect your customers? Is it going to alienate existing ones? Is it going to enhance their experience with you, your products/services or your brand? Evaluate all your expansion plans in relations to your customer. - Tyron Giuliani, Selling Made Social
8. Work Toward Profitability
No matter whether you are a $100,000, $500,000 or $5 million company, be profitable in what you do. When you are focused and making money, you can then afford options of donating to charity, to spin-offs with innovative ideas, giving to your people, or paying expenses related to exploring new approaches, people or technologies. Start with making a business profitable. It will help with investment. - Joanne Markow, GreenMason
9. Consider How Easily Your Expansion Plan Will Integrate Into Your Current Model
For small businesses looking to expand, I have them explore one key question: How easy will it be to integrate the expansion idea into your existing way of doing things? You have limited resources, and if your expansion idea can't easily integrate into what you are already doing, it will drain unnecessary resources and risk failure. The easier the integration, the more likely it is to succeed. - Kyle Brost, Spark Policy Institute
10. Think Like An Investor
Ask questions that an investor would: On a scale from 1 to 10, how unique is your offering? Do you have a clear edge (e.g. economies of scale, proprietary knowledge or brand equity) over current competitors? What are the tradeoffs of expanding today versus a year from now? What are the biggest operational, financial and human capital risks to realizing your targeted returns? - Shoma Chatterjee, ghSMART
11. Don't Wait For The 'Perfect Moment'
If we wait until we're ready and everything is perfectly lined up, we'll be waiting forever and will never expand. Do the work to prepare and have people, processes and systems in place, but make sure you're not holding yourself back for that mythical place where every star is aligned. Part of the magic in owning a business is taking imperfect action and feeling those butterflies in the stomach. - Lesha Reese, Lesha Reese, LLC
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