Every year, our clients come back from summer vacay and we start talking about how half the year is gone, we’re freaking out, refocusing on our annual goals, and revisiting our New Year’s resolutions (remember those?!).
Growing a business is a top priority for entrepreneurs. As a CEO for the past twenty years, I understand the challenges that come with scaling, especially for women entrepreneurs who want success without sacrificing sanity, their relationships, or taking care of themselves. With the right strategies and tools, growing your business can be a fulfilling and enjoyable experience. Obviously, this is a huge topic, but I will provide you with the expert advice to grow your business that I wish I had when I first grew a business in this streamlined guide.
In This Guide:
- The Basics
- From Start Up to Growth Stage + Growth Stage to Expansion
- Vision + Strategy
- Strategies for Success
- One Last Note
You’re ready to grow – how exciting! You’ll need a strong foundation, including these basics. While it’s tempting (and sometimes necessary) to forge ahead quickly, reviewing these basics before periods of aggressive growth can lead to a smoother and less stressful experience.
1. Understand Your Market
Understanding your market and identifying your target audience and their needs is crucial when it comes to growing your business. It’s also helpful to review this information to evaluate if anything has changed since starting your business or since the last time your business grew significantly. For many businesses, the landscape changed greatly during and since the COVID pandemic, for example.
This knowledge will help you develop products or services that address customers’ pain points, giving you a competitive edge in the market. One way to understand your market is through market research. Market research provides insights into your customers’ preferences, buying behaviors, and expectations. You can conduct market research through surveys, focus groups, or by analyzing online reviews.
2. Develop a Strong Brand
A strong brand is a powerful tool for growing your business. Your brand is your identity, and it sets you apart from your competitors. That means it needs to be consistent across all touch points (logo, colors, font, voice, and tone) so that it’s memorable. It should also evoke emotion in your ideal customer, and they should be able to tell quickly what your brand stands for.
If your brand could use some polishing, start by defining (or revisiting) your brand values and mission statement. Your brand values and mission statement should align with your target audience’s values and beliefs. Once you have defined your brand values and mission statement, develop a visual identity that reflects your brand’s personality.
3. Consider How You’ll Expand Reach
Expanding your reach is critical to growing your business. One way for example, to expand your reach, is through digital marketing. Digital marketing provides a cost-effective way to reach your target audience, regardless of customers’ locations.
Some digital marketing strategies you should bolster ahead of making the push to grow include:
- Search engine optimization (SEO): Organic or on-page SEO involves optimizing your website to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). This strategy helps drive traffic to your website, which can lead to increased sales and revenue. We like Ubersuggest.
- Social media marketing: Social media marketing involves using social media platforms to promote your brand and engage with your target audience. Social media platforms provide an opportunity to connect with your audience on a personal level, building brand loyalty and trust.
- Content marketing: Content marketing involves creating and sharing valuable content with your target audience. This strategy helps establish your brand as a thought leader in your industry, increasing your credibility and authority.
- We offer done-for-you blog and social media content as well as full-service social media management – contact us to learn more.
4. Hire the Right People
Hiring the right people is critical to growing your business. Your employees are your most valuable asset, and they play a crucial role in driving your business’s success. Prior to scaling, it’s critical to assess your team’s skills – what reskilling or training might your existing employees need for success as your company grows? Where are the gaps you need to fill with new hires?
A strong company culture will help you determine if candidates will fit your mission and values beyond their skills and experience. At Catalyst, we have implemented Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead framework. We’ve read the book and worked through the accompanying exercises together so that we know and understand each other better and have a common vocabulary to work through conflict in a kind and respectful way. We also have lunch together weekly, kind of like a “family dinner,” giving us a chance to connect personally across departments. We walk the talk of “family at work.”
As part of a strong company culture, think about team building and employee appreciation, your communication style, and what values and behaviors you reward within your business.
5. A Focus on Finance
It is incredibly important that you focus on your finances ahead of growing your business. Growth typically implies higher expenses before you see increased revenues. That’s why a detailed financial plan, including forecasts and budgets, is your lifeline. Start by reviewing your P&L and talk with your CPA or bookkeeper if you’re not sure what you’re looking at.
Then, evaluate your expenses. It’s amazing how quickly costs creep up when we aren’t paying attention. Subscriptions don’t get canceled, interest rates and inflationary pressures increase the cost of services, and you might get better rates on utility rates by reviewing your plans.
Next, look at where your money is coming from. Is it what you’d expect or are there any surprises at which products, services, or sales channels are generating revenue? Are there patterns you can capitalize on?
Finally, be prepared for financial turbulence during a growth phase and consider seeking external funding if necessary. Your marketing and production costs are likely to increase, and you may need to hire more people (your payroll, taxes, and cost of benefits may increase) and invest in your infrastructure (computers, office space, and other platforms required to do business). Talk to your bank about a business line of credit which is revolving credit that you can use when you need it, pay down, and use again. You might also evaluate if it’s the right time to take on an investor or silent partner who’d be interested in investing funds into your business.
5. Boost Business Operations
Your operations are the lifeblood of your business. Your marketing can make phones ring or buyers click. But if you lack efficient systems from the time your team picks up the phone or receives an order through fulfilling on purchases, you’ll run into problems.
Before you grow, set the foundation for strong operations. First, all operational systems should be documented. Each team member should work from a manual that outlines their daily tasks and the overall important functions they exist to fulfill. This documentation should offer all the explanation needed to carry out the job. These documented systems will never take the place of thorough training, but imagine your employee calls out sick and you don’t know how to do her job. You should be able to read this documentation and follow along well enough to get through her tasks.
Now, evaluate your systems. This includes everything. How are incoming customer service and sales calls and emails routed and responded to? How are new relationships set up and orders fulfilled? What is your system for manufacturing or creating deliverables? Are there checks and balances in place? How is your bookkeeping and marketing done? Finally, how will these systems hold up once you double or triple revenue? Will you hire more people or will you need to create new positions (like middle managers, for example) that you don’t currently have on your organizational chart? By anticipating and preparing your operations, you’re more likely to avoid hiccups as you scale.
From Start Up to Growth Stage + Growth Stage to Expansion
Moving from Start Up to Growth Stage
For those transitioning from the startup to growth stage, you’ll notice that your business has started to take shape. Your product or service is out in the market, and you’re beginning to see a steady stream of customers and revenue. It’s an exciting place to be, but it also presents a new set of challenges.
This phase is where you need to start thinking about scaling efficiently. Your systems and processes need to keep up with your customer demands. You may need to hire more team members, implement new software, or outsource certain tasks. This is also the time to start investing in customer retention strategies. Loyal customers are a key driver of growth, so focus on nurturing those relationships.
A critical thing to remember during this stage is to manage growth responsibly. I’ve seen many businesses rush into rapid expansion only to crumble because their foundation wasn’t strong enough. So, be strategic and mindful of your growth pace.
Moving from Growth Stage to Expansion
Now, let’s move on to transitioning from the growth to expansion stage. This is a thrilling time when your business is not just surviving, but thriving. You’re established in your market, your customer base is solid, and your revenues are consistently strong.
At this point, you’re likely considering expanding into new markets to penetrate or new products or services to introduce. You might be thinking about international expansion or even going public. It’s all about building on the momentum you’ve gained and leveraging it for even more significant growth.
However, as you move into this stage, it’s essential to maintain the essence of what made you successful in the first place. Expansion can sometimes lead to a dilution of your core values or vision, so make sure these remain at the heart of your business, no matter how big you get.
Remember, each stage of growth requires a different mindset and approach. Identify which phase you’re in and adapt your strategies accordingly. You’ve already shown remarkable drive and resilience by getting this far – keep that spirit alive as you navigate your business’ growth journey.
Vision + Strategy
Now, let’s talk about vision and strategy. If you’re anything like me, you likely started your business with a clear vision in mind. But as we scaled, this vision had to be fine-tuned to accommodate our growth, and to adjust to rapidly changing technologies. Revisit your vision, make sure it aligns with your current aspirations and is flexible enough to embrace growth. Once your vision is clear, you can design a strategy that will allow you to meet your goals. Your strategy should incorporate long-term goals and the steps needed to achieve them. Here’s a refresher:
The vision of a company is an inspiring, aspirational statement that outlines what the company wants to achieve in the long-term. It serves as a guidepost for where the organization is heading. It’s essentially your ‘why’.
- Reflect on Your Core Values: What are the values that are deeply important to you and your business? How do they shape your decisions and actions?
- Imagine the Future: If your business achieves everything you hope for, what does that look like? Try to visualize it in as much detail as possible.
- Draft a Vision Statement: Write a clear, concise statement that encapsulates your future aspirations. It should be inspiring, memorable, and align with your core values.
- Get Feedback: Share the statement with your team, partners, or mentors. Their insights can help refine your vision.
- Refine and Finalize: Based on the feedback, refine your vision statement until it resonates with you and represents your long-term goals.
The company strategy, on the other hand, is the ‘how’. It’s a high-level plan that outlines how the company will achieve its vision. It includes the steps, resources, and decisions that need to be made to reach the long-term vision.
- Assess the Current Situation: Where is your business now? What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT)? This forms the basis of your strategy.
- Set Objectives: What specific, measurable goals can help you progress towards your vision? Break down your vision into smaller, achievable objectives.
- Develop an Action Plan: How will you achieve each objective? Consider the resources you need, the steps you must take, and how you’ll measure progress.
- Prioritize: With potentially many paths to reach your vision, you’ll need to prioritize. Which objectives are most critical or beneficial?
- Execute and Review: Implement your strategy, but remember that it’s a dynamic document. Regularly review and adjust your strategy as necessary.
Remember, both your vision and strategy should be living, breathing parts of your business. They’re not meant to be written and then forgotten. Regularly revisit them, assess your progress, and make adjustments as necessary. They are your roadmap to success, guiding you on your exciting journey of growth and expansion.
Strategies for Success
1. Expand Into New Markets
It’s time to think about where new revenue is coming from. For example, you might consider how you might expand into new markets – a powerful way to grow your business. Entering new markets provides an opportunity to tap into new customer bases, increasing your customer lifetime value. Before entering a new market, conduct market research to ensure there is a demand for your product or service. Here are three techniques that may work for you:
Indeed, expanding into new markets is an exciting step for any business, and it can significantly increase your customer base and revenue. However, it’s crucial to approach it strategically. Here are three techniques to consider:
- Market Segmentation: This technique involves dividing a market of potential customers into groups or segments based on different characteristics. The segments created are composed of consumers who will respond similarly to marketing strategies and who share traits such as similar interests, needs, or locations. For instance, you could segment your market by geographic location if you’re considering expansion into a new city or country. Alternatively, you can segment by customer demographics or behavior. Once you’ve identified a promising segment, tailor your marketing efforts to appeal to this group specifically.
- Partnerships and Alliances: Partnering with an established business in your new market can be a smart move. This could be a local business that complements your own, or it could be another business looking to reach your target market. Such partnerships can be beneficial for both sides, providing local knowledge and an existing customer base for you, and offering new products or services for the partner. This approach can lower the risk and provide a quick way to establish a presence in a new market.
- Product Diversification: This involves introducing new products or services to your existing market or developing a new product for new markets. This strategy requires significant market research and development but can allow you to reach entirely new customer bases. It’s important to note that diversification can be risky as it requires resources and involves moving into an area outside your current product range and potentially your expertise.
Remember, expanding into new markets is a substantial undertaking that requires careful consideration and planning. Understand the cultural, economic, and competitive landscape of the new market. And, most importantly, remain flexible and open to learning.
2. Acquire Competitors
Acquiring competitors can also be an effective way to grow your business. Acquiring a competitor provides an opportunity to increase your market share, expand your customer base, and gain access to new technologies and resources.
Before acquiring a competitor, conduct due diligence to ensure the acquisition aligns with your business goals and objectives. You should also assess the financial health and market position of the competitor. Working with a business broker and attorney will ensure you’re getting what you think you’re buying.
3. Develop Strategic Partnerships
Developing strategic partnerships can be a powerful way to grow your business without acquiring another business or pushing into new markets. Strategic partnerships provide an opportunity to access new customers, technologies, and resources by leveraging a partner’s audience.
Consider partnering with businesses that share your values and have a similar mission. You should also assess the potential benefits and risks of the partnership, ensuring it aligns with your business goals and objectives. You’ll want to work with another non-competing business that complements your brand and has a similar ideal customer.
One Last Note
As women entrepreneurs, we bring unique perspectives, strengths, and skills to our companies. Balancing multiple roles, we often excel at adaptability, multitasking, and emotional intelligence, making us well-equipped for the challenge of scaling. Unfortunately, though, those skills also mean that we often struggle to say no, and find success at the expense of our peace and well-being.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to put yourself first in everything you do. Without physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness, we can’t truly enjoy all that we’re creating. By making yourself the priority, you’ll continue to make the best decisions possible – for you, your family, your team, and your community – for the right reasons.
Remember, growing a business is a marathon, not a sprint. So, take a deep breath, celebrate your achievements, and prepare for the next exciting phase of your business journey. I’m here for you if you need help – see you at the top!