What does it really take to grow a business? Unless you deliberately keep your eye on the big picture, business can be a little bit of ready, shoot, aim. As we start 2015 off, it’s time to create that vision for what you want to happen this year.
You can’t discount luck in business: meeting the right person, a great referral, being in the right place at the right time. But without a little aim, or a vision of where you want to go, it’s pretty hard to grow.
1. Create Your Vision
Ask yourself the hard questions:
- How big do I want my company to be?
- What is my company known for? What do I want it to be known for?
- How do I want my employees to feel about their jobs?
- What industries do we want to work in?
- What will my role be?
- What does our every day workload look like?
- How do we measure success?
These questions aren’t new. Countless business planning books and websites offer similar, if not the same, questions. The answers – your answers – will provide the insight you need in order to know what you need to do to grow your organization.
2. Know Where You Stand
Now that you have a vision, you need a detailed map — a plan. To create that, you need to know where you stand today.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Which of your products and services are successful? How profitable are they? What is their market share?
- How efficiently are you operating? Are you making the best use of technology and automation to get the job done? Are there areas you can save time?
- Do your employees have the skills, resources and tools they need to excel?
- What is your current capacity in terms of staff time, facilities, equipment and information technology?
- Do you have an accurate picture of your financial performance? Consider cash flow, working capital and cost basis.
- Do you have the resources in place to maintain your current business AND grow?
As we head into tax season, digging deep into financials is a necessity. Having an accurate picture of the current operations and finances will help you determine the next steps to grow your business.
3. Create the Map to Meet Your Vision
Once you know what you’re trying to achieve and understand what’s happening in your business, create the barebones plan.
- Use the financial reports you’ve gathered to check your margins. I haven’t run across a company yet that wasn’t trying to increase their revenue year to year. Are you profitable? Do competitive research to determine if your pricing is in line with your competitors. Is it time to raise your prices? A small increase in pricing can make a huge improvement to the bottom line.
- Grow business within your current clientele. It is less expensive to keep clients than to acquire new ones. Upselling a current client, who knows and trusts you, is also much easier. Find their pain points and determine where else you can help them. Do you need to change your service levels, add additional products or even create a passive income stream leveraging a relationship with current clients?
- Examine your processes. Time is money. Increasing efficiencies can decrease costs and improve your overall company performance. Do you have enough people? Do you have the right people? Are they doing things as efficiently as possible?
4. Make Time
The hardest thing about growing your business is the time it takes to do things differently. Day-to-day business can get in the way of achieving long-term growth goals. As you begin, ensure you have a strategy to keep your vision in focus.
Here are some tips to help:
- Delegate or outsource. If there are things you can get others to do for you, do it. Investing time into your business is worth the expenditure.
- Create a project plan. Pretend you are your own client or customer. Divide the project into a timeline with milestones and set aside time each day to meet those expectations.
- Keep it a priority. It’s so easy to put your own business on the back burner when client issues come up. Make sure you stay focused on your own business goals.
- Have an accountability partner. Having an individual or group with whom you share your plans helps ensure you stick to them.
With my busy days as CEO, it takes a concentrated effort to think about the future, let alone get a perspective on how we need to do things differently. Stay with it! It pays off in the long run.
This post was originally featured on AQB’s blog here.
Marjorie Adams is president/CEO of AQB, a business process & software consulting firm that improves the efficiency of client accounting departments. The firm specializes in QuickBooks integration and conversion projects. In her spare time, Marjorie catches up with one of her six sisters, sweats through CrossFit training, dresses up her four cats, reads a business book or watches the latest AMC show.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.