If you're an entrepreneur and have finally gotten your small business up and running, the last thing you want is for it to grow at a lumbering pace. However, experiencing rapid growth can lead to a whole other set of problems. So, how can you ensure that your startup grows at a healthy enough pace so that it will succeed? For starters, you have to make sure that it's lean. But, how can you accomplish that and make sure it grows quickly enough?
1. Do it your way.
No two startups are the same. Which means that you need to find the best way possible to get your startup off the ground. Inc.com shares the example of Tony Conrad, who has launched Oddpost, Sphere, and About.me. As noted in the article, "sometimes he used his connections in the blogosphere, and other times he used social media."
Dave Kerpen, co-founder of Likeable Media, recalls that when starting out he struck a barter deal instead of receiving cash when working with 1-800-Flowers.com. As he states on Inc.com, "So we got $48,000 in flowers and gifts that year, and we "bought" flowers for prospects, clients, staff, and anyone who uttered our name on Twitter that year. And, while we didn't get any cash from 1-800-Flowers.com, the return on investment was tremendous."
2. Listen and understand your market.
This has been a point that has been discussed time and time again, but it's one of the most important pieces of advice that small businesses need to hear; listen and understand your market.
Don't be afraid to listen to what your clients, prospective customers or competitors are discussing on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can do this by identifying the specific terms or phrases that are most relevant to your business so that you can gain insights into your industry and network with influencers.
Another perk of listening to your audience is that you'll be better suited to understand their wants, needs, and how to reach them. For example, even though social platforms like Vine and Tumblr are popular it doesn't mean that a law firm will reach its intended audience there.
3. Have the right team in place.
Christian Lanng, CEO of business software provider, Tradeshift informs Business News Daily that "Hiring the absolute best people you can is a surefire way to ensure fast growth." April Davis, founder of online dating service Cupid's Cronies, adds "They need to be people who aren't afraid to roll up their sleeves." The words, "'That's not my job,'" does not exist in their vocabulary. They have to be dedicated to the mission."
4. Use the right tools.
I briefly allude to this when mentioning social media listening, but make the most out of the tools available at your disposable. Not only are these tools affordable (even free), they can also boost your startup.
For example, Google pretty much has everything you need to get started with Gmail, Google Docs, Google Analytics and a Keyword Planner. Of course, Google isn't the only company that is offering free tools for startups. Tools like Dropbox, Evernote, Boomerang, Trello, MailChimp, Square, SurveyMonkey and many, many, many more have free options.
Speaking of freebies, make use of free press distribution from PRLog, PR.com, Newsvine, PR-inside, or PR Urgent. I use these on my personal and hosting site all the time. It increases my reach and allows me to feature new problems that we're solving (we don't focus on products but problems people are having).
5. Think in quarters.
It's no secret that you need to always be looking forward as a business owner. But, how are you going to divide your future timeline up? Jerome Knyszewski suggests on LinkedIn that you think in quarters. He states:
"The big NYE boys are doing it, the IRS encourages all to it... So should you! Instead of nebulous and evasive resolutions and goals for your business in 2015, divide the year into four. Eat your elephant, one bite at a time! -one quarter at a time-
This simple way of looking at your year, will make it easier to set realistic goals and therefore reach them. BUT, if you were to NOT meet your expectations, no big deal, you can assess, learn, and readjust for the next quarter."
6. Have a strong online presence and reputation.
It's 2015. So, what's the excuse for not having a website, blog, and/or social media account? Of course, it's just not enough to have a website or Facebook account. You need your site to be optimized by having outstanding content that your audience wants to digest and share--here are a couple of guides from Moz and Google to get you started. You have to engage your audience on social media-- SocialQuickStarter.com is a great place to start if you're new to the whole social media thing.
But, being active and boosting your online presence presents another problem; your reputation.
It's tempting for marketers to angrily respond to negative comments, but that can only lead to more problems. Instead, you want to build your online reputation by assessing your reviews, welcoming feedback and regularly engaging with customers and influencers.
There's one final piece of advice from Micah Baldwin of Graphicly that I feel can be extremely beneficial; "I've only tried to meet interesting people, and to be friendly. I don't ever think about what I can get. I think about only what I can give."
7. Educate yourself.
It's extremely easy to overlook essential business skills, laws, regulations, and insurance considerations while developing a product, talking to customers, and wowing investors. But, what may seem like small oversights could come back to haunt you.
Even though you already have a full plate, it's in the best interest to educate yourself by looking into the types of insurance that small businesses need and the laws & regulations that are required. You can also pick up some free classes from Udemy or CreativeLive to enhance your overall business skills.
8. Stay lean.
Just because your startup is making a bit of money doesn't mean that you need to go on a spending spree. Remember, you may need to use this overhead if you need to scale up or pivot. A couple of ways to accomplish this is by leasing your software, working remotely, avoiding over-outsourcing, and realizing that early revenue is funding and not payday.