Three Smart Strategies for Growing Your Small Business
Updated: Jun 1
Small businesses are driven by passion and good old-fashioned sweat and hard work. But to really function well, they need processes. In fact, small businesses run most effectively when there are systems in place. Although every entrepreneur wants to build something that lasts, not every business makes it. In fact, only about two-thirds last two years, and about half make it to five.
So what steps can you take to ensure you’re one of the ones that makes it? A focus on systems and process is a good place to start.
Related Post: Entrepreneurs: Six Hacks for Maximizing Efficiency
1. Focus on Finances, Accounting and Bookkeeping
You’ve got no business without money – that’s why it’s important to choose and use a good accounting system. If you’re still using spreadsheets and winging it, consider focusing on this ASAP. This article provides a great overview and can help you choose the system that is right for you.
Then, consider hiring a professional bookkeeper – you don’t want mistakes, and you don’t want your finances to be an afterthought. Also, a professional bookkeeper, who looks at your business from the outside, can easily find trends and issues you may not see.
Related Post: The Entrepreneur's Secret Weapon: Outsourcing
Just recently, we’ve helped one client see that she was losing a significant amount to credit card processing fees when her retainer-based business lends itself to offering clients two options – pay by check or ACH transfer, or pay a credit card convenience fee. In another client’s case, we noticed they were double-paying certain subscriptions, or could move to cheaper tiers of service with some of their expenses.
2. Knowledge Sharing Is Critical
Entrepreneurs often hold way too much information “in their heads” – that makes it hard for them to train staff as they grow, resulting in an experience for customers that may not be consistent. Or, they hire a key staff person early, and that person knows the ins and outs of the company – but when they leave, that institutional knowledge is lost.
Take the time today to, at a minimum, set up a Google Drive that is accessible by everyone in the company. Post historical information, key contact information, copies of RFPs and other documents you produce – basically anything you can think of – there. You’ll need to put someone in charge of keeping it organized, granting permissions to employees (we have some clients who have set up folders only for Board or executive team members, or members of specific functional teams in the organization), and coordinating with HR to grant/deny access as people are hired or leave the company.
Related Post: 7 Steps to Creating a Knowledge-Sharing Culture
3. Map the Process for Every Area of Your Business – Then Measure Results
In order to truly understand how your business works, and where you can make improvements, documenting processes with written process maps can be transformative! Entrepreneurs and business managers should take the following steps to map our each area of your business – from sales, to product development, marketing, and customer service.
1) Write out all manual and automated steps in the process and highlight any redundancies or unnecessary work (you’ll finally see these things when you write it all out!)
2) Identify missing steps – what should be happening that isn’t?
3) Map desired outcomes so you can compare to actual results
This exercise will do a number of things:
Help you see where you’re wasting energy – or not focusing enough
Imagine – and proactively avoid – breakdowns in customer delivery, service, or sales results
Identify whether – and when – investments in technologies would help improve performance in any of these areas; too often, small businesses purchase technology based on bells and whistles instead of their relevance to their processes
Easily measure your outcomes – and make adjustments to the process if necessary
Related Post: Achieving Operational Excellence for Your Small Business