We always root for the underdog, the family-owned startup. Rarely do we cheer for the success of big business or a CEO with a 7-figure salary. It’s hard to imagine and easy to forget these corporations were once small businesses founded by entrepreneurs who faced incredible challenges. Yet, they pressed on, overcame their obstacles and built their startups into multi-million dollar household names.
Now, here you are the founder of a small business. You have survived startup and built a sustainable business, and it’s time to take your company to the next level. How do you continue to manage an evolving business?
Follow your business plan. Always remember where you’ve been but more importantly, know where you are headed. Review your key performance indicators from the previous calendar year and raise the bar. If you didn’t reach your goal, don’t look back, continue moving forward and add 5%. Add 10% to your stretch goal. Share your objectives with your staff and meet monthly as a company to review them – where are you in the process? What’s in the pipeline? Find solutions to your challenges.
Recruit passion, train skills. You can provide on-the-job training, professional development and continued education. Passion, on the other hand, comes from within. It isn’t something you can teach. The more enthusiastic someone is about their position and the company, the more they will care about their job performance. As a result, productivity will be higher.
Evolve and adapt quickly. The first generation of the iPhone was released in June 2007 and in September 2012, Apple released the iPhone 5. Technology we used last year is already outdated. Keep a close eye on what is trending and be ready to execute proven advancements. Let’s be up front – If you are unwilling to grow, learn and adapt, you are willing to close your doors.
Specialize. When you opened your business, you were willing to work late and take on projects outside of your service offerings. Now it’s time to stop pretending. If you claim to be an expert in everything, chances are you are selling someone short. It’s better to be an expert in one area and build a reputation for quality, rather than hand over average work. It will earn you more respect in the long run and create more opportunities to build partnerships and work with larger brands.
Create culture. Most small businesses are known for their company culture. Then business starts to boom and new personalities are introduced. The key to maintaining your best places to work environment is knowing when and how to throw a party. Celebrating your employees’ success is just as important as celebrating your company’s success. Overall, it’s the little things that make the biggest impact like fun, engaging team building exercises, meetings in the park, donuts on a random Tuesday, remembering an employee’s birthday and stocking the fridge with refreshments.
Be authentic online and offline. If you grew up in the generation of relationship networking, you understand the value of face-to-face communication and picking up the phone. The introduction of the Internet didn’t change the value of meaningful relationships. Treat every networking opportunity like a neighborhood barbeque; know who you are talking to before you hand them your business card, and ask what you can do for them before you give them your elevator pitch.
Take risks. We’ve all heard the saying, great risk equals great reward. Hire a management team made up of proven leaders with a strong following. Pitch bigger brands, compete against larger agencies with confidence, know when to increase your price structure and apply large company operations to your small business.
Give back. I say it to my staff frequently, success means nothing if you have no one to share it with. You were a startup once. You know what it is like to be a struggling entrepreneur. Mentor, donate and volunteer. It’s the right thing to do, it feels awesome and it’s another tactic to build company culture.
My best advice is to stay focused on your company’s vision. A lack of clear direction for a business is an open invitation to its closing.
This column also appeared in the Northern Nevada Business Weekly.