Growing your business is a topic I LOVE talking about because "growth" can mean SO many things. You might be thinking, "Isn't it a weird time to even think about growing a business when so many businesses are just trying to make it with the current economic climate?!" It is okay to think about growth right now. And if anything, now might be the best time to think about parts of your business that could contribute to various (and new) kinds of growth. Here are some things to consider...
Size of business — This kind of growth is when you are ready to scale your business, and you need help with more employees and/or need a bigger or better work space. This kind of growth is typically the sign of excellent numbers and means that the monetary growth of your business is strong. Be smart and cautious about what you're ready to spend to add more employees or add additional expenses (like an increase in rent). Also, when comparing your year-over-year numbers, make sure to analyze net profits (vs. only gross) as those numbers are more important in looking at what you can truly afford.
Focus — Analyzing your focus could include expanding your offerings, services, range of products OR honing in on what is working best for your business and putting more time, effort, or money into that. When you're thinking about growth, this is the time to look at numbers and also get a good look at what's helping your business grow. In some cases, you could be realizing what's really making money and what's not. If you have a part of your business that isn't making a ton of money currently but you love and see potential in it, that could be a great reason for keeping it going. However, if you have a part of your business that isn't profiting and you don't enjoy it, now is the time to let it go.
Quality of life — During the early stages of any business (and even beyond), we often sacrifice a ton of our personal time to pour our hearts and souls into getting a business off the ground. The life of a business owner is not a standard 9-to-5, and those who love what they do are okay with that. When thinking about growth, consider how your quality of life fits in with your business. Also, if you're quality of life isn't what you'd like it to be right now, then what is your goal and dream situation for the near future?
Here are some specific questions that you asked...
What are your best tips for growing your business?
- Assess what's working and what's not.
- Decide if you need more help to grow.
- Focus on quality over quantity and your true area of expertise.
How do I gain a larger social media audience for my business?
- Figure out what your story is and ways you can tell that story.
- Stay true to what makes you stand out (your style, your product, your story) and stand by that.
- Don't compare yourself to others. What works for others won't always work for you (and it shouldn't!).
- Post regularly on social media and make sure to engage with not only your followers but with the accounts you follow as well.
- If budget allows, you can gift or pitch to social media influencers to market your products (which can help grow your following) or put some money behind social media ads (this can be great for new launches or brand new companies).
How does a small business offer robust employee benefits keeping bottom line in mind?
For me, I added benefits as I could slowly and organically. I always did my best to offer the same things that larger companies could offer (paid vacation, maternity leave, IRAs, etc) because I wanted to make sure my employees were being taken care of as best as I could. Plus, I wanted to be a legit business and offer good benefits.
Keep in mind that the cost of every employee is roughly an additional 30% on top of their salary. That includes employer taxes, benefits you may be covering for them, insurance costs from your business to protect them, and other things. So be mindful when adding benefits and analyze your full costs to feel confident you can easily cover it.
How do you get new clients and retain current ones?
Getting new clients depends on your exact area of expertise and how much pitching is part of that industry. In some areas (like in advertising), pitching is a constant practice. And in others, people have so many word-of-mouth referrals that they may not need to pitch or be active on social media to market their work. Regardless, the best way to get new clients is to continue to contact brands or companies you want to work with and let them know who you are, share your work, and make it clear how you can help them. People don't just automatically find you. So help them find you! This can be through cold calls, cold emails, or friendly conversations on social media. Put yourself out there so more people find out who YOU are!
For current clients, make sure you follow-up after a finished project or job to make sure they were satisfied with your work together. If they were happy, here's a great time to ask them for a testimonial (or a public review) while it's fresh in their minds. Testimonials are great for your own reference if you ever need it for a future potential client or for your website. And, reviews are great if you have a public listing (like a Yelp or Houzz page). If a current client doesn't need your services again right away, be sure to keep them updated as you have new work so they know what you're up to as well. You may have assumed a past client will know to contact you if they want to work with you again—but sometimes they simply get busy or forget—so a reminder or update every so often is helpful.
To what point should you scale your business?
This is a very personal question and answer. How big do you want to grow your business? What does success mean to you? I surround myself with lots of other small business owners in various sizes and durations of business. I have some friends and colleagues who want to grow a business to sell, some whose goal is to get investors to truly expand, some who want dozens of physical locations, and some who want to earn enough just to live a simple, happy life. The range is wide, and all options are possible.
I used to think that I needed to keep making more money every year to feel successful in my business. But then what I realized was that physical growth wasn't what I wanted anymore. I wanted to grow as a person, a business owner, as a parent, as a friend...but that didn't mean I need more employees, more space, and more things. Earlier this year, I reached a fork in the road with my business where the current model that I had wasn't working for me anymore. I had a choice to either truly scale things up by going after an investor or scale things back to a size I could better manage staying self-owned. I chose the latter. There's a lot of pressure these days on small businesses to go bigger and bigger. It works great for some, but for others, that may not be what you want—and that's okay.
Also, businesses have phases of their lives. Some parts may be small and nimble, some may be robust and full. There isn't one way to be and one size to be, and it's okay for all of that to evolve over time. Take growth day-by-day and as it makes sense to you!
(Photo by Lily Glass)