Tips to help you take your business to the next level
Let’s say you’ve got your business through those initial start-up hurdles and you’re thinking about stepping up to the next level. How can you keep growth on track and avoid stagnation?
Here are 5 great tips for any SME on the up and up…
1. Deal with your Weaknesses.
So obvious, but still a crucial starting point. Knowing your weaknesses in business is as important as identifying your strengths – and this means for yourself, your Team and your brand.
Where are your skill or knowledge gaps? What areas could be improved? Are you delegating enough?
Talking to your Team is invaluable here. They might throw up issues or concerns which you’re just not aware of.
Talk to them about what they would improve, where they think the business could (and should) progress and what they feel you could do better for your customers which would make their jobs easier.
You might find that getting them out of the office environment results in more useful information, with employees more likely to be candid when the setting is less formal (probably better without booze though!).
This is such a useful exercise that you’d really benefit from making it a regular thing.
As Management Consultant Russell Watkins says;
It’s not enough just to run your business as usual, you must improve it to retain customers and survive. Have a plan for the top “vital few” things needing improvement this year, remembering that your resources and time are limited. Choose three things that are dissatisfying your customers and/or causing internal operational problems and go after them. Make sure that everyone knows these are the focus.
From ‘Expert Business Bloggers Share 50 tips for SMEs’ gazprom-energy.co.uk
An added bonus here is that involving your Team in this way gives them ownership in the business – crucial to keeping good staff who want to better themselves and genuinely care about the brand’s success.
2. Know your Team.
Which leads nicely onto the first phase of shoring up those weaknesses – look at your Team before you go anywhere else.
You never know what hidden talents you might find, and you don’t want to demotivate staff by overlooking their existing skills or aspirations.
It’s highly likely some will be willing to take on some extra responsibility or to upskill, whether on-the-job or through external training. Maybe delegate some jobs to free up some of your own time to work on other areas which need more strategic focus.
If you find skill or knowledge gaps which can’t be filled internally but which don’t necessitate taking someone on full-time, do consider using freelance and/or virtual support for a more flexible option.
There are thousands of skilled freelancers out there, and lots of places you can look online – including:
• The Society of Virtual Assistants
3. Revisit your Mission Statement.
Have you always had a really clear vision of your purpose? If not, it’s time to work it out.
A good mission statement should cover where you’re going and how you plan to get there.
It should define what you do for your customers, your employees and the community as a whole, where applicable.
How do you want to be seen, and what do you need to do to make that a reality? What differentiates you from your competitors?
If you’ve not done one before, there are lots of great resources online to help – check out these great articles:
forbes.com/4 questions to get a great mission statement
entrepreneur.com/how to write your mission statement
And, even if you’ve always had your mission statement sussed, take the time to revisit it and make sure your strategy is on point before you go further.
4. It’s not what you know…
Network, network, network.
Even with an established business, you should make time to attend relevant networking events, in person and virtually.
They’re a great place to forge valuable relationships and get access to knowledge and tips which you might otherwise miss – worse, which you might miss but a competitor might not!
Plus you never know who you might meet, and what they might do to help your business progress.
Always make good use of your existing contacts to expand your own network wherever possible – and make sure it’s a reciprocal thing.
You’ll have more chance of getting those invaluable word-of-mouth referrals on an ongoing basis if you’ve established goodwill – so make sure you’re giving back as much as you’re taking.
5. Step Back.
Don’t fall into the trap of becoming too involved in everything, or of making yourself a martyr because of a refusal to delegate.
If you’re guilty of micromanaging every decision made or of hanging onto tasks because ‘no-one can do it as well as you can’, then you need to take a step back and reassess (and I have been very guilty of the latter, so I know first-hand!).
A Director’s time is better spent working on the strategy of the business. You need distance to be able to look at the Company as a whole entity and work out what you need to do to get where you want to go.
Most importantly – you need to be able to trust your Team to implement that vision.
Be honest with yourself and leave the people you have hired to fill the role you chose them to fill – or choose different people.
But it shouldn’t always be you.
We all love a success story…
If there’s something that worked really well for your business, I’d love to hear from you! Please share your top tips below or connect with me on Twitter.