When it comes to growing a new business, the options can feel overwhelming. New businesses often struggle to find steady cash flow, so you must spend wisely. Knowing where to focus your efforts is the key to smart expansion.
Over the past 16 months, Jarell and I have experimented with many ways to grow our business. We spent money on classes, software, seminars, memberships—you name it. What we’ve found is that when it comes to growth in the early days of starting a business, your efforts must be laser-focused on what will not only grow your business, but grow it in the right direction.
Define Your Business’ Purpose before You Grow
So, what is the “right direction” to grow your business? Your business should have clear goals and a clear purpose. If your business’ goal is simply “to make as much money possible,” you are going to struggle. Narrow down your playing field to a specific sector.
If you are going to run an online retail business, you will do better if you specialize in a certain genre of products than if you sell anything and everything. In a service business, you will do better if you offer a specific genre of services. Remember at the beginning of Hello Dolly! when Dolly tells the whole town she can solve any problem, “Just leave everything to me?” Here’s the soundtrack for reference:
Well, that “I do it all” idea may have worked in 1900, but in 2019, it just makes you look like a mess.
In our business, Jarell and I offer very specific services: We build online learning materials. Everything we do in our business supports that goal. This blog is even used in one of our online college courses (Hello to Mr. Beers’ students!).
With that in mind, we can focus our business growth on supporting that business goal. Once you have defined your business goal, here are a few areas where you can focus your energy on growing your business:
Invest in Your Own Learning
While my graduate degrees are focused on education (MS Instructional Design, MA English, MFA Creative Writing), my undergraduate degree is in business management. On the surface, you would think that would have prepared me well to be an entrepreneur in the education field. I assure you, it did not.
We had–and still have–a lot to learn. It’s humbling just how much we have had to learn in this first year of business. From updates to tax laws to even how to figuring out how to start an online K-12 private school, we learn every single day.
If you are looking to grow your business, start by growing your own knowledge. Learn everything you can. Take a (reputable) online course about human resources. Go to a conference for people in your field and network with presenters. Sign up for a community college course in accounting. Get a new certification.
Whether you are learning about launching a successful microgreens business from Microgreens Farmer, or you are simply attending a local WordPress users meeting (they are in every major town, BTW—we attended one last year in Orlando), there is plenty to learn. If you don’t know where to start, go on Meetup.com and see what like-minded people in your area are doing to expand their businesses. In Orlando, there’s even a group for introverted entrepreneurs!
Hire the Right People
Jarell and I have been working to build and grow our team for years—long before we took the leap to start our own business. We’ve invested a great deal of time and resources into turning talented interns into exceptional employees. Our hiring pool for any given project is comprised of people we have known a very long time.
But, if you aren’t as lucky as we are to have a wide hiring pool, you can still hire the right staff for your business. If you don’t have a great deal of money, start by hiring freelancers that you can try on for size without make a huge hiring commitment. You can also run an advertisement for an intern at internships.com.Interns work for free or for cheap just to gain experience, so make sure you have plenty of tasks that will help them gain experience.
Knowing the right people to hire takes time and savvy. The best advice I can give you is always follow your gut instinct. If the person with the prettiest resume and best credentials is a total jerk when you interview, don’t be afraid to hire someone whose credentials are a little less but makes you feel at ease. You can always fill in knowledge gaps, but you can’t change a person’s personality.
To grow, you must refine the way you market your business. You may have started your business with word-of-mouth referrals, but eventually, you will need to invest in promoting your business. Small expenses like business cards are no-brainers, but in a world where most people search for services online, you have to position yourself so that your intended audience can find you easily and at the right time.
With marketing, start with the free stuff, like creating social media pages. Google picks up Facebook pages, so at the very least, start there by posting important information like your hours, contact info, and services offered. Of course, you should have a website. Most bloggers recommend BlueHost because they have huge referral bonuses. We, however, like InMotionHosting because they have stellar customer support, excellent up time, and amazingly simple tools.
Once you are ready to invest in promotional advertising, try Facebook where you can strategically target specific demographics, or Google Adwords, where you can set very specific spending limits.
Walk before You Run
One of the biggest mistakes new businesses make is trying to grow too fast. You want your company to grow and thrive organically. However, it takes time to build a business. It takes time to learn how to run your business effectively and how to give your customers precisely what they want. Money trickles in slowly at first—don’t spend until you have a good, solid safety net in the bank.
As far as our business, what I wish I had known in 2017 when we made the jump to strike out on our own, is this: You are going to work far more than you ever imagined you would. All these “internet millionaires” who are telling you that you can run a business in four hours per week are full of you-know-what. We expected a lot of work, but we didn’t expect we’d be working months on end without any sort of time off, or even a moment to go to the grocery store. Running your own business is hard work, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Believe me, it’s worth it.
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