October 22, 2014

5 Essential Tips for Growing Your Business

tips for growing your business

To say that getting a business off the ground is hard work would be an understatement. Whether you’re still drafting your first business plan or recently opened your store, starting and running a business can be an exhilarating – and terrifying – experience.

Six years ago, I launched my Internet marketing startup WordStream. Today, WordStream is a +$10 million company, but back then, this major milestone felt a long way off.

I’m going to share five tips that can help you grow your business – advice that I wish someone had told me back then.

Tips for Growing Your Business

1. Accept That You Can’t Do Everything

Part of the allure of starting your own business is embarking on the exciting adventure of becoming your own boss. As a small-business owner, you’re going to have to be comfortable wearing a lot of hats – salesperson, accountant, marketing manager – but that doesn’t mean that you can (or should) do everything yourself.

Sure, you might be able to manage by yourself for a while, or maybe even thrive, but it can’t last if you want your business to grow. Knowing when to seek out talented people who share your vision is a crucial litmus test for any business owner. There’s only so much you can do on your own, so if you’ve got your sights set on ambitious growth, come to terms with the fact that you’ll need help before long.

You don’t need to relinquish any of your freedom or control to make this happen – but you do need to realize that you’re only one person.

2. Keep Your Doubts to Yourself

tips for growing your business

To launch and run a successful business, you need to have passion, drive and confidence. However, even the best of us have doubts, and experiencing apprehension about your new venture is completely normal.

On the other hand, you need to know when – and to whom – voicing these doubts is a good idea. Outside influencers, whether venture capitalists or the manager of your local credit union, want to invest in people with confidence. This means you need to work on your game face when things get tough or you need to approach investors for money.

Similarly, your employees need to know they can put their faith in you – so don’t wear your heart on your sleeve if the going gets tough.

Yes, everyone has doubts and fears, and to say otherwise would be a lie. However, you need to inspire confidence in those looking to you, so be mindful of how you behave in front of others, especially when things don’t go your way.

3. Run the Business You Want, Not the Business You Have

Ever hear the expression, “Fake it ‘til you make it?” Well, this principle is something you should (and may need to) adopt, especially in the early days of your business.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should intentionally mislead your clients about the scope of your business or what you can do for them. I am saying, however, that until you begin to establish a reputation, you need to instill confidence in new clients. One way to accomplish this is to “run the business you want,” even if you’re not quite there yet.

This concept applies to every aspect of your business, from the language you use on your marketing materials and website to the way you greet prospective clients. If you project an air of confidence and authority when dealing with new customers, you can make a great first impression that offsets your relative lack of experience or smaller size.

You don’t have to approach every interaction like the CEO of a multinational organization, but you should think big when growing your business and make sure your client-facing materials (and employees) exemplify everything you want your business to be.

4. Get Used to Hearing ‘No’

tips for growing your business

Making the decision to start your own business is a choice that only you can make. It’s an adventure that only you can decide to embark upon. Unfortunately, when it comes to many other aspects of making your dream a reality, other people are often involved – other people who have a say in whether certain things happen or not.

As a new business owner, people are going to tell you “no” – a lot. Prospective clients and customers will tell you they’re not interested, investors will pass on your idea, and banks will turn you down for loans. However, don’t despair. Rejection is actually awesome.

Why? Because every time someone says “no,” you can choose to see it as an opportunity. The bank turned down your loan application? Maybe it’s a problem with your business plan, not your idea. Client not interested in your services? Perhaps you can develop your pitch, or make your service offering more compelling?

However you look at it, rejection is inevitable as a business owner – but you get to choose how to react.

5. Don’t Dip into Your Business’ Bank Account

Once you’re up and running, it’s tempting to see your business as an extension of your checking account, but you must resist the temptation to “borrow” funds from your business or splash out on lavish expenses, at least in the early days.

Growth costs money, even for the most successful ventures. Every time you dip into your business’ funds, you’re hurting your chances for growth. Make sure you’re adequately compensated for your work, but keep your salary modest and make reinvesting in your business a top priority.

Everything your business needs to grow – space, talent, equipment – costs money, and the less you put back into your business, the slower you’ll grow. The more money you put back into the business, the faster you’ll be able to expand your operation, and the more profitable your company could become in the future.

Growth Photo via Shutterstock, Shh Photo via Shutterstock, Listening Photo via Shutterstock

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Larry Kim


Larry Kim Larry Kim founded WordStream in 2007. He serves as company CTO and is the author of 4 Award-Winning Books on Software Development. Larry also blogs at the WordStream Blog and practices photography in his spare time.

17 Reactions

  1. In regards to #4, I would say that SMB owners need to get used to saying no themselves as well. You can’t be all things to everyone, so in order to focus on what you do that is exceptional you will have to tell some people no. No they can’t have that advanced feature that only 10% of users will ever use. No you’re not going to accommodate their unreasonable exception to your policy. Get used to no and start using no to your benefit.

  2. I really like the 3rd point – running the business you want, not the one you have. I think it’s a great way to get into the mindset of being where you want the business to be and propelling yourself forward to actually achieving it.

  3. Great article Larry! I would also add a sixth tip – take risks. Considering that starting a business is a massive risk in itself, later on many entrepreneurs try to play it safe, too safe even.
    Risk is, by nature, scary. It’s uncertain and unpredictable. Sometimes however you have to take a leap of faith and jump! Who knows what surprise may be waiting for you just around the corner.

    • Didi,

      I agree with your statement. Without taking any risks, I don’t think you are are able to grow your business.

    • Didi: I appreciate the insight you gave re: some people tending to hold back on risk taking in their business, forgetting that they took a risk in starting their business in the first place. Thanks for that insight as I didn’t see it that way before. We sometimes forget we have the strengths we think we lack.

  4. Here at InTouch, we have developed our own version of how to grow your small business. Have a look at our Small Business Growth Formula. If you want to grow your small business, but have limited time and resources, we’ve developed a formula, that if followed is guaranteed to make your business growth easier and faster. Feedback is welcomed!

    Access the Small Business Growth Formula Here:

    http://www.intouchcrm.com/growth/

  5. Didi: Could you list some companies in your area that have gained growth by taking a risk?

  6. I completely agree with #3. Passion should be the driving force in any type of business. Else, it will die. With that, it is easy to do the other steps. It is easier to be confident and to keep on pushing even if you always hear ‘No’.

  7. Talk 1% + Think 2% + Do 97% = Success
    Make team happy and we make clients happy.

  8. Accepting that you can’t do everything doesn’t necessarily mean having to go on a hiring frenzy. A lot of times business owners try to do everything themselves because they can’t afford to hire other people. However some business specific processes such as bookkeeping and AP/AR can be outsourced to a service provider. This frees up time for the business owner so he or she can spend more time growing the business – while allowing back office processes to be managed off-site at a monthly, budget conscious rate.

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