Business Growth

True business growth is not only growth for yourself, but in true entrepreneurial spirit, it is growth for those around you.

A paycheck should never enough for any of us. There needs to be more, there needs to be meaning. And that is a very important part of business growth.

More than 30 million small businesses currently operate in the United States, but no two businesses follow the same path to success. You could be running a one-man shop operating out of a spare bedroom or an accounting firm that just surpassed 100 employees. No matter the type of business, the entrepreneurs behind these enterprises bring their own life experiences, knowledge, and skillset to their roles.

They struck out on a risky and often complicated journey to create something bigger than themselves. And alongside the success of their business comes the need to grow and to continue meeting demand. The phrase “business growth” likely conjures images of a bigger location, more staff, and a larger offering of products and services, but that growth also occurs behind the scenes and on a grander scale. There’s much more to it than what your customers can observe.

When it came to growing their mortgage company, The CoLab’s founders Megan Marsh and Andres Munar wanted that expansion to reflect not only proper planning and dedication to working hard but also their commitment to elevating their business through collaboration.

“You want to see growth for yourself, but true entrepreneurs want to see growth for other people,” Megan says. “A paycheck is never enough for any of us. There needs to be more, there needs to be meaning. And that is very important to us.”

At its heart, business growth is driven by people. By you, your employees, your customers, and the greater community. It takes the right combination of people to take your business from a concept to an operation that is poised for growth. Taking the plunge and investing into tools, resources, and systems to create and maintain that growth can be intimidating but The CoLab is here to help.

Facing Challenges

The need to grow is exciting. Your business has taken off, and there’s more demand than you can meet. It’s everything you’ve imagined in your vision of being an entrepreneur. But then you realize how much more you need to work to keep up, and the systems you created to get the company off the ground are no longer efficient. It seems everything needs to change, but you don’t have a spare moment to think.

You’re not alone. Many business owners identify a lack of time and resources as their top challenge when it comes to running their operation. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of a new business, it’s easy to push aside the big picture to take care of what you feel are the most pressing needs. But, if you’re spending each day with your head down and putting out metaphorical fires instead of looking forward and planning for the future, you’ll miss opportunities for growth.

Any business can expand in the short term but to grow successfully in the long term requires intentionality. That means taking time to step back and analyze every aspect of your business.

Once you know where you stand, you can plan where you want to go. You want to grow smart, not fast. A common pitfall of new businesses is scaling too fast. It feels like the right thing to do in the moment, but growing too fast can lead to a host of problems. For example:

  • To keep up with demand and limit cost increases, you decide to use cheaper materials for your product, which in turn leads to poor customer experiences and bad reviews.
  • You don’t have time to train new employees as thoroughly as you used to, leading to issues throughout your business.

It’s worth asking yourself tough questions about your business and what the future may bring. An analysis of failed startups completed by CB Insights found that the top reason they were unsuccessful was a lack of market need for their product or services. Other reasons included a lack of funding, poor products, increased competition, a poor team, and poor marketing. Asking hard questions will help you prepare for the future because you’re identifying outcomes that can help guide your business to sustained growth. So, what should you be asking yourself? Here are a few examples:

  • Is my product or service still relevant? How about in five years?
  • How many new customers can I handle before their satisfaction with my service or product may slip?
  • Do we need new equipment or even a new office/manufacturing location? What costs will that add to my overhead?

Every set of questions will be different depending on the industry, but entrepreneurs in any field can overcome challenges associated with the growing pains of a business if they put in the work to find the solutions.

Planning for Success

One of the first steps you likely took as an entrepreneur was crafting a business plan (Didn’t write a plan? Listen to this episode of The CoLab podcast for resources on how to put together a business plan). Once your business is up and running, you can’t just file that plan away on a shelf. It’s the foundation of your present venture and a tool you can use to guide its future.

So, what does successful business growth look like to you? Adding one more employee? Five more employees? Write it down! Recording your vision will help you stay on track and monitor your business growth in a proactive manner rather than reactive. It’s the idea of always thinking ahead. That said, no one can predict the future. As times change, your plan will need to as well. Downturns in the market, natural disasters, and new technology are all disruptors that will force you to reevaluate your business operations.

An important part of your plan for growth is your team. Many entrepreneurs often adopt the mindset that if they aren’t doing everything in their business, they aren’t working hard enough. However, Megan and Andres find that one of the keys to entrepreneurial success is building a strong team (You can learn more about building an all-star team in this episode of The CoLab podcast). As a small business, it may seem counterintuitive to add the costs of more employees to your budget, but bringing in more people can increase your earning potential. It’s something Megan and Andres experienced firsthand in their own business ventures. Before partnering with Andres, Megan managed her own business. Her entrepreneurship coach advised her to hire three people in the span of two months, a move that seems daunting and expensive on its face but led to higher revenues in the long run.

It’s important to understand that just hiring more people won’t fix all your growing pains. It’s also vital to implement systems that can function without your presence. The growth of your business hinges on the efficiency of your team. Efficiency is the key word here. If your team is limited by systems that always require your input, the business can only move and grow as fast as you allow it. You need to build a business that can stand without you in some capacity.

“We created a business where we don’t need to be there all the time but can still function successfully,” Megan says. “If every customer has to talk to myself or Andres, then our business would never grow because there are only so many people we can talk to.”

In addition to expanding your team, the time may come to increase the products or services your business offers as a means of diversifying your revenue streams. It’s a natural step but like the others outlined in this article, it’s one best taken with preparation and research.

Growing through Collaboration

It might not be the first thing to pop into your head, but collaboration is a key resource for spurring business growth. Without it, Megan and Andres say their business, Keystone Alliance Mortgage, wouldn’t be as successful as it.

The act of collaborating allows you to tap into the perspective, expertise, and experience of other entrepreneurs. They can assist you in solving current problems with your business and anticipating future challenges. You can meet fellow entrepreneurs all around your community. Check out events hosted by local chambers of commerce, Young Professionals chapters, and industry-specific professional associations. Many colleges and universities also host events and programs through their business schools or centers for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Joining an entrepreneurship coaching program also is an option—one that Megan and Andres both highly recommend. Consider it an investment in yourself and your business. You have an opportunity to learn from someone who has navigated many of the challenges you’re facing as an entrepreneur and has the knowledge to help you overcome them. (Are there any programs they would like linked here that they personally recommend?)

The CoLab’s online community is another collaboration resource. Its The CoLab group on Facebook connects entrepreneurs of all backgrounds with each other and with resources to help you grow your business thoughtfully and successfully.

Ready for more? Check out The CoLab articles on Entrepreneurship, Financial Freedom, Personal Development, and Work-Life Balance.

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