How To Grow Your Woman's Small Business
Starting a business is easy compared to taking it to the next level - particularly, for women entrepreneurs. Why do I say this? Because it is the truth. Growing a business requires a lot more risk, more cash than you have on hand and, most likely, new people (employees & prospects). In other words, courage, cash and customers!
The business plan you wrote to launch the business requires updating in order to factor in the increased expenses required to increase revenues. I've worked with too many business owners who believe all they need to do is get more customers to grow the company. The fact is acquiring new customers often costs more than the return on the investment. For example, if you are selling a service (ie. coaching, accounting, legal, marketing, etc.) that will demand new employees to accommodate the new business. In this scenario, as you know, you need the employees ready and able to do the work before acquiring the staff to handle it.
Increased staff also means increased salary, benefits, space, equipment etc. All of these expenses must be factored in to evaluate whether the new revenue will outweigh the costs. What this means is that careful planning is required.
The first question every woman entrepreneur must ask herself is "What is my goal in growing my company?" Is it to make more money? Is it to expand products or services? It it to serve more customers? Is it to sell it someday? Is it to go public?
The answer to these questions will determine how you grow your business.
For example, sometimes making more money can be as simple as reviewing your expenses and streamlining them. I often hear my clients tell me they run a "lean mean machine" only to find out they are spending like "drunken sailors". A review of expenses and sending out RFP (request for proposals) to vendors for required work and renegotiating leases can often cut expenses dramatically. But, this is not growing the business.
An expansion of products and/or services may not guarantee growth, particularly as I said before, if the new expenses end up eating up the new generated revenue. Sometimes making a $1M with X products/services is just as valuable as making $2M with Y products/services. Why? Because unless the potential buyer for your company can capitalize on all the products/services you offer they may not be considered a valuable asset in a sale.
Ahh, you say, "a key consideration of growing the company! Do I want to grow it because of my ego or because I want to begin to plan my exit?" And, I would add, the larger your company the more you can sell it for and therefore have for your retirement or next venture.
Now, perhaps, you are beginning to understand the WHY you want to grow the company is very important to know before the HOW.
You may want to broaden your customer base. Maybe give the competition a bigger run for the money. In this scenario, you must find out exactly what the competition is offering that you aren't and at what price. Can you afford to compete? Is it worth the risk to go after this business and if so would it be better to acquire the competition rather than expand your own shop?
As an entrepreneur who have many more options than you may be thinking about. When I mention acquiring the competition to some of my clients when they talk about growth they look at me as though I have just offer them a lottery ticket. They see it as a risk that has a one in a million chance of working. However, when they think about and even check around to see if the ideas might be possible they are stunned that this might just be the pathway to growth they were looking for. Think about it. People already trained to do the work and a customer list already generating revenues. Of course, it is never that simple..but...
Most often, when women entrepreneurs talk to me about growth the real motivator is building it large enough so it can be sold. And, as I have mentioned before, size may not matter to a particular buyer. This growth plan should be taken slowly and carefully to make sure the expansion works into an exit strategy. Briefly, think about who your potential buyers might be and what they would want if they bought your business. If your exit plan is to sell to employees or transition to family this step is not important as they are already part of the growth plan.
Growing your company can also mean taking it public. Companies don't go public just because the entrepreneur decided (s)he has a concept that could attract a worldwide audience. Going public requires a serious plan with major investment and timing -- very special timing. Most entrepreneurs will never go public regardless of growth. This is a complicated exit strategy for a select few.
Finally, there was a time when growing your business meant opening more locations. Today, because of the opportunities of social media fewer companies think in these terms for growth. Therefore, social media expansion is another way to grow a business. It requires a commitment of time and financial resources, but can pay off for many retail and some service companies. It clearly is an excellent way to grow organically - meaning keeping the original concept (products/services) simple and distributing them globally.
So, in conclusio,n when thinking about how to grow your company take a moment to define what you mean by growth. Once you know you'll have a better idea of how to get there.
Spending money on: hiring a rainmaker to develop more sales, more marketing for visibility, and/or R&D for products no one has requested may just keep your wheels spinning.
Growth needs a well thought out plan with a beginning, middle and end. The beginning - what does growth mean to me; the middle - will the cost be less than the revenue generated; and the end - when all is said and done, will the growth of my company result in a better exit strategy for me (more profitable as well as more viable)? If so, you are ready to GROW!