Evie Norton: Your Business Survived Start-up. What Next?
When you were first thinking about starting your business, you probably completed a great deal of research. You may have sought professional advice, studied business textbooks or undertaken extensive online research. Once your business was up and running, you may have found you had less time and inclination to continue with your research. Many business owners become content with what they have and a business that ticks over nicely is more than enough for some. If you feel you and your business could be achieving more, however, there are plenty of options available to you.
Surviving the initial period after start-up and entering the profit phase is a strong indication your business is doing something right and it’s time to expand. Your next steps will depend on the type of business you own and the finance options available to you.
Target New Markets
If the market you currently serve is working well for you, there are bound to be others suitable for your business. If you serve a small geographical area, think about expanding into neighboring areas. If you deal only with domestic markets, look at the possibility of reaching out to an international audience. The way you do this will depend on the nature of the product or service you offer but opening up your business to a wider market is a sure-fire way to gain more customers and needn’t entail a significant outlay. If you work mainly with a specific age-group, consider targeting slightly older or younger individuals as well. If you already have a loyal customer base, think about providing them with codes or coupons to distribute between friends and family.
Acquire a New Business
This suggestion won’t be suitable for everyone but, in many fields of business, can be an excellent option. Check trade journals relevant to your industry and online forums to find businesses for sale and see if anything grabs your attention. It obviously makes sense to buy a business similar to your own, but there may be companies offering a complementary service or product to your own which would be a great fit. Depending on the size and reputation of any business you buy, you should be able to retain much of the existing customer base. Keeping current customers is far cheaper than attracting new ones so the value of inheriting a ready-made market is invaluable. Of course, acquiring a new business may also mean you acquire new employees. While this might mean some difficult decisions if you can’t keep everyone on, it can also be a chance to strengthen your personnel and help equip your business with the best people for the future. It can also be a chance to modify your company policies by combining the best ideas from both businesses.
Franchise your Business
The franchise model is a popular way of achieving rapid expansion and, by transferring ownership to the franchisee ensures their full commitment and dedication to your brand. Franchising is also an excellent way to expand geographically and get your brand into new regions. Some of the world’s best-known brands are run using the franchise model and although your business may not be in the same league as these giants, franchising may still be an option. The cost of franchising your business will depend on many factors so it’s best to seek professional advice before giving the idea serious consideration as it may not be suitable. To run a successful business, you will need to be a strong leader with a clear business vision. You will also need a strong human resources system in place before you undertake any plans which will rapidly increase the size of your business.
Providing services or goods which complement your existing business range is a great way to increase turnover. Many owners start small intending to diversify in the future but lose motivation once they become settled in their current business. Think about your customers and how they use your products or services. There are bound to be complementary items you could offer. The best thing about diversification is that you are using your existing customer base, a group of individuals or organisations who already know and trust you. Providing you have an active mailing or e-mailing list, you can notify customers of your new lines or services for a minimal cost. Carrying out research of your customers is an excellent way to find out what additional goods or services they would be happy to buy from you and avoids costly mistakes.