Wellness Box, Inc., Terre Haute, Vigo County
1. Create a Growth Plan
A growth plan is very similar to a business plan. The difference? A business growth plan focuses on the expansion of your business and how to achieve your newly set goals.
Audit Your Business
Driving your business to the next level requires an assessment of your current business.
To begin your business assessment, conduct a SWOT analysis to identify your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
A SWOT analysis is a very simple, yet powerful tool to help you develop your business strategy.
- Strengths and weaknesses are internal to your company. These are the things you have some control over and can change. Examples include who is on your team, uniqueness and location.
- Opportunities and threats are external to your company. These are the variables outside of your company, in the larger market, that you cannot control. Examples include competitors, prices of raw materials and customer shopping trends.
- Paul Schoemaker from The Mack Institute, recommends starting your SWOT analysis with your opportunities and threats.
Tips on examining opportunities and threats
- Keep your focus on the outside world. Consider these questions: How is it (the world, the market, the industry) changing? Why? Don’t forget to cover key forces, including social, technological, economic and environmental drivers.
- Discourage fragmentary thinking and adopt a systems view.
- Be honest about what you can’t predict about the future. Do so by listing major external uncertainties and discuss how they might unfold and impact your business.
- Assess which external changes you missed in the past and why. Are you any better this time around? If so, why?
Tips on examining strengths and weaknesses
- Think about core competencies rather than physical or intellectual assets.
- Depict your business model visually with arrows and feedback loops, showing how various capabilities interact and relate to your revenue/profit model.
- Labeling something as a strength or weakness implies a reference point. Decide what yours is. After making this decision, as yourself, is it more past, present, or future-oriented?
- Include soft issues in your assessment, such as culture, organizational climate, leadership capacity, etc.
Creating a five-year business plan
A growth strategy involves more than envisioning your long-term success. A growth plan includes expansion opportunities, a marketing plan and the demographics of your market area.
Rob Biederman, Co-Founder and CEO of Catalant, stated that developing a growth strategy is not a one-size-fits-all process. That’s not to say you can’t learn from another company. You need to adopt a plan to smooth your business’s inefficiencies, refine its strengths and better suit your customers.
- Establish a value proposition: For your business to be sustainable, you must understand what sets you apart from the competition. Identify why your customers come to you for a product or service. How do you impact your target market?
- Identify your ideal customer: You originally started your business to solve a problem for a certain audience – who is that audience? Is that audience your ideal customer? If not, who are you serving? Nail down your ideal customer and revert back to this audience as you adjust the business to stimulate growth.
- Define your key indicators: Changes must be measurable. If you are not able to measure a change, you don’t have a way of knowing if it is effective. Identify which key indicators affect the growth of your business then dedicate time and money to those areas.
- Verify your revenue streams: What are your current revenue streams? What revenue streams could you add to make your business more profitable? Are these new revenue streams sustainable?
- Look to your competition: No matter what industry you are in, your competition is likely excelling at something that your company is struggling with. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or ask hard questions.
- Focus on your strengths: Sometimes, focusing on your strengths, rather than trying to improve your weaknesses, can help you establish growth strategies.
- Invest in talent: Your employees have direct contact with your customers, you need to hire people who are motivated and inspired by your company. Hire people who reflect the core values of your business.
2. Marketing Research and Planning
Drive profits through market research and planning
Marketing is about customers. Who are your customers? What do they want? What do they need? How can you make it easy for them to say yes to your product or service? While your business plan should indicate a marketing strategy, it is also necessary to a have a marketin plan that brings the strategy to life. Tangible action items that will get customers to buy what you are selling. Do the market research now so that you aren’t guessing. Eliminating the guess work will save you time and money in the long run.
The following tips will help you in your market research journey:
- Determine how many people are willing to pay for your product/service. Use census data, demographic databases, industry reports, etc., to determine how big your pool of potential customers actually is.
- Know your options for how to deliver your service or manufacture your product by researching production options using business databases.
- Know your competitors by researching using business databases, social media, browser searches, etc.
- Understand whether your product is unique or proprietary by researching patent filings.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) identifies six categories that your marketing plan should include:
- Target Market: This category requires you to describe your audience in detail. Look at market size, demographics, unique traits and trends that relate to the demand for your business.
- Competitive Advantage: This category allows you to indicate what gives your product or service an advantage over the competition. It could be a better product, a lower price, or factors in the development of your product, such as being environmentally friendly.
- Marketing and Sales Goals: Use this category to identify your marketing and sales goals for the next year. Common goals include increasing email subscribers, increasing sales by a certain percentage, or increasing social media interactions.
- Marketing Action Plan: This plan allows you to describe how you will achieve your marketing and sales goals. List the marketing channels you will utilize (online advertising, radio, etc.) Explain how you will use promotions and customer support after the sale happens.
- Budget: For your budget, include a complete breakdown of the costs of your marketing plan. You will probably have to estimate in some areas but try to be as accurate as possible. You will also want to keep track of your costs once you put your plan into action.
IIt is important to revisit your marketing plan throughout the year. At a minimum, the marketing plan should be maintained on an annual basis. Measuring your return on investment will help you recognize which areas of your plan worked and which areas need to be updated.
Exporting to Expand Sales
A website expands your borders for doing business beyond geographic locations, making doing business on a global scale attainable. Use your website to reach potential markets and increase your sales. Interested in exporting? A great resource for beginners is Export Solutions at export.gov.
Business Development Managers help companies smooth their entry into worldwide markets with value-added services, including the following:
- Preparing marketing plans for international markets
- Handling export operations
- Providing international market research
- Identifying best market prospects
- Advising on finance and insurance options
- Working to find customers and partners
U.S. Export Assistance Center
The U.S. Department of Commerce Commercial Service operates the U.S. Export Assistance Center. This is a network of export and industry specialists located in more than 100 U.S. cities and over 80 countries worldwide. These trade professionals provide counseling and a variety of products and services to assist small and midsized U.S. businesses to export their products and services.
3. Selling to the Government and Getting Certified
You may submit a bid to government agencies and apply for certifications for women, veteran and minority owned businesses.
Selling to the government
Government agencies and large corporations buy the same types of things most businesses do. This includes professional services, supplies, landscaping services and so on. Selling to government agencies can be tricky though, and that’s where Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) comes into play. PTAC offices provide small businesses throughout the region with assistance in submitting and understanding bidding opportunities and contracts. In many cases, they also support businesses gaining certifications for women, veteran and minority-owned businesses.
The Small Business Administration has compiled a list of federal contracting offices in the Midwest, complete with contact information for specific departments and agencies.
Certification programs can help you market your business to both large businesses and governments entities. Many large corporations and government entities set aside a percentage of their purchasing contracts for small businesses, minority and/or women-owned businesses. Becoming “certified” as one or more of these types of businesses enables a company to bid on contracting opportunities. MWBE.com offers a description of certification.
Most government entities will require a company to go through a streamlined or shortened verification process that is specific to that agency. Certification can take from 30-90 days, depending on the type.
4. Hiring and Managing Employees
Attract, hire and retain the right team
Congratulations on taking one of the biggest steps in growing your business and adding talent to your team! Now, you will want to make sure you take all the necessary steps to not only higher the right employee, but also hire legally.
Adding employees is often the only way a company can grow beyond the scope of its owner. Bringing together a team for your business can be challenging but very rewarding. Attracting and retaining good employees is the key to success in the business realm. These resources can help with the following:
- How to Know When It’s Time to Hire Your First Employee (Entrepreneur)
- 10 Steps to Hiring Your First Employee (SBA)
- Employer Identification Number (IRS)
- Employee or an independent contractor (IRS)
Check out the West Central Business Hub’s Resource Navigator to find organizations that provide guidance on issues related to hiring employees.
Board and Advisors
Outside oversight and input becomes increasingly vital as a company grows. See what these insights can do for your business.
Official boards of directors and unofficial advisory boards may provide connections and ideas to drive business expansion.
- Overview of boards of directors (The Free Management Library)
- Harness the Power of an Advisory Board (About.com)
- 8 Steps to Creating an Effective Advisory Board (Entrepreneur)
Mentors, peer groups and roundtables also offer some measure of input.
Plan for when you will transfer ownership, sell internally, sell to a third party or liquidate your business.
One of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is to begin with the end in mind. It’s never too early to look at options.