As a small business owner, there will come a time when you’ll have to think about growth. Inevitably, you’ll have reached a ceiling that you need to break through, either through expansion, innovation, adding new products, or doing things a little differently.
Growth is one thing – but if you’re looking to scale, there are a few critical concepts you’ll need to grasp to make that happen. Scaling your business doesn’t happen overnight, and success is just as much about your mindset as it is the product or service you offer.
Here are a few ideas to get you into the growth mindset.
Invest In Technology To Gain Competitive Advantage
Innovation comes in many guises. It can be as cutting-edge as a management platform or next-generation technology tools, or it can be done through process optimization – but it all starts with digitization. Once you’ve completed your digital transformation, you have a launching pad that could take you just about anywhere.
Today’s most exciting business innovations leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), two vital components in process automation. And while you might think that AI and ML are more in the realm of science fiction, you’d probably be surprised to know that you use them every day. Most online services and apps rely on AI for personalized, agile services, and now, the technology is built into many of the third-party apps you rely on to run your business.
But what can AI do for you? If you typically spend most of your time on mundane, repetitive tasks, you’re already behind the eight-ball. Process automation and workflow optimization not only give you back those hours to focus on higher-value tasks; they do it very efficiently and accurately. Plus, machines don’t sleep, so you’ll get a massive boost in productivity almost right away.
While innovation doesn’t always mean technology, you’ll want to have it on your radar if you’re on track to scale. There will come a time when you’ll have to jump in the sandbox with the “big guys” in your industry, so you’ll want to be on a level playing field. Do your homework. Find out what your competitors did to get where there are today, and if that’s what you aspire to be, use that data as a yardstick to measure your progress. When you’re one step ahead, you won’t have as far to go.
Engage Your Staff in The Innovation Process
No matter how passionate or excited you are about your new direction, be sure you’re looping your employees in throughout the process. Your teams are the front line, and you need them to be on board whatever you decide. After all, if they aren’t comfortable with the tools and processes you layout for them, you stand to lose a lot. Good employees are hard to come by, and when your company begins to scale rapidly, you want people you trust on your side. Everybody wants to feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves. When your people feel valued, they’ll work harder for you and bring their best work to the table.
Here are a few ways you can engage your staff to inspire innovation:
Actively solicit ideas from your teams
Make problem-solving a part of every staff meeting
Put all new tech through a beta phase, and engage your best employees to give you honest feedback before you buy
Make sure every employee feels like they are valued, and their voice has merit
Make time for weekly check-ins and monthly one-on-ones with each person
Be present, be transparent
Encourage them to share ideas without fear of retribution
Support opposing opinions
Change is very exciting, but keep in mind; it is highly stressful too. When employees notice big shifts in their environment, they will usually think the worst – that they will be replaced or left behind. When you invite them to share the journey, you’re building relationships, encouraging loyalty, and empowering them to step up into their roles. You have a much better shot at success when you take these steps together.
Ask Your Customers What They Want
You might have a few incredible ideas about how you want to advance your company, but do you know what your customers think? If you don’t, here are a couple of ways you can find out.
Understand your ideal buyer. Almost every business has a few “ideal buyer personas” to guide their marketing. But when was the last time you looked at those profiles? With all the shifts in customer preferences, technology, and business processes, chances are their priorities are vastly different than they were just a few years ago. Especially if you intend to grow, it’s critical to get inside their heads now so you can give them what they really want.
Solicit feedback. There are many ways to find out what your customers want, but the most direct method is to ask them outright. A “strike while the iron’s hot” mentality is everything here, meaning the best time to ask if you’ve satisfied the customer’s needs is immediately following the sale. Be ready to accept and digest the good, the bad, and the ugly – because these are the insights that inform the road ahead.
Leverage Your Data. If you’re already collecting vast amounts of data from customer transactions or loyalty programs, this is another excellent way to gain insight into their preferences and behaviors. It shouldn’t be the only way you get information from your customers, but it’s a viable method of validating insights you glean from other sources. When you look at your data’s totality, you’ll get a clearer picture of how your customers currently engage with you, and it will be easier to identify the gaps.
Invest In A Virtual Mailbox
We’ve talked about many critical scaling-up concepts today, but let’s go back to process improvement and workflow optimization. With all the changes you have planned, you’ll need to rethink how you’re doing things as much as what you’re doing. Ultimately, you need to gain as much time as possible, and that means eliminating low-value inefficiencies to pave the way for what’s ahead.
A virtual mailbox is an excellent way to reallocate talent to higher-value tasks. Just think about the time it takes to manage your company mail. From receiving the mail to sorting, delivering it to the right personnel, forwarding, scanning, filing, and taking action, that’s a lot of time and effort. Often, it’s an inefficient and costly process too. How many times has postal mail landed on the wrong desk, got buried in an overflowing inbox, or been misfiled? Plus, when it’s all said and done, what happens to all that paper?
Earth Class Mail’s virtual mailbox plans take all the hassle out of postal mail. When mail arrives at our processing center, it’s opened and scanned by our HIPAA certified technicians. Scans are sent to you as fully searchable PDFs, ready for distribution. We integrate your account with your preferred cloud services and can even deposit checks for you.
No matter what your new business model looks like, the wave of the future is all about efficiency. Our virtual mailbox services support a paperless workflow, and it even helped one of our client companies go 100 percent remote.
When you’re ready to take your company to new heights, there’s a lot to think about. The road ahead might be paved with inspiration, but some of the most incredible value you’ll find is already at your fingertips. Choose your address today, and free yourself to grow into the future.