Running a business isn’t a static thing. Mostly because you are not a fixed entity, but forever evolving and changing yourself. So it makes sense that your business should change and grow with you. But it can get a little bit confusing navigating what exactly feels like the right way of growing for your particular business. Whether it’s growing internally or externally.
Micro businesses are booming, and even though it may seem like times are tough, things are actually way better for tiny businesses now than they were a decade or two ago. Before it was the norm for small businesses to be in debt for at least a few years when setting up, but these days, thanks to our access to new technologies and ways of connecting with clients, most of us have at least some money in the bank throughout the life of our business.
I think you’ll probably agree that most of us artistic types run a business to support our lifestyle. We find success in doing something that fulfils our artistic needs, and feels meaningful and worthwhile, so there’s a tendency to disregard any business advice about growing or scaling our businesses as something that doesn’t apply to us. But growing your business doesn’t have to mean that you ought to scale your business into a completely different entity, hire lots of staff, or go global (unless those are things you want to do – go for it!). There are different ways to grow as a business. It could even be as simple as getting clearer on what gives you most joy, or rejuvenating how you do things in order to keep the spark alive. What ever your definition of success may be, there’s always room for improvement.
Just make sure you aren’t saying no to growth out of fear that you lack knowledge, ambition or strategic planning skills. If you have the desire to grow beyond being a sole trader, into a strong and thriving business that might inspire a wider audience, offer employment and boost the economy, while staying true to you and your creativity, all the other skills and information you need can be learned. And there’s a wealth of knowledge and support out there for you.
What ever your success looks like to you, the main objectives of running a business in the first place are to attract clients and to generate a profit (otherwise we’d call it an expensive hobby, right?). The difference comes from how exactly your business will grow, and how big you want it to get.
Main ways to grow
When it comes down to it, there are two main ways to grow a company.
1. By attracting new clients
You could do this by:
- coming up with different ways of promoting your current products or services
- thinking of new uses or variations for your current products or services
- developing and marketing new products or services
2. By increased sales to current clients:
You could do this by:
- changing your pricing or adjusting what your products or services include
- repackaging or bundling your products or services
- developing and marketing new products or services
When you’re starting out your whole focus is generally on attracting new customers, but once you’ve established a clientele your efforts might be best spent in thinking of ways you could achieve further sales from your current clients by changing your pricing, bettering your product or offering a more exciting, refreshed service.
I love thinking of new ideas and ways of doing things, and when ever I change my focus or correct my direction, I try to update my business plan to keep me on track. One of the most important things to me is that what ever I offer – whether it’s my photography or my mentoring services, or even the free content here on HLH – it has to have a lot of value. When thinking of ways to grow with HLH I wanted to develop ways that would add value to you, my readers, rather than adding distracting things, such as advertisers on the blog etc. So, for a while I’ve been in product development mode building new exciting things that will mean more people could benefit from the stuff I teach, rather than just those whom I teach one-on-one or at live workshops. (Watch this space!)
The right ingredients
When it comes to growing, whether that would be internal or external growth, there are a few ingredients you need. According to a UK government report on small business growth¹ the main factors are:
Not only in the economy and overall prospects for growth, but also in your conviction to make it happen.
By improving your skills and performance. This involves training and seeking external help with the running of your business.
You need support that is designed and marketed in a way that is easy to understand and trust.
Get started right now
1. Get clear
I want you to take out your journal, turn a new page, and write at the top of it. ‘How can I make my clients lives better?’. Really think about this, and try to visualise your current clients, and your future clients. In what way can you not only solve their problem with your product or service, but go beyond that and do something special, something unexpected, that will enrich their lives. Once you start coming up with ideas, know that you are sitting on a pot of gold that is your business development.
2. Work on your pitch
Simplify your elevator pitch into a powerful message that you know you can, not only hook new clients with, but also offer them hope. Give them a feeling you really see them.
3. Learn from everything and everyone
Aim to come away from each experience or interaction with at least one takeaway. What could you learn from someone else’s story? How could you apply that to the way you run your business?
4. Give first
Referrals are one of the most powerful things for growing a business. Get into the habit of referring others first. If you're a photographer, refer other photographers for jobs you’re not available for, if you're an illustrator and get enquiries for a style or the kind of job you don't do, refer other illustrators for those jobs. In what ever field you're in, always refer other providers for related services your client could benefit from. Send that giving energy out, and watch it come back to you in return.
5. Trade services
Network with other small business owners and identify partners that could help you grow. Learn to barter with your services, and you can grow without huge financial investments.
6. Know what you don’t want
Sometimes running a business is confusing, and it gets even more overwhelming when thinking about leveraging your successes, or planning for growth. You just don’t know what you want. So start from the other end. Identify what you most definitely know you don’t want from your life or business, and in the end you will arrive at the answer to what you actually do want.
If your growth plans rely on the development of new products or attracting new clients, you’re better off starting from a solid, newly-refreshed business plan, which lays the groundwork. Then add a whole lot of patience, time, development of new skills, and possible assets you might need to get a new thing going. Product and market development often requires a lot more time than you might even dream of, but it is so worthwhile when you find ways to grow your business in a way that feels genuine and authentic to you.
So, whip out those business plans from the depths of the drawers and get planning how you could shake things up and move forward.
You can download this free checklist for simple ways to grow your small business from the inside out!
As an Inspire Your Inbox subscriber, you can download this worksheet from The Library.
(Hint: you can sign up in the green box at the top of this page, or if you're already a subscriber, you'll find the password at the bottom of every email).
1) Reference: URN BIS/13/729 – Growing Your Business