Growth is the lifeblood of a successful small business. If your company isn't growing it's stagnating -- and stagnation could be the harbinger of a gradual decline into small business oblivion.
In a recessionary or challenged economic environment, growth can seem like an elusive goal, especially for small companies that aren't equipped to weather economic storms. It's not that SMBs don't want to grow -- it's that they lack either the resources or opportunities to execute the strategies that are required to achieve meaningful business growth.
But economy be damned, your small business still needs to target growth if you want to avoid stagnation's slippery slope. Thor Harris, president of Percepture, a leading marketing, branding and strategic media relations company, offers several strategies SMBs can employ to achieve growth in any economic environment.
1. Your Sphere of Influence
Networking is a growth strategy that any SMB can utilize, regardless of what's happening in the larger economy. At a minimum, entrepreneurs should establish a goal of making new business contacts by attending at least two non-industry focused events each week. Industry events aren't as useful simply because they are attended by similar entrepreneurs fishing from the same pond of potential clients.
2. Streamline Your Operation
If you haven't done it yet, it's time to streamline your business's budget. Although this might mean making some difficult decisions, trimming non-essential expenditures is the fastest way to boost your bottom line and free up resources for growth initiatives.
3. Mine for Referrals
Whether you know it or not, your business has relationships with several potential goldmines for referrals. Attorneys, accountants, consultants and other professionals are excellent referral sources. Likewise, your current client base can be incentivized to send new business your way by offering to give them a percentage of any new business they drive to your company.
4. Leverage Social Media
In many SMBs, social media is an under-utilized business asset. With a little effort, you can transform your company's presence on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook into a growth machine. And the best feature of social media is that it's free.
5. Take a Break
It may seem counter-intuitive, but during tough economic times it's even more important for small business owners to step away from the office at least one day a week. You are your company's most important growth asset. So turn off your smartphone, avoid checking your e-mail and allow exercise a little self-care at least once a week.