For most new businesses, the first few months are the most critical and not that many companies survive the early days. Those that do, often make the mistake of relaxing and taking things slowly.
A huge mistake.
You need to keep pushing and scale your business as much as you can in the first year.
But, how do you do it?
Hire for growth
Every company wants to make perfect hires, regardless of how big or how far along the way. Unfortunately, perfect hires are as common as perfect marriages. In other words, you need to make choices.
Your choice? Hire for growth.
In order to do so, you will want to veer towards certain characteristics in your hires and perhaps make some compromises.
For instance, you will probably not look to hire a seasoned veteran in a certain niche, someone who wants stability, peace and quiet, family-friendly hours and everything that comes with spending decades in an established company.
You will want someone hungry to prove themselves, someone ready to put in the extra effort and extra hours. You will want someone who is ready to tell you no and contribute with their ideas.
Of course, this does not mean you should hire Gordon Gekko-type sociopaths, but still, you will want some of that drive in them.
Go hard with digital marketing
As a young company, you will probably have a very limited marketing budget that will make it all but impossible to do any meaningful traditional advertising on TV, radio or in print. One caveat, if you run a very strictly local business, you might be able to do some.
This means that you will want to take full advantage of the various digital marketing channels and tactics and focus on them.
The good thing is that you will be spoilt for choice and that it can be incredibly effective, if you play your cards right, of course.
Google ads, banner ads, social media marketing, email marketing, in-app advertising, search engine marketing; these are just some of the channels you can use to spread your brand’s message and get leads for your company.
One thing to remember is that digital marketing requires all the strategic thinking, hard work and scrutiny that some people associate only with traditional marketing. The underlying concepts are the same, only the channels are different.
If you feel like you are not up to the digital marketing challenge, you can always ask consultants for help.
Agile has become somewhat of a buzzword that sometimes gets thrown around without truly understanding what it entails. However, if you learn about it and truly make efforts to make your company follow some of the principles of Agile (try to ignore the software development-heavy emphasis), you can benefit greatly as a young company.
Agile has a long and complex history with its biggest impact being on the software development industry. Over the years, it became obvious that pretty much any work process can be improved by the Agile approach, either by applying one or more of the different approaches such as Scrum or Kanban, or by applying some very sensible ideas that underlie it.
At its simplest, Agile is about keeping everything transparent, inspecting the work that the company does and adapting rapidly according to the insights.
It can take some effort to truly commit to the Agile mindset, but the adaptability, the improvements to your company’s efficiency and its sense of unity are more than worth it.
Invest in technology
For a long time, investing in technology that can improve how a company operates was reserved for large corporations with bottomless budgets. This is no longer the case and the youngest companies can now make smart investments in growth-friendly technologies.
In fact, according to Xero’s latest report, small businesses that spend on technology can expect to grow much faster than those which don’t.
From various types of SaaS solutions that can help various aspects of running your business to chatbots; from business analytics solutions to automation or various processes; there is truly no shortage of options for a tech-savvy small business that wishes to intensify its growth.
You need to be careful not to jump on every new shiny thing that appears, but you still need to stay in the loop. Identify your needs and the areas where technology is most likely to help you. Learn about how to introduce this technology to your company and make sure to analyse its effects.
Focus on your customers
As a young company, you should direct most of your efforts at acquiring new customers, but remember that you should work twice as hard to keep the existing ones.
The perception your customers have of your business, can either make or break your chances for success, so you need to be sure that they are satisfied.
Learn how to create an exceptional customer experience from the very start and build your company culture so that it is centred around your customers’ needs from the early days.
There are several things you can do:
Make customers empathy one of your company’s core value. If your employees understand the needs of your customers, they will invest themselves more when trying to fulfil them.
Find a credo that your employees can easily follow. Remember the Ritz-Carlton’s famous “Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen” motto? That kind of credo.
Collect feedback from your customers. Use every opportunity you have to find out how satisfied they are with your service – phone calls, email, social media messaging, live chat sessions, surveys, etc.
Anticipate your customers’ needs. Look for the ways to make the experience with your business not only smooth but a truly memorable one.
In terms of money, it’s good to know that 65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers. When your customers trust you and are satisfied with their overall experience, they are less likely to put their money into your competitors’ pockets, so it’s a huge financial gain.
They will also gladly recommend your products and services to their families, friends and colleagues, and your business will grow.
Build and foster important relationships
Even though your expertise and the value you bring to your customers play a vital role in the success of your business, there is another factor that you shouldn’t neglect – your connections.
If you want to grow your small business quickly, you need to have a strong source of relevant contacts in your network that you can turn to when you need help or advice.
With a large network, more opportunities will arise, you’ll more find an adequate partner for your business and build up your brand and your credibility.
If growing your professional network seems like a challenging task, there are many different kinds of events you can choose from, so start with the ones that you feel comfortable with.
Here are a few suggestions:
- industry-specific events,
- roundtable meetings,
- online conferences,
- chats, etc.
Use all the resources you can to find about good networking events in your industry. You can start with the Chamber of Commerce, but also check out sites such as Meetup and Eventbrite, as well as all the relevant industry blogs.
Be financially responsible
82% of businesses that fail do so because they are poor at managing their cash flow.
It is of vital importance to prevent such problems before they even occur, and avoid the potential negative effects cash-flow gaps can have on your business.
One of the first steps towards keeping your cash flow out of the red is by making realistic cash flow forecasts, based on the real, historical data of similar companies and markets.
This way, your sales projections will be more accurate, and you’ll be able to identify potential critical spots and pitfalls in advance and prepare for them.
You can also maximize your cash flow by making sure you send your invoices promptly, right after your job is done so that they can be paid soon after.
When times get tough, consider reducing some of your expenses – you can save some money by outsourcing your tasks instead of hiring a new employee, or think about renting a smaller office space.
When running your business, you should also forget about impulse spending, as it can negatively influence your cash flow. The best way is to always stick to your budget, and avoid the purchase you haven’t planned for. If there is an unexpected cost you can’t avoid, calculate how it affects your bottom line, and make necessary adjustments to your budget.
To ensure your business is financially stable and your cash flow positive, consider hiring a financial advisor and get some professional help for all your money matters.
Scaling your business in its first year is often the difference between a successful company and ‘that one business I tried to make work a few years ago’. The hacks covered in this article should put you on the right path and make sure you are not left behind.
Michael has been working in marketing for almost a decade and has worked with a huge range of clients, which has made him knowledgeable on many different subjects. He has recently rediscovered a passion for writing and hopes to make it a daily habit. You can read more of Michael’s work at Qeedle.