Your small business is taking off and you can feel justly proud. But rapid growth can bring new challenges. Chances are you’re so busy working in the business that there is little time to spend on the business. And that can be fatal.
If you are not prepared, rapid growth can send your small business off course. Seeking out other small business success stories can be a source of inspiration, and you don’t have to look far. There were close to 2 million small to medium-sized businesses in Australia in June 2015 and their numbers have been growing steadily. Advice and resources for small business are also offered by state and federal governments. So set some time aside to explore what’s on offer in your state.
Here are 5 habits that successful business owners have adopted, to ensure their business keeps growing;
1. Continue to invest in yourself
As your business grows, keeping your skills and knowledge current and staying abreast of industry trends is essential. You can find relevant workshops and events for your business on everything from research and development grants to social media fundamentals, mostly free of charge, on this government website.
When you are flat out working, you probably try to spend any spare time with family or friends, but don’t overlook the value of networking. Even five minutes a day spent connecting with contacts by phone, email, social networks like LinkedIn or similar can lead to future business. Attending industry and community events can also offer valuable new leads.
As your business grows, keeping your skills and knowledge current and staying abreast of industry trends is essential.
2. Build your support network
There comes a time when you can no longer keep track of your business and its finances in your head. Make sure you have a good relationship with your accountant, solicitor, bank manager, insurance broker and any other support people you rely on to protect your bottom line. A Steadfast insurance broker can assist you to protect your assets from claims.
Perrie Croshaw is the founder of award-winning online accommodation provider South Coast Holidays which started at her kitchen table. Today she and her business partner employ seven staff in two office locations and manage 140 properties. In the early days, she says her accountant taught her the importance of avoiding a cost blowout. “Running a business is like balancing scales – you need a clear idea of your incomings and outgoings,” she says. Once your business takes off, your accountant may need to be more involved in its day to day running. You may also be able to negotiate better finance deals with your bank.
3. Focus on your customers
While constant focus on your bottom line is important, it’s your customers who pay the wages, not the business. By keeping in contact with customers, inviting and replying to feedback, you can build loyalty and intervene early to fix problems that could cost future sales. Croshaw sends regular emails to her property owners to let them know what’s going on. “They love the regular communication; they feel I’m working for them,” she says.
While constant focus on your bottom line is important, it’s your customers who pay the wages, not the business.
4. Make technology work for you
When you are working in the business, it’s easy to get caught up in daily operations – answering emails, dealing with staff and clients – making it difficult to find time for the creativity you need to keep growing. “If you are doing a job over and over, there has got to be a way to automate or template it,” says Croshaw. By adding live chat to their website, she says time-poor customers can now book a holiday on the go in under 7 minutes, much faster than previously possible using email or text messaging. The business also uses cloud-based services that allow the partners to operate remotely. “On days when we are working outside the business we might read contracts or analyse new software to reduce the time spent on repetitive jobs,” she says.
5. Take time out
One of the most important things you can do for yourself once your business takes off is to look at your calendar at the start of each year and schedule in holidays. “Things can spiral out of control if you don’t treat yourself to a break,” says Croshaw. By taking the time to hire the right people who share your vision and the culture of your business, it will be easier to step away and let them run things while you are away.
Take the time to work on your business, not just in it, and watch it grow from startup to small business success story.