Growth is one of the primary objectives of most start-ups. More customers, an expanding product range, geographical reach, and of course, bringing in the big bucks. These goals can be quite daunting for entrepreneurs, who often find themselves too involved in day-to-day tasks to set out on their plans for the bigger picture.
The first few steps to playing in the same league as the established big boys may come across as very basic business practices, but getting these right can greatly improve the quality and speed of growth for start-ups.
Image credit: Jason Scragz
1 â€“ Build a Brand
Branding is something you should have planned before you set your business in motion, but building upon that foundation is key for gaining awareness, recognition and eventually guaranteeing customer loyalty. Building your brand involves shaping customersâ€™ perceptions about you and making them view your business or product offering in a certain way.
Ascertain your message and stand out from the crowd:
In order to be memorable, you need to make sure what you are conveying and how you convey it is different to what is already out there. This also involves establishing your identity, for example, if you are a retailer for baked goods, do you want to be perceived as luxurious, young or quirky?
Let your visual identity do the talking:
The smallest details, from logos, business cards, colour schemes, fonts, websites and newsletters can portray an image, so choosing these strategically can take care of a large part of the communication for you. For example, deep purple is usually associated with luxury and green with environmentally-friendly brands or products.
Especially for start-ups, maintaining a consistent image across all messaging and touch points is crucial. For example, your social media posts should reflect the same style of writing as your website, and your logo and colour scheme should remain consistent throughout.
2 â€“ Set Up Your Office Space
Getting a long-term real estate lease might not be the wisest or financially viable strategy when you are a start-up so consider the alternatives in line with your scaling plans.
These involve renting a desk and other facilities within a shared office space, allowing all company members to collaborate under the same roof. They are a cheap first-step if you are currently working out of your own home, involve no long-term agreement and come with their own perks and packages.
This is the more costly but also perhaps more effective option for growth. Having a headquarters helps with establishing your identity and makes business development more professional if you are the type of business with a high inflow of customers and clients.
Ascertain what your needs are in terms of location, budget, length of lease and number of employees. Reach out to your network or contact other start-ups who might be interested in sharing the cost of a larger office space you may not be able to afford on your own.
3 â€“ Hire New Employees
Taking on your first set of new employees is a critical decision and requires serious planning. Not only does it cost you to enter into a contractual agreement to pay your employees their salaries and additional benefits, but it also costs to fire them if you realise you donâ€™t need them or they donâ€™t match your expectations of productivity.
One of the cheaper and most effective forms of recruitment for a start-up is to ask existing employees to refer candidates for open positions, as they know the ins and outs of the business and are likely to find someone who fits. An incentive such as a small bonus or gift certificate can be provided.
Leverage on your network:
Ask your friends, colleagues and advisors if they can recommend employees. This is a great approach as some of the screening tasks are automatically completed for you which is time-efficient.
Use niche job boards:
This will ensure you donâ€™t get overwhelmed by a deluge of applications, as is the case with using web giants such as Jobsite or Monster.
4 â€“ Keep Innovating
There is always room for improvement, even if you have a working prototype or product that has been commercialised. To keep up with competitors and increase your market share, you need to make sure you stay on top of the game by innovating.
This could involve incremental innovations to improve existing products or develop new versions, for example, software with enhanced features which you can charge a premium for, or diversifying your product range.
Carrying out market tests and research on existing products gives a better understanding of where improvements are needed. Social media presents a valuable opportunity to use free tools such as sentiment analysis to monitor customer feedback and input it to your next update.
Consider complimentary goods:
Does your product need something else to allow its use and are your customers going elsewhere to buy this complementary good? Look at the possibility of producing such items yourself in order to devote customers to your brand. For example, many tobacco brands have started producing their own rolling paper and filter tips to sell the complete branded package and add new streams of revenue.
Make sure your growth objectives are realistic and achievable within the timescales you have set yourself. Follow your intuition but test it with numbers and keep track of your expenses as expansion costs both time and money, so invest wisely.
The best way to grow your business is to do it intentionally. You need to build an infrastructure that can support more business and you need to develop a marketing plan in order to bring in and retain customers or clients. Simple really!
About The Author
George Peters works and writes for Andrews, he specialises in servicing for small businesses and serviced offices and he enjoys writing about entrepreneurship.