Every big business starts small. From multinational restaurants to chain department stores, all of the successful businesses we see today were once small startups. For entrepreneurs who are in the early phases of their business’s development, it can be difficult to imagine a time when that startup will be a much larger business.
However, the move from small to large company rarely happens overnight. Often there’s a slow growth period where buzz begins to build and revenue gradually starts to grow. At some point, business owners must make the decision to scale upward in order to grow. The problem for those entrepreneurs is determining the right moment to do so. Here are a few telltale signs that a business might be ready to ignite that growth.
Interest from New Markets
One of the best signs it’s time to expand is that customers in other areas are expressing interest in your products. This could be through online orders, phone requests, or in-person visits, and it could be either in neighboring towns or other states. Pay close attention to these orders, since it’s a sign word has already spread to these areas about your products. If you aren’t getting this type of attention yet, you could test the waters by setting up a booth at an event in an area you’re considering for expansion.
Requests Outpace Your Resources
When you start consistently logging more requests than you can handle, it may be time to consider expanding. You can do this through bringing on additional employees, adding new locations, or outsourcing processes like shipping to a capable provider. While it may seem daunting to take on additional expenses, you can calculate the additional money you’ll be able to bring in and usually determine you’ll be able to afford the expansion.
If you’ve been in business for multiple years with no growth, it may be time to consider moving forward. You could continue for years with the same steady flow of income, but if you truly want to go from small to big business, you’ll have to take at least a small leap. As mentioned above, you can test the waters in new markets before establishing a new shop or investing heavily in marketing.
Loss to Competitors
If customers are fleeing your business to buy from competitors, it may be time to step up your game. Observe what those competitors are offering that your business currently isn’t and consider adding those features to your business model. It could be something as small as offering delivery or providing gift baskets. It could also mean adding new locations to be able to serve a larger customer base.
The truth is, there will never be a clear indication that it’s time to expand. Often businesses find that careful market research is the best route to choosing the right time and method to grow. When expansion is strategic, a business can increase its chances of success and better serve its new customers. For tips on how to scale IT as your business moves ahead, read the Growth CIO eBook at xerox.com/smb.
Ramon Ray, Marketing & Technology Evangelist, Smallbiztechnology.com & Infusionsoft. Full bio at http://www.ramonray.com/ . Visit his Small Business Solutions Blog Author Page to get in touch on Google+, Twitter or Facebook.
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