When it comes to growing a small business into something larger, there’s a lot of factors out there you can’t control. Your competition will be doing their own thing, shaping the market in unpredictable ways, while the economy will march along, affected only by forces far greater than any you can hope to influence. Most businesses founded today won’t make it to the next decade, and often times they won’t have made any major missteps that led them to fail. The markets are an intimidating place, to be sure, but that isn’t to say that nothing is within your control. The decisions you make when it comes to running your business are just as essential to growth as these external factors. You want to give your business the best chance you can to succeed, and to do that, it’s important to keep some basic points in mind as you decide how to move forward.
1. Hire Knowledgeable, Trustworthy Employees
No one can run a business on their own, especially if they have ambitions to grow it beyond more than just a profitable hobby. Sooner or later, you’ll have to hire employees to take over certain responsibilities—either those you aren’t equipped to do, or those which have simply become too time-consuming to handle by yourself any longer. A big part of your ultimate success will depend on these first hires, so it’s absolutely critical that you perform the due diligence necessary to find the best employees you can.
One of the simplest indicators you can look for is if they have the proper education. Whether you need marketers or accountants or someone to keep your supply chains straight, you can rest assured that applicants with business degrees will have the knowledge necessary to perform those duties the right way. Business degrees can come with focuses in all those areas and more, ensuring that your employees are as expertly trained in their department as you need them to be. You might even want to consider pursuing a business management degree, such as the illustrious MBA, yourself, as the degree’s prestige can lend credence to your business plan and reassure investors that you, too, know what you’re doing.
2. Build a Social Media Presence
Once you have a staff under you that can keep things running, it may be time to consider building up your company’s brand recognition. These days, one of the most important ways to do that is to have a significant presence on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. While social media isn’t for everyone, and it may not yet be time to hire on a dedicated social media manager, every company should at least have the basics out there for consumers to discover. The internet is just a few taps away for most people, so the likelihood of consumers performing spur-of-the-moment research is quite high. By establishing your business on social media sites, you’ll help to direct these potential customers to your pages, where you can put your best foot forward. These social media platforms also offer avenues for disgruntled customers to get in contact with your business, providing the opportunity to solve problems and prevent one bad experience from turning into the type of negative word of mouth that can kill a fledgling business before it gets off the ground.
3. Data is Power, So Keep It Secure
The power of data in the modern age is one thing that shouldn’t be underestimated, but with that power comes a responsibility to the consumers you’re collecting that data from. Whether it’s email lists, inventory management, or data analytics on visitors to your sites and social media pages, you can use this data to better learn about your consumers. What else are they interested in, and how might you be able to relate your business to those interests? What demographics are showing the most interest in you, and how can you bring other demographic groups into the fold? By analyzing this data thoroughly through a keen and educated eye, these questions can be answered, and represent a huge boon to your business. The information that marketers once had to guess at and poll at random is now at your fingertips.
This data must also be guarded and stored securely, and not just from malicious hackers. With multimillion dollar corporations failing this task with shocking regularity, you might be inclined to think it’s impossible to keep data safe, but competent IT managers can go a long way towards preventing the worst. Better still, you can make this a point in your advertising, particularly if your business is related to computers or tied to the internet. Consumers will have a far better impression of your company if they know you’re taking every precaution to guard the data they’ve entrusted you with, and a clean record of security breaches is the strongest evidence of that you’ll ever be able to provide. And remember, this isn’t just their data—it’s yours, including your financial ledgers and receipts from suppliers. Keeping detailed records that are well protected also leaves you in a good place should your business find itself on the end of an unexpected audit.
Things are tough out there for a small business that’s trying to grow, but there are opportunities for you to increase the odds of success. By looking for employees who are well educated in their business career of choice, you can rest easy knowing your staff has the proper knowledge to get the job done. Building a social media presence offers you some control over how your business is perceived by consumers, as well as providing them a means of getting in contact should they have questions or problems. Consumer and business data can represent major advantages when it comes to courting particular demographics or deciding where to focus resources, but just as important is your responsibility to protect that data, both for your own sake and that of your customers. By keeping these three tips in mind, you can set your business up with the best shot at success.