From the February 2001 issue of Startups
Ask Kim T. Gordon, our Help! Columnist, your question about starting, running or growing your homebased business.

Question: I have owned a limo business for the past five years where I do driving jobs myself and subcontract overflow work. I think to stay alive in business, I have to expand. I've developed personal relationships with my clients over the years. How can I reach more prospects and still keep the personal touch, which has been a trademark of my business?

Ahuja
Stamford, Connecticut

Answer: When you own a service business and are the only employee, your potential income and company growth are limited by the amount of work you can personally perform. The word processor who transcribed my first book in the early 1990s, for example, had been working long days and nights for years making a less-than-stellar income by handling all the transcription herself and occasionally subcontracting her overflow. Then she decided to shift roles to focus her attention on cultivating new prospects and customers and on managing her business. She set up contracts with six independent transcribers, allowing her to offer better customer service while expanding her business. Within two years, she had doubled her personal income.

The key to achieving successful growth for your limousine business over a protracted period is to stop driving and begin managing. The question is, will you enjoy the change from doing the work to handling administration and management? This will mean a significant shift for you-from behind the wheel to behind a desk-where you'll run your business and communicate with clients and subcontractors or employees. In your new role, however, you can maintain the personal touch by continuing to be the client contact-all clients must book through you, not the drivers. Clients will have your cell phone and/or beeper number, and you'll stay in contact with them by telephone and direct mail. You may also wish to drop by and greet clients when your drivers pick them up.

I suggest setting up an program that offers incentives to current customers for referrals and a B2B marketing campaign targeting key companies for their top executives. In your new role, you'll have more time to manage a direct-mail program and make follow-up telephone calls as well as meet face-to-face with top prospects-all necessary ingredients to building a stronger, more successful business.

ResourceGuide

Think it's time to expand your business? Check out Mark Henricks' Grow Your Business from Entrepreneur Press.