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Keys to Planning for Smart Business Growth Do you have what it takes to grow your company for the long term? Read on to find out how to get on the right path from the start.
You've developed a product or service that people need. Now, to go from a budding startup to a growing business, you'll need the right resources and partners to help you take your company to the next level.
The next steps on your startup journey are critical, and you'll want to avoid missteps whenever possible. Having a plan—as well as the right resources and tools—will help you accomplish your short-term goals such as hiring employees and purchasing equipment, which in turn helps accomplish your long-term goals like expanding your product lineup and generating profits.
One company that knows a thing or two about small-business growth is State Farm. Here, Les Willis, Vice President of Operations and Assistant General Manager of Business Markets at State Farm, shares three key elements that are important to planning for your small business's future growth.
1. First of all, develop a business plan. And don't just keep it in your head … write it down!
If you care about your business (and of course you do) then don't just "wing it." Growing your business helps ensure your company's future success and sustainability. Successful, proactive business owners know they need a comprehensive business growth plan; they write it down, monitor its progress, and adjust it as needed.
Willis suggests you think through what drives your growth, such as expanding your current portfolio of products/services or offering new ones. How will you make that happen? Will you need additional funding through loans, grants, or investor capital? Should you hire more employees to expand your business expertise? Do you plan to add more locations, warehouses, distribution centers, or vehicles? Make sure you've answered these questions and developed the solutions within this plan.
"You'll also want to think through a risk management plan that you put into place to help prevent, avoid, or reduce business losses," Willis says. This could mean developing processes for managing things like workplace safety and fleet safety, as well as a disaster preparedness plan.
2. Make sure you have a solid network of professional advisors in place.
You want to be the most efficient business owner you can be. Since you're busy with the day-to-day operations of your business, you can't possibly know and do everything. If you want your startup to grow and thrive, you'll need to lean on a team of outside advisors to partner with you along the way.
Business owners should look for legal counsel to help navigate complicated contracts and advise you on legal issues. Accountants can help you manage your cash flow, financial statements and tax preparation, and can also offer cash management and tax planning advice, given the complexity and changing nature of tax laws.
And don't forget one of the most important resources—an insurance agent who can help meet your needs for protecting your business assets and operations. "State Farm agents are small-business owners, too, so they understand your situation. They can be a wealth of knowledge and also get you referred to the right people when needed." Willis says.
Insurance can also help protect a business against the loss of a key employee, officer, or owner in the form of key person life insurance. It can also help prepare and protect a business through retirement plans, disability insurance, and buy/sell agreements for succession planning needs.
"It's all about protecting you and your business against unexpected events throughout your business's lifecycle. State Farm agents can provide a holistic review and offer solid solutions for those things that keep you up at night, as well as those things that haven't yet hit your radar since you're so focused on the day-to-day needs of your business," Willis says.
3. Remember, the customer always comes first!
There's no growth without revenue, and there's no revenue without customers. Just as it's a State Farm agent's job to check in on and understand their clients' needs and circumstances, it's a small-business owner's responsibility to know their customers well and ensure there's value in the products and services they provide.
To truly grow a business, owners need to be laser focused on not only bringing in new customers but in generating repeat business. That means impressing customers from their first interaction and at every other point of contact after that. Connecting with customers in person, over email, and through social media, as well as providing top-notch, responsive customer service is how businesses convert one-time customers into brand ambassadors that come back again and again.
Learn more about how State Farm can help protect and grow your business.