By Sharon Hadary, international speaker, author, and coach
Has your online business reached a plateau and are you having trouble re-starting growth? Do you have a new business and want to grow exponentially from day one? Or is your business doing okay, but you are ready to transform it into a high-growth enterprise?
For almost three decades, I have been conducting research with entrepreneurs studying, amongst other issues, what distinguishes the larger, faster-growing businesses from the smaller low-growth companies.
In surveys and interviews, I ask the owners of the larger business what their secrets to success are and what advice they would give to someone starting and growing a business.
Here are the top five business growth strategies I hear time and again that you can apply to your online business.
1. Think big from the beginning
The value of setting high goals is more than a motivational myth. Research from the Global Initiative for Women’s Entrepreneurship Research shows that the only statistically significant predictor of business growth is not the size of the business, the industry, or the length of time in business – it is the owner’s goal for growth.
Entrepreneurs with the larger businesses tell me that establishing high goals from the beginning made a big difference. They say:
“If you think about yourself as a million dollar business even before you are one, you make decisions differently; talk about the business differently to customers, suppliers, contractors and employees; and establish systems to capture the performance and financial information you will need when you go after bank financing or those big contracts.”
2. Focus on where you want to be, not where you are today
Create an image in your mind of the business you aspire to have. Develop a growth-oriented business plan and when you achieve your goals, ratchet them up to the next level. Continually scan trends and imagine the possibilities and potential for your business.
You can do this by yourself, taking time to muse, reflect and think about how you will distinguish your business from all others and what the business will look like when you’ve achieved your vision.
However, most entrepreneurs find there is value in bringing together a diverse group of advisors. For example, thought leaders in your business, fellow business owners in your industry and in other industries, your banker, and customers. If you can afford it, consider working with a business coach who can help facilitate group discussions and work with you on turning the ideas from the group into a business growth-oriented plan.
Keep the group small – no more than five or six people. This group may become an informal advisory board for you, meeting regularly to review your progress and help you adjust your plans. Many entrepreneurs tell me they find the process of preparing for advisory board meetings as valuable as the meetings. “It gets you away from day-to-day operations and forces you to take a really good look at what is happening in the business to identify both problems and progress,” they say.
3. Fall in love with running the business rather than doing the work of the business
If you believe you have to stay personally involved in day-to-day operations in order to sustain quality and service, YOU become the greatest road block to the growth and success of your business.
Establish a culture that promotes quality, hire people whose values align with your culture, and engage every team member in delivering the highest level of performance.
This frees you up to focus on strategy, engage with customers and strategic partners, and evaluate infrastructure and operations.
4. Use numbers to drive strategic results
Don’t be hemmed in by traditional business reports. These reports usually focus on high level, company-wide metrics that are important to review and to be able to take to the bank.
However, to drive strategic results, you need to figure out and track the specific factors that are critical for your businesses’ success – measures that can give you a heads up before performance is disrupted and help you identify areas for improvement.
For example, if you are selling online, you probably already track the time from order to arrival at the customer’s location. But what can you learn from measuring each component separately? You may find there are some components that are so critical you should review them regularly – even daily – while others may not tell you anything of importance. Apply this level of examination to all aspects of your business.
Your success comes from knowing what to measure and how often. “Having the right metrics enables you to measure progress toward your goals and make timely adjustment along the way. They keep you grounded and focused,” report highly successful entrepreneurs.
5. Believe in yourself
Finally, trust your instincts and judgment. Turn pitfalls into opportunities; challenges into opportunity; and most of all, have the courage to dismiss those who say “it can’t be done.”
Sharon Hadary is an international speaker, author, and coach. She is the co-author with Laura Henderson of How Women Lead: The 8 Essential Strategies Successful Women Know, blogs for The Wall Street Journal’s Small Business Forum, and is an adjunct professor in the doctorate of management program at University of Maryland University College.