By: Evie Cousineau
So, as an entrepreneur or small business owner, you've gone through the initial buzz phase of starting a business and seen some early success through sheer passion and momentum. You have grown to a point where are you are now spending all your time working 'in' the business and not 'on' the business and as a result, growth might be slowing. You're experiencing more day-to-day challenges and perhaps you're wondering 'Why did I start out on this journey?"
First of all, take a deep breath, it's all perfectly normal.
What you do next is what will impact your next stage of growth. What does that look like? Below you will find some tips and recommendations for getting back on track. Having worked with many organizations, start-ups, small medium environments and enterprise organizations, I can tell you that these simple suggestions are very effective at many stages of development and when you feel things are getting out of control.
Building a community of prospects, followers and people interested in your product or service proposition is how you will ultimately grow sales revenue. Forget spending thousands of dollars on branding exercises or trying to make all your marketing activities perfect BEFORE you build traction. In order to increase the number of people who engage with your business you need to focus on getting a variety of messages out to your target audience, across multiple low cost channels (email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and I don't mean the standard 'sales pitch'. Create some authentic marketing communication pieces which relate to your customers:
Connect with them on an emotional level by sharing motivational ideas.
Encourage interaction by asking questions of your audience.
Show variety in your style of writing in order to build the relationship first before the sales pitch. Try humor, personal development, or even comment on other industry related articles.
Share insights into personalities within your business.
Share free educational information - infographics, eBooks, video tutorials - to get your prospects eager to read/download more and build respect for your brand.
Run a fun competition or quiz.
Conduct a survey - include some questions unrelated to your product or service.
Solicit feedback from your customers - what's working well and where do you need to focus your attention. This is a great way of creating your 'priority list.' After all, successful growth is all about the customer experience.
Stories, stories, stories......
2. Revisit your Company Goals & Objectives
If you are not careful, you become so consumed in the day-to-day activities of the business that you forget the bigger picture. Take some time with your team to revisit your goals and objectives and assess if your day-to-day priorities are in alignment. If not, identify what is preventing you from achieving the goals and brainstorm ideas to solve the problems. For example:
Create a robust process for monitoring goals across all functional areas of the business.
Create 'short win' milestones to motivate the team and yourself and to demonstrate that you're moving forward.
How do you measure success on a regular basis?
How do you deal with issues and challenges?
Assign accountability where possible. Don't make it your sole responsibility to manage all the goals, because you'll fail before you've even begun.
If you find yourself spending a lot of time on a specific function or task within the business, get into the habit of asking yourself, "Is this helping me to achieve my goals?" You will soon begin to learn what is a priority and what can be left to deal with at a later date. Don't forget about the lower priority items, simply build them into your process as a way of documenting and revisiting tasks.
3. Find a Mentor
Having a mentor is said to be one of the most important keys to success. You can find a mentor from your local networking groups or it could be a successful business colleague you admire and has similar business values to your own. What are the benefits of having a mentor?
They've been there and done that. You can learn from their mistakes and avoid making them yourself or get great ideas of how to solve a problem.
Talk to them as an unbiased third party. They see you for you and your potential. They have no ulterior motive or game plan when advising or guiding you. Better yet, they are not your boss or your parent so you will tend to listen and value their input.
They have a whole different network of contacts and connections which are priceless and can help enhance your personal and business development.
It's the best free service you could ever get and you could even gain a life-long friend.
4. Take Time to Think
Anxiety, stress and 'burn out' are killers of innovation and creativity. No matter how swamped you might be, it is essential to plan some time each week, just to think and plan. It is not a luxury, but a necessity. Schedule a couple of hours EACH WEEK where you shut the door on what's happening around you, switch off the phone and just focus on the business. You'll be amazed at the decisions you make, solutions you create and new ideas you develop within this short window of clarity.
Finally, learn to embrace the stage of growth that you find yourself in. It's an exciting journey, which no one said would be easy. Don't forget to acknowledge and recognize those who are supporting you, smile a lot and give yourself a 'pat on the back' for a job well done!
Evie Cousineau is a marketing and engagement strategist with over 20 years experience across all areas of business including sales & marketing, operations, and business finance. She has an appreciation of the impact of business decisions across all functions and spearheaded product development at Excelerate America.
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