In today’s age, the barriers to entry for starting a business have definitely come down. However, growing and scaling that idea into a company is a different story. This is often the time when you’re working 14+ hour days, sacrificing time with friends and family, and experiencing the stress and sleepless nights of taking a risk for an unknown payoff. The initial launch comes with a larger than life to-do list to establish your company, to get customers coming through the door, and to find ways to scale quickly without going into too much debt in the process.
How entrepreneurs and small business owners handle the early growth is critical to their success. They must embrace the concept of leverage to actually move the business forward while still managing the day-to-day whirlwind. More on that a little later.
Historically, it is estimated that 96% of all small businesses fail within the first ten years. As they experience growth early on, the focus must quickly shift from launching the business to growing the business. And this growth comes with a host of growing pains, including how to:
- Manage cash flow to invest in the business
- Find and keep the right staff to help the business grow
- Implement operational practices to make sure the day-to-day tasks are completed
- Position the business in front of customers to drive sales
- Juggle personal and family obligations while investing time in the business
- Avoid burnout, anxiety, frustration, and the general highs and lows of being a new business owner
The natural progression of business growth from idea to startup to small business is full of challenges, coming from all directions – financial, business-related, and personal. As a business moves toward scale, it and the entrepreneur inevitably hit a hard growth ceiling. This is the place where another layer of people, systems and processes is required to experience sustainable growth. And, this is where finding a better way and using collaboration and leveraging the resources, people, and tools around you are essential.
There Is a Way to Overcome the Growth Pains
Despite most businesses calling it quits within the first few years, this trend is quickly changing, and more businesses are able to overcome the growth ceiling.
However, those who are successful must make BEHAVIORAL and MINDSET changes.
Entrepreneurs and small businesses are starting to understand the concept of leveraging time, money and resources…and execution. They are finding creative ways to study, learn from, and implement proven growth hacking and execution strategies to be able to work on their business, instead of only working in their business. The pains of finding affordable and efficient ways to grow are nothing new, so why not leverage the skills, strategies, and tools other companies have successfully used to break through the growth ceiling.
But, what does leverage really mean for the entrepreneur and small business owner? How can you generate more leads, close more sales, save time and money? You must have a strategy and a SYSTEM for how you approach it.
Here are just three of the many ways that you, the entrepreneur, can focus on leveraging those within your ecosystem to scale your business:
- Leverage Your Money: Finding ways to get higher output without sacrificing your bottom line is a constant challenge, even for large companies. Taking advantage of free or inexpensive online tools, hiring freelancers, and establishing automated systems for day-to-day tasks can all be easy ways to make your money go further. The more money left in your business, the better able you are to grow your business. It’s true that it takes money to make money, but investing wisely in the ecosystem you build around your business will mean the difference between looking up at the growth ceiling, or standing above it and using it as a launchpad.
Here are a few examples of how you can leverage your money to grow your business.
- Outsourcing content writing. If you don’t have great content to post and share (blogs, press releases, case studies, thought leadership guides), then you’re losing ground. Content is king, and it takes time, but it needs to get done and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. There are specialized online platforms you can tap into and get access to amazing writers for incredibly low cost.
- Find a freelance graphic designer. Whether you need a new logo, infographics, brochures, or case studies formatted and designed, a freelance designer may charge only $25 to $100.
- Free PR. Platforms such as Quuu.co that for as little as $25 to $75 can get your content pushed to all the major influencers. Or use a tool like prlog.org to submit your press releases for free and get the same results as with expensive solutions used by big companies (i.e. PR newswire).
- Videos for less. If you know where to look, you can get high quality videos with professional scripting, professional voiceover, and eye-catching graphics, all for a fraction of what a local videographer may charge.
- Explore data scraping. Instead of spending money to attend or exhibit at industry tradeshows, get a freelancer to scrape all the tradeshow websites for the conference or tradeshow speakers and capture all the influencers in your market. Then, you can hire a freelancer that specializes in social media marketing to connect with them on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
- Leverage Your Time: How much time are you really spending in your business versus working on growing your business? If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you’re in there every day, sun up to sundown, and may have limited time to plan, collaborate with potential business partners, and find new ways to take your business to the next level. Identifying and using online tools to manage not just your time but your business can help to free up your time to focus on the next steps. If you’re spending too many hours on a task, time that should be allocated for business growth brainstorming or execution, then consider outsourcing to get the work done, without restricting your time to devote on business growth.
Leading entrepreneurs are using these strategies to better use their time.
- Hiring virtual assistants to keep up with competitors. Studying what others around you are doing takes significant time. But, hiring a virtual assistant who can do the online market research and compile a spreadsheet of your competitors information, even collecting their marketing materials, can save you time and money!
- Using handwriting robots. In today’s digital world, a nice follow-up handwritten letter can do wonders in advancing a sale. Bond.co can create inexpensive handwritten letters and notes and send them to sales prospects, with a click of a button.
- Leveraging online tools. If you want to do some cyber spying to learn what online marketing strategies are working for your competition, then free tools like Spyfu.com and help! You can quickly download all your competitor’s top performing keywords, see their Google Ads, and much more.
- Maintain a Mindset of Execution: Build and Leverage the Network Around You. This includes how you manage and use your own skills and staff if you have them. If you’re spending 25% of your time working on your business and 75% of the time working in your business, then it’s time to shift your focus. The time you spend working ON your business is what moves it forward. Build a trusted and experienced team of freelancers and employees to take the operational tasks off of your plate, so you can shift from operations, and everything else under the sun, to strategy.
When you’re scaling the growth ceiling, consider these examples of how other entrepreneurs are building a network of resources.
- Find your niche and stick to it. As the visionary behind the business, your time may be best spent networking, speaking to prospects, or creating a growth strategy. Figure out what you are the absolute best at doing in your business and free up your time to do this.
- Be okay with letting go. Instead spending 4-5 hours writing content or trying to learn how to update your WordPress website, utilize someone who can do it quickly, and free up your time for what’s more important. Remember, always ask yourself, “Is this the best way for me to spend my time”. If the answer is “no” then find a freelancer to do the work. Your time is usually best spent closing a sale or developing a new market strategy.
- Implement an “Operating System”. This is one of the most important elements! Having an operating system to bring discipline and accountability into your business is essential to establishing and executing goals as a team. Whether it is the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), The Gazelle’s Scaling Up System (Rockefeller Habits), The 4 Disciplines of Execution or a similar program, the key is to find a system to use and implement. Keep in mind that you don’t have to invest in their full program to start. Each program has a website with free resources. You can also purchase a book on Amazon.com that summarizes their programs for less than $20.
The 21st century entrepreneur has many more tools at their disposal than their predecessors. Using a blend of creativity, data and execution resources to find paths of growth overlooked by others is helping small businesses around the world experience unprecedented growth. The key is how to unearth proven growth hacking strategies to maximize your time, get more out of your financial investment and create a self-sustaining network of people focused on growing your business. Leveraging the expertise of other entrepreneurs and growth hackers can be a great place to start, so look out for networking and workshop opportunities.