Every business starts with one goal in mind, to grow. While not every business is trying to become the next Amazon, they are still trying to advance, get bigger, and become a better company. One thing that becomes apparent to any business owner is, growing a business is hard to do alone. Luckily, there are tools and resources available to help businesses large and small grow.
As you approach your business growth opportunities this year, think of some areas where tools can help. Doing everything on your own can be counterproductive and can hurt the business instead of helping it.
In this quick guide, we’ll outline 3 tips you can use to grow your small business.
1. Growing your finances
Growing a business will require investments. Helpful tools will cost money, you may want to hire new employees, or it may be time to move your office. No matter what your business plan entails, it is going to take money to make money.
Even though your business has been performing well and is bringing in cash each month, you may need more money to grow comfortably. Finding capital can be extremely difficult right now. It may be time to branch out past asking your family and friends for money and instead deciding to apply for a small business loan and business grants. As a business owner, you can’t jump into applying for funding before establishing a plan first.
Identify your capital needs
After you decide that your business will apply for a loan or business grant, you will need to know what your capital needs are first.
To truly understand how much money your business will need, you will need to have your complete growth plan in place. Establishing a growth plan can be difficult, and it may be a foreign idea to you. There are free resources available to help you flesh out your business expansion plan.
Your local SCORE chapter, or the service corps of retired executives, connects businesses to mentors in their area who provide free consulting services. These mentors have been in the same situation that you are currently in, and they can provide you with priceless insight.
The SBDC, or small business development center, is a national organization with local chapters as well. The SBDC is very similar to SCORE in that it provides free consulting services to businesses of all sizes.
Whether you’re using these or any other services before you meet with any business consultant, be sure to have as much information about your business as possible. Know your financials in and out, use a budgeting app if you need to and know where you want the company to go. Don’t expect these mentors to lay everything out for you; it will take some work on your end.
After a few meetings with a business consultant, you should understand how much capital you will need and what next steps are needed to obtain it.
Where to find loans and grants?
Now that you know how much money you need, you need to find a loan or grant that aligns with your goals.
Again, the first place we recommend looking at is your local government website. Your local government will list any loan programs that are only available to businesses in your area. These loans are typically offered through some economic development alliance and are incredibly competitive to land.
Business grants will also be listed on your local government websites. Grants are a great way to receive a smaller amount of funds, but these grants usually have stringent guidelines and must be used for a specific reason.
The next place to look for a loan would be your local bank or credit union, but right now, that may not be the best place to go. However, with COVID-19 health regulations likely to continue for some time, creating an appointment, bringing all of your business’s financial documents, and negotiating behind a plexiglass shield may not sound like a great time. As banks are swamped with the uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought, it may be worthwhile to look at some alternative lenders.
Alternative lenders provide online small business loans similar to the capital solutions that traditional lenders do, but you can apply from the comfort of your home or office. The application process is straightforward, but if you have trouble, online lenders employ lending experts who are available to help you every step of the way.
2. Growing your team
As your business grows, hiring more people or bringing in better employees should be a goal of yours. Your business can only be as strong as the weakest link. There should be an emphasis on hiring, but just remember that quantity does not always mean quality.
Finding the right people for your team
The recruiting and hiring landscape has changed dramatically over the past twenty years. The evolution of business technology has completely evolved the way businesses find and hire people.
Traditionally, employers would post job openings on a career site, in the newspaper, or on their website. They then would parse through every candidate’s cover letter and resumé to see who was fit for the job. The problem with this is that it is very time consuming and relies on human judgment.
An online hiring platform like Vervoe can help alleviate some of the time and stress that goes into hiring a new candidate, or a team of new employees. Hiring tools combine the power of technology with your team’s skills to help make smarter hiring decisions.
Vervoe offers a variety of features that will streamline your recruiting workflow. Some of our favorite features include:
- Smart Test Builder – Generate skill assessments unique to your company and the role you are hiring for.
- Remote Assessments – Screen candidates remotely, which is vital as the workforce moves to a more remote environment.
- Automatic Grading – The software will learn as you go and rank candidates based on how they perform.
Finding the right candidates can be hard, but it doesn’t need to be. Use a hiring platform to ensure that you are hiring the right people.
Onboarding in times of constant change
COVID-19 has completely upended the world of work. As time goes on, more businesses are trying to operate as they did before, but this is just not feasible. Your business must adapt specific processes and update them for the times. One area of your process that will need to change is how you onboard new employees.
In the past, onboarding was a relatively straightforward process. It had been done pretty much the same way for years. With a more remote, disconnected, and nervous workforce, it is your job to evolve the onboarding process.
Creating a new onboarding timeline that is geared towards remote work can do wonders when it comes to bringing on a new employee. Organizations with a detailed onboarding process have improved their new hire retention by 82% and new employee productivity by 72%.
When drafting your new hire onboarding process, be sure to have an equal emphasis on logistics as well as engagement. Showing your new hire that they are more than an employee helps create a sense of trust and understanding. Some steps to include in your onboarding timeline include:
- Send a welcome email – After your new hire accepts the contract, it is time to welcome them. Send a quick welcome email that lets them know you’re excited to have them join the team!
- Give them a survey – Keep it short and fun, with no work-related questions so the team can get to know them personally.
- Send a care package – Now that you know a bit about your new hire, send them a care package with some of their favorite things.
- Schedule a video conference – Again, keep this short, personal, and to the point.
- Go over the handbook and other documents – Make sure that your onboarding plan has some informative sections. Set aside some time to video chat with your new hire to answer any questions.
- Link up with IT – Not everyone will have access to the tools that they need to do their job from home. Ensure that you connect your IT department with your new hire to ensure that they receive any equipment they may need.
- Check-in, check-in, check-in – The most crucial step on this list. Amid change, your onboarding plan is not going to be perfect. Just make sure that you are CONSTANTLY checking in with your new hire to ensure that they have everything they need to succeed and feel like they are part of the team.
As mentioned before, nobody is going to be an expert right now. Businesses are changing how they operate on the fly, and it’s going to come with some growing pains. If you are having a hard time reorganizing your onboarding plan, try scheduling a meeting with an HR professional at your local SBDC chapter.
3. Growing your customer base
Setting business goals means that you will likely need to attract new customers – easier said than done. If every business could just snap their fingers, get new leads, and reach new customers, they would. Marketing and lead generation is one of the most volatile elements of running a business. Utilizing MarTech, or marketing technology, can take some of the risks out of marketing and will allow you to optimize your marketing efforts.
Customer relationship management software
Customer relationship management or CRM is the entire overview of how a company interacts with its customers. CRM helps the business communicate, forecast, and persuade customers while enhancing the customer buying experience. The data you can gain from tracking these interactions is invaluable, but it can be tedious and time-consuming.
In years past, information, data, and customers would slip through the cracks due to human error. With the evolution of CRM technology, it is easier than ever to have a sophisticated CRM system.
The CRM software industry has a few huge companies that you will likely go through, but it can be hard to see these companies’ differences. Here is a quick guide about the three most popular CRM platforms on the market today.
The biggest provider in the industry, Salesforce, is easily the most popular CRM software, and for a good reason. Salesforce is an all-in-one cloud CRM platform that offers the most cross-integration and cross-department support. Salesforce is less of a CRM platform and more like an enterprise management tool.
Salesforce will be more geared towards mid-sized companies and larger scale corporations, but small businesses will certainly still see returns on using the platform. Being the biggest and the best will come with a price tag, though. The cheapest version of Salesforce will cost $25/user/month, and it only rises in price from there.
Also, be mindful that Salesforce has a rather steep learning curve. If you have a small marketing department that is not familiar with CRM software, consider an alternative.
Another huge player in the CRM industry is ActiveCampaign. Established in 2003, ActiveCampaign is a more user-friendly CRM platform. ActiveCampaign boasts many of the same features as Salesforce, but it will lack a few main features. ActiveCampaign also does not have all the integration options that Salesforce offers.
A great alternative to some of the more expensive CRM offerings in the marketplace, ActiveCampaign is more designed for smaller businesses on a budget. The platform will be more user friendly but offers less customization. Coming in at just $9/user/month, ActiveCampaign is an excellent introduction to using CRM software.
The most popular freemium provider in the space, HubSpot, has a reputation for being a robust CRM platform suitable for any size business. The software is excellent if you don’t know if a CRM software is a necessary expense for your business. HubSpot is entirely free if you want. More robust features will come with a monthly subscription.
Using HubSpot will come with a learning curve, but not because of confusing features, or crazy looking dashboards, but instead because HubSpot uses specific jargon and language that is core to the HubSpot community.
Again, this offering is free to start, but the price can go up quickly as features add up. If you want HubSpot to be as powerful as some of the other competitors, you will be paying the same price as you would elsewhere.
Final tips for growth
Don’t let the uncertainty of change prevent you from growing in the right way. Your business will need to change to grow.
There are many resources, tools, and guides available to help you grow safely this year; it is up to you to search them out. No matter what your goals are, you’re likely to need outside help to achieve success.
If you still are unsure of approaching your business growth plan this year, a meeting with a business consultant could help. We encourage you to do as much research as possible before expanding your business.
If you need a smarter way to grow your team, get a free trial of Vervoe today!