So you’ve built yourself a decent business. Maybe you have pretty steady cash flow, a strong consumer base, and a nice office. This moment is crucial for your business because it presents you with a dilemma: do you keep things the way they are or try to expand?
“Complacency can be the single most dangerous threat to any business,” says Chris Ruisi, founder and CEO of The Coach’s Zone. Businesses don’t often stagnate — they either grow or diminish.
To keep your business from falling into the trap of complacency, here are some of the key signs that tell you it’s time to expand.
- Your customers have started asking you about new locations or products
When you have a good product that people want, they’ll often go out of their way to get it —- driving a long distance, for example. People commuting distances for your product is a strong demonstration of brand loyalty, but it’s also a barrier to growth.
A person who commutes to get your stuff, for example, may want to recommend you to their friends but chooses not to because they’re thinking, “do I like this enough to send my friend all that way?” The last thing your customers need is an excuse not to hype your product.
Finding out where people are commuting from and researching viable locations to open a new storefront is an important step towards growth. It may require some financing to get off the ground, but it’s better to get close to the people who need your product than to give them excuses to go somewhere else.
Another sign you should expand is customers asking about new products. This interest shows that they trust your company and brand enough to invest more money in your products and services. So what should you do? Develop more stuff for them to buy.
Just look at Amazon. They started as an online book store and grew into a one-stop shop for buying just about anything. Sure, they had some outside financial help, but all growth needs a little bank to light the fuse.
Of course, it’s always crucial to research the market before creating new products, but once you have a good idea in the works, it’s time to start financing its development.
- Your business is becoming unwieldy for you to handle at its current size
If you find yourself working long hours, turning away prospects, or performing specialized tasks you aren’t equipped to handle, you may need some extra hands on deck.
Entrepreneurs come from all kinds of backgrounds: astrophysics, cupcake sales, botany — you name it. They often lack certain business skills required to fuel rapid expansion. Legendary Silicon Valley investor Vinod Khosla, the founder of Khosla Ventures, says, “as a founder, there sometimes comes a point in your company’s growth trajectory when you need to hire a CEO or president from the outside to get to the next level.”
He cites the example of Sean Simpson, the founder of Lanzatech. “Sean is a brilliant scientist, full of ideas and vision, but he came to us with what could only be described as a bad pitch with some brilliant nuggets that we picked up on. We bet on his vision and he built an excellent research operation in New Zealand, but when it became time to scale, we mutually agreed to bring in a strong business-minded CEO who understands the space well.”
There’s nothing wrong with hiring someone with a proven track record who has a skill your business needs. Whether it’s a CEO or a programmer, complicated and specialized tasks are handled more easily and adeptly by trained professionals. You don’t have to worry about those things. You should get to do what you love.
- Golden opportunities have come knocking
Golden opportunities don’t come around often. Sometimes the fancy equipment you need goes on sale, or a property in a desirable area suddenly becomes available. Or, if you’re like Bird, you happen to stumble on a perfect product-market fit.
When Bird launched in September 2017 in Santa Monica, they knew they had a good idea. But their town scooter rentals soon became a sensation. A year later, Bird expanded to service over 100 cities, facilitating over 10 million rides, and becoming the fastest startup to achieve a $2 billion valuation.
They recognized an opportunity, seized it, and saw immediate dividends.
The rest is up to you
Deciding to grow your business means a lot of hard work, some financing, and implementation. The alternative to growth is stagnation and loss of progress. It’s possible, however, to push your business too hard too soon. Hasty decision-making is never advisable.
But a smart and thoughtful growth strategy can yield huge dividends in the future and keep your business relevant in a highly competitive economy.
Written by Andrew Mosteller
Andrew Mosteller is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Lendio News. His upbringing in an entrepreneurial family nurtured a passion for small business at a young age. Now, Andrew spends his time writing copy for business owners, helping them expand and advertise their unique brands. He’s also studying Strategic Communications at the University of Utah. When Andrew’s fingers aren’t glued to the keyboard, he spends his time reading, podcasting, composing music, and bombing down the ski slopes.