Sixteen Quick Tips on Building and Growing a Successful Business
I started The Boreland Group, a public relations agency, in 2003. Our 16 year existence is an exception to the rule. According to the Small Business Administration, nearly a third of all new businesses fail during their first two years. The number jumps to 50% of all businesses failing in the first five years, and rises to 66% in the first 10 years of operation.
How did we beat the odds? To commemorate our 16 years in business, here are the 16 tips that have helped us continuously flourish.
1. Be Business Smart. We all have great ideas, but if we don’t have a solid business understanding, the greatest concept will stumble. There are numerous services that are available – many of which are free – that can assist budding entrepreneurs. Among them are the US Small Business Association (SBA) and SCORE, where retired business executives provide free mentoring services. Big Ideas for Small Business®, a website for small business owners and independent entrepreneurs that offers a plethora of business-critical information. Building that early business foundation is a must, because going from employee to employer is a huge step, with a different set of required knowledge and expertise needed.
Note: Score and the SBA are hosting a *free* two day virtual conference during National Small Business Week. You can register here.
2. Ask. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want or need. The more people who know means that there will be more opportunities to get what you want. There is nothing shameful about asking. Here’s the thing – if you don’t ask, you don’t get. So, ask.
3. Create Multiple Revenue Streams. When one aspect of your business is slow, having another source of revenue can be a life-saver. A key thing to keep in mind is to remain focused – those streams should share a commonality and further your overall business practice. Being scattershot can dilute your brand; impact your messaging; and cause confusion amongst your peers about who you are and what you do.
4. Brand Yourself. By all means brand your company, but don’t overlook the need to brand yourself. Personal branding is a critical business component that many CEOs overlook. Listen, you are the face of your brand and when your self-brand complements your corporate brand, you increase the chances of getting your “unfair share”© of business-building attention. When done well, personal branding will differentiate you from your competition; highlight your areas of expertise; and ensure that more people will come to when they are looking for the product or service that your company offers.
5. Promote Yourself. I always say that no one will know how great you are until you tell them. Break out of the office, and speak before groups; do media interviews; write articles. Doing so offers numerous benefits: it furthers your personal brand; exposes you to new audiences with whom you may not be in contact, but are of value; and it grows your company’s visibility.
6. Make Friends With Your Competition. I feel there is enough for us to go around. Seek out your friendly competition where you can share information, share costs for professional services (which is a major plus for solopreneurs), or act as a sub-contractor.
Note: Be sure to get everything in writing so expectations are on the same page, and you are financially and legally protected.
7. Be a Joiner. You can get a lot of business from membership-based professional groups, such as chambers of commerce. Be selective – don’t join to join. See what they offer, and what you can contribute. Be proactive so you maximize your opportunities to generate new business.
8. Network. In addition to getting business from being a proactive joiner, you can get a great deal of business from networking. Previous to The Great Recession, new business was almost ridiculously easy to snare. Those golden days are long gone, and are not coming back. Networking is a way to grow your market share. Keep in mind that as with the joining tip, you have to give in order to get, and without that, your networking goals will not be met.
9. Social Media. Social platforms are goldmines. If you’re not on social media, your competition is – and they are getting business that could have gone to you. So post! Select a platform, be it LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram – wherever your primary audience is – develop a goal for that platform and start working it.
10. Keep it Fresh. I admit, running a business for a long period of time can get stale. Figure out ways to keep it fresh and interesting. It can range from offering new services to opening a new office. Just make sure that whatever you do is in keeping in line with your overall business goals, and that you have buy-in and understanding from your staff and client base, both of whom are essential to any new endeavor’s success.
11. Outsource. There’s a reason why there are accountants, bookkeepers, lawyers, etc. Because they are there to help us. Why do your taxes (which many solo shops do)? Why open yourself to potential legal issues if you don’t have a lawyer to read your contracts? Yes, they are an additional cost, but the time and future monies they can save you can be significant.
12. Fire Toxic Clients. Life is too short to work with clients who make your life miserable. If you need the money and can’t fire them right away, start looking for other clients to take up the slack or review your existing client roster to see how you grow that account. Put a timeframe around it, so it doesn’t drag out. Toxic clients can also demoralize your staff and lead to them to seek happier pastures elsewhere.
13. Turn Away Clients. It may be painful, but focusing on clients who don’t advance your business is a flat-out waste of time. You could be focusing on accounts that are a better fit, rather than losing time on a client who doesn’t contribute to your goals.
14. Diversify. The Boreland Group initially focused on a single industry. Just before 2007, we began to diversity and included small business and non-profit accounts. That saved us during the Great Recession. Don’t put all your eggs into one basket. One crack, and you can find your business in deep trouble.
15. Invest in Your Company. Ongoing success often means spending money. This can be tricky for solopreneurs or start-ups who are often on tight budgets. Regardless of your size, you have to offer the value and services that are industry standards. Keep in mind that many of these services can either be charged back to the client or be written off as a tax expense (check with your CPA on that).
16. Self-care. Take time for yourself. Burn out, especially in the early years, is real. Taking a break, even if it is a day off, or building in blocks of time just for you throughout your work week (like working out in the morning), will keep you motivated. It gives your brain time-off, and you’ll get back to your desk with new ideas that you may have overlooked – because you were working all the time.
And here’s a bonus tip:
17. Be Thankful. Gratitude is undervalued. The fact you have a business; that you are contributing to the community; and building a legacy is something you, as an entrepreneur, should always be proud of.
SCORE - https://www.score.org/
Small Business Association - https://www.sba.gov/
“The Little Book of Big PR: 100+ Quick Tips to Get Your Small Business Noticed” - https://www.amazon.com/Little-Book-Big-PR-Business/dp/0814436218
Big Ideas for Small Business - https://bigideasforsmallbusiness.com/
Jennefer Witter is the CEO/Founder of The Boreland Group Inc., a public relations agency that focuses on corporate and executive visibility. She is the author of "The Little Book of Big PR: 100+ Quick Tips to Grow Your Small Business" (HarperCollins). Witter is also an in-demand speaker, with appearances at venues such as The Pentagon, Columbia University, American University, Financial Women’s Association-NY Chapter, Ellevate Network, Vital Voices Global Ambassadors program, and The Brookings Institution. She is an instructor at the 92nd Street Y. Jennefer has been featured on Bloomberg Radio, MTV News and Bold TV and in The Wall Street Journal, HuffPost and Thrive Global. Her articles have appeared in Business Insider, Medium and Forbes. She is the Diversity Fellow and Executive Mentor at M Booth, a creative communications agency.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
The Boreland Group Inc.
I am the CEO/Founder of The Boreland Group (TBG-www.theborelandgroup.com), a boutique public relations agency based in NY. TBG was recognized as one of the country's top five black-owned firms "making a buzz" by TheStreet.com. We focus on women-led and minority-owned businesses as well as grassroots non-profits. I am also an active speaker, with presentation on implicit bias, personal branding, workplace language between genders and virtual networking. Among the venues where I have presented: Columbia University,... Continue Reading
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