How Do I Know When It’s Time Expand My Small Business?
As a small business owner, I embraced the mantra “Grow or Die.” Simply maintaining the status quo always seemed to be a challenge. It always felt like my business was either growing, or I was losing business and market share.
I’ve observed that the most successful small business owners seem to be constantly on the lookout for ways to either expand the breadth of their product or service offering or looking for opportunities to add additional footprint within their market. Depending upon the nature of your business, the size and opportunities within your market, and whether or not you need to add additional physical locations to expand your footprint, will help you determine how and where to invest resources in an expansion.
Adding Additional Products or Services
Many businesses tend to expand by adding related products or services to what they offer their customers. Early in my small business career, I learned that there were, generally speaking, two ways to generate more income and grow my business:
- Find new customers
- Sell more to my existing customers
Most small businesses spend a lot of time and effort marketing to new potential customers. It’s an important part of building a business. However, at some point, many businesses realize that adding complementary products to what they offer or adding to the invoice of every customer sale, is another powerful way to increase sales and generate more income.
As a teenager, I worked in my Dad’s small business sweeping the floor and driving the delivery truck. He was pretty focused on finding as many new customers as he could, but he also spent energy looking for additional things he could sell to his customers. Our customers were construction companies, machine shops, and industrial sites, so there were a lot of complementary products he could sell—and because they liked him and his company, it wasn’t too difficult to convince them to purchase new offerings from him.
He started out selling bolts and nuts. Eventually, he was selling pipefittings, hand tools, drill bits, saw blades, electric drills, and other supplies. If his customers would ask for something he didn’t sell, he would find a source and evaluate whether or not it made sense to add it to what he offered.
Add an Additional Location
There are some businesses that are able to grow their business by adding additional locations. This may be the case for businesses like a florist, a garden shop, a restaurant, or other businesses that cater to a local or regional clientele.
There’s a local company that started about 30 or so years ago, from a single location, selling automobile tires. They started to expand by offering complementary services like a full-service garage for car repair, but they didn’t stop there. Now they have dozens of additional locations all across the region and their business continues to grow as the second generation takes over.
Fortunately, there are tools available to help you make decisions about where to add a new location, that weren’t available just a few years ago. For example, did you know the U.S. Census Bureau offers several tools that make it easier for you to evaluate community size, demographic data, and other information to help you make decisions about potential expansion locations?
Add a Robust Online Presence
For some businesses, adding a new physical location won’t really help improve the bottom line, but going online could make their products or services easier to buy or accessible to potential customers outside of their regular service area. You might think every small business is probably already online, but people who specialize in working with small business websites tell me, this isn’t the case. There are still many businesses that don’t have an online presence. They don’t have a website, a social media presence, or do any online marketing.
Fortunately, there are a number of tools available to help you build your own website, design flyers, an email newsletter, or other promotional materials, even if you aren’t a trained designer. Where you spend your energy to expand your business online can depend upon the nature of your business and whether or not you use your online presence to sell products or simply advertise, but something as simple as a business Facebook page, could be the first step.
Adding additional products or services, expanding into a new location, or ramping up your online presence are all ways to grow your business, capture additional market share, and increase profits. I’d love to hear what you’ve done to grow your business. Please share your successes in the comments below.