You may be ready to take your small business to the next level, but is your small business ready to grow? Expanding a small business can take many forms, like hiring more employees, adding products or services, opening a new location, purchasing your commercial space, entering a new geographic market, or buying another business out.
Before you take any of these leaps for your small business, check off the items below to make sure you’re growing on a stable foundation.
Growing small businesses need capital. Whether you are looking for investors, applying for a small business loan or SBA loan, or applying for a business grant or SSBCI opportunity in your state, you will need to know your financials inside and out and have them in a presentable, dynamic form.
- Are your financial documents up-to-date? You must be able to show your business’s financial health, and to do that you need these documents on-hand. If you are not able to prepare them internally, consider investing in a certified public accountant (CPA).
- Personal and Business Tax Returns
- Income Statement (or “Profit & Loss”)
- Balance Sheet
- Personal and Business Credit Reports
- Business Bank Statements
- Is your business plan pitch-ready? If you present a possible lender or investor with a business plan that you’ve invested time and care into preparing, you will be more likely to succeed. Financial statements are part of your business plan, but it also shows your history, your plans, and the data your plans are based on.
- Are your expenses under control? It’s important to know what your expenses are and eliminate any unnecessary bills. This is essential because, as we have learned in recent years, disruptions can come from nowhere. If your expenses are kept under scrutiny, you’ll increase your profits and be ahead of the game if circumstances outside your control affect your revenue.
Growing small businesses rely on quality employees to get the job done. Whether you’re a sole proprietor, or a team of ten or fewer employees, you must be ready to be a responsible, attractive employer before your team increases.
- Do your current and future employees have the tools they need to succeed? Even small teams need to be able to communicate with each other and complete their tasks efficiently. These days, this means investing in technology to support their tasks, and provide you with the reporting you need to optimize their roles. Take the time to review the tools you use to process payments from customers, respond to their needs, organize data, and perform internal tasks.
- Is your operational infrastructure ready to support a growing team? Hiring employees means taking responsibility for their well-being at while at work, and providing competitive compensation that make them glad to stay. Millennials have high expectations from their employers to provide transparent communication from leadership, diversity & inclusion policies, quality benefits, and more money than they could make on their own as Uber drivers.
- What is your hiring strategy, and what roles do you need to fill right away? Before you and your current team burn out, identify the tasks that could be built into new roles, including your own, by asking yourself these questions:
- What are you bad at?
- What tasks do you hate doing?
- What tasks are going undone due to time constraints, by you or your team?
- What goals do you have for your business?
Growing businesses need to be easy to find, and easily recognized in their community or industry. Marketing plans help customers discover your business, engage with it in a positive way, and associate it with the need it fulfills.
- Is your small business website and social media up to today’s customer expectations? Over 80% of consumers navigate websites on their phones. Millennials and Gen Z, who have lived their whole lives online, expect websites to be easy to read, pleasant to look at, and convenient and quick to navigate. If they’re not (1) interested (2) looking at what they’re looking for in 8 seconds, they’ll close it and go elsewhere. They also expect to engage with you on social media, so consider this when making your staffing plan.
- Have you defined your brand? Your brand is an external expression of your business’s core values. Before making any choices about colors, graphics, and voice, you have to be able to express what your core values are, and what tone best serves those values. It’s hard to make big changes once you’ve gained momentum, so be true to your business, and define your brand before you grow.
- Do you have a marketing plan? Marketing is more than a website and social media, it answers the questions (1) What you do, and (2) Why others should care. Most importantly, it answers these questions before someone else answers them for you. With a marketing plan you identify your target market, research who else is getting their attention, including your competitors, and strategize how you will get in front of them and get them to care about your business.
Growing businesses must be ready to weather a storm. The whole world learned in 2020 that anything can happen at any time. It won’t always be the scope of a pandemic, but even localized disruptions and disasters can cause setbacks for your business.
- Do you have a data security and back-up strategy? In the age of data, customers expect the businesses they share their information with to keep it safe. Internally, you also must consider how you store and back up the data your business relies on.
- What’s your Disaster Recovery Plan? Ready.gov provides information and resources to help businesses prepare for disasters that come from technology, weather, and other types of risk.