If you own a small, medium or large company in any phase of the business life cycle (launch, growth, shake-out or maturity), there is always room to be more innovative in the way you deliver your product or service, and to make improvements to grow your business. This goal is not something that you should pursue one time or occasionally; in fact, it is the opposite. Continuous business growth should be the driving force of your daily adventure as an entrepreneur, a permanent vision of future success, and an ongoing process of innovating and pursuing meaningful goals.
Each company will have different goals depending on its current status. For example, one company might be improving the design of its current product or introducing a new one, whereas another company might be improving its customer service area, penetrating a new market or building an international partnership. The list of possibilities to business success is endless.
Taking your business to the next level will allow your company to survive in difficult times and to grow when opportunities arise. Here are five tips for you to consider to improve your business.
1. Talk to your customers
This advice is the one I hear the most from seasoned business people given to young entrepreneurs. Often the daily management routine and business operations usually takes the entrepreneur away from clients. As an entrepreneur you will deal with many areas, all important, from sales and marketing to finance, accounting and human resources. Even though your days might be busy attending to issues in all these areas, you have to create room to keep in touch with your clients. They are the most reliable source of information for you, so you have to invest and book the time to build solid relationships with your customers. If you succeed, clients will tell what your company is doing well and what it can do to improve.
2. Analyze your competitors
Can you list all your competitors? Can you rank them in order of relevance? What are your advantages and disadvantages compared to them? What are they doing better than you?
Sometimes we may know the names of our competitors, but we don’t break down the analysis beyond the list of names. You have to be able to identify their strengths and what the market likes about them in order for you to compete, improve and offer something superior. If you want to grow your business and take it to the next level, you need to carefully watch your competitors, learn from them, and plan how you can outperform them.
3. Listen to your team
Regardless of whether you have a very small or large team behind you, you need to create a space where you can talk with them about the opportunities and threats for your company in the marketplace. Formal meetings are best, but informal conversations work as well. Encourage these conversations so that you can hear their ideas and empower your team to fully participate in the process and to support you to improve your company. You may be surprised by the excellent ideas and inputs your team can provide.
For formal meetings, prepare an agenda and share it with your team in advance, with the goal to review and analyze how your company is doing in the process of moving to the next level. For informal meetings, grab a coffee with your team, no formal agenda, give a brief overview of the status of the company in a casual manner (no presentations), promote spontaneity, and let them guide the conversation.
The Cambridge dictionary defines networking as “the process of meeting and talking to a lot of people, especially in order to get information that can help you.” As an entrepreneur, you have to dedicate effort to network as often as possible. Luckily, there are many ways to build stronger relationships with potential clients, partners, authorities and stakeholders.
I would advise you to find and join business groups in your community that meet periodically to discuss and analyze different business issues, which can be related to your sector or a mix of different industries. Likewise, I would also suggest you invest money to join your local chamber of commerce, and attend business conferences or seminars at least twice a year.
Networking will give you a tremendous learning opportunities, knowledge and new connections to lead your company to the next level, with the support and advice of others.
5. Think outside the box
Taking your company to the next level requires thinking creatively. In order to be able to do that, I would advise three important steps.
First, support this process with quantitative and qualitative information that are available for you. For instance, you might want to consider data and/or reports of Statistics Canada, such as its profiles of a community or region, as well as its retail and wholesale indicators among many others. There are also extensive business databases and analyses that are available through libraries, universities, and business promotion offices.
A second piece of advice would be to analyze mega-trends happening around the globe and affecting businesses. Although you might not currently have international operations, you need to keep an eye on global trends and try to prepare, anticipate and take advantage of mega-trends locally.
Finally, to think outside of the box, you need to give yourself the space and time to reflect and decide what your next steps will be. In this respect, I was reading recently that Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, sits alone every morning for a considerable amount of time just to think about the performance of his company. You now know this is one of the reasons why he is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time. So give yourself time to dream and think about how you will take your company to the next level.
About the author
Juan Navarro is an Educator, Entrepreneur and Researcher. Director at CMX Partnerships, Associate Faculty at Royal Roads University and volunteer mentor at Futurpreneur Canada.