If there’s one challenge in the world of business that’s almost as tough as starting up, it’s growing. The bigger you are, the more secure you are, and a business should always be actively seeking to grow in order to ensure that it doesn’t lose market share, however, that doesn’t make it any less nerve-racking to extend yourself when you’ve only recently achieved stability. What should you be doing to boost your chances of successful growth, find new growth opportunities and take your business to the next level?
Making yourself visible
It’s often said that women face a disadvantage in business compared to men because they’re not brought up to put themselves forward. When you’re trying to grow your business, it’s essential to make a noise and ensure that people hear about you. There might be lots of people out there eager to make use of your products or services but that doesn’t help if they’re not aware of you. Raising your profile starts with developing a good website but also means making use of the media at every opportunity. Start with local press, which is always hungry for stories, and look for opportunities to give interviews to trade press magazines. Build yourself up as an expert in your area of business. Look at ways to participate in your local public television service and don’t be shy of pushing for national or even international coverage.
One important way of raising your profile is networking, and this also gives you the chance to engage directly with people who may be able to help your business grow. With a lot of networking organizations having mostly male members, this has traditionally been difficult for women, but today an increasing number of women’s networking organizations are emerging to resolve the problem. Former Securities and Exchange Commission member Lady Barbara Judge, who is noted for her business acumen, has argued that women have a responsibility to help other women and that doing so is an important force for change. She’s now involved with AccelerateHer, a group helping to connect female business owners and boost their confidence.
One of the ways that people get into trouble when growing their businesses is to become overwhelmed by the number of new tasks that emerge at each stage. That is a particular problem for women because they’re more likely than men to have additional, domestic responsibilities that they can’t get out of. If you’re in this situation, it’s important to focus on getting all your new tasks in order before being tempted to expand further. This can be frustrating if further opportunities present themselves or you can see rivals charging ahead, but it’s better to go slowly than to have your business fall apart because you can’t stay on top of everything. If you’re bringing in new people to help, allow time to be sure of their competence before depending on them.
Keeping costs low
It’s much easier to stay organized if you keep your business operations simple, and it’s much easier to stay flexible and ready to take advantage of opportunities if you keep your costs low on a day to day basis. That may sometimes mean paying more overall, if you’re less able to take advantage of bulk buy discounts from your suppliers or service providers, but flexibility is generally more important at this stage in the development of your business. As it gets bigger, it will be able to sustain proportionally larger overheads without compromising its ability to act quickly. As your reputation gets established you’ll also find it easier to borrow money. Early on, you need to be more self-sufficient.
Learning from mistakes
Everybody in business makes mistakes. Because women are brought up to feel awful about letting people down, and to strain toward perfection, they are vulnerable to two risks associated with this. Firstly, they are more wary of risk than their male counterparts, sometimes to the point where it inhibits the growth potential of their businesses. If this is a big worry for you, sleeping on big decisions can help you to be more confident about making the right choices. Secondly, they may hesitate to acknowledge or properly examine the mistakes they have made. Why does this matter if they’re in the past? Because every mistake is a learning opportunity and often they provide the best means of improving your business skills that you’ll find anywhere. Don’t be afraid of them – make them work for you.
As your business grows, the process of further growth will become easier. You’ll be able to take on a larger and more flexible staff, you’ll be more attractive to funders, you’ll be better connected, and you’ll find it easier to generate publicity. It’s the earlier stage of growth that’s the biggest challenge but by drawing on the support available from other women, you can overcome it.