SCORE: Create a growth plan


When you first develop your business, you often have a lot of momentum. But along the way you can lose that drive. So what can you do about it?

Given the interconnected nature of today’s economy, even small, largely local businesses are influenced by trends and events in other industries, and even other continents.

But your internal approach to generating and managing growth could well be the source of your sales slowdown, even in the face of what seem to be bright opportunities. The detailed business plan you’ve followed since the outset may no longer be applicable in a marketplace where changes — both expected and unforeseen — happen on a daily basis.

A growth plan that acts like an internal compass can be a helpful tool for getting things back on track.

Start with your day-to-day actions. If you want your business to grow, that should be the focal point of everything you do. Gather the financial details about what’s happening internally. Then put your plan in writing. It does not need to be lengthy and ultra-detailed. Just the basic points will do. For example, how has your business done in fulfilling your original mission? Did you start with a bang only to see things flatten out? Perhaps you aren’t delivering what you first promised to your customers. Fix any problems or shortfalls quickly.

Keeping up with changes in your marketplace is crucial, so you might have to conduct some new research to stay up to date. This doesn’t have to be formal research. You might start with a simple customer survey, for example, or check for available research online. Make adjustments as needed in your approach.

Communicate your growth vision to others involved with your business, including outside vendors and contractors as well as partners, investors and employees. Don’t just dream — delegate specific actions to reach those goals.

Find out what objections customers are raising to your sales effort — why they have purchased or declined your product or service. Adjust your sales process to place greater emphasis on closing.

You can find some valuable guidance for growth planning in two books: Strategic Planning for Small Business Made Easy, in the “Made Easy” series from Entrepreneur Press, and The 7 Irrefutable Rules of Small Business Growth by small business growth expert Steven S. Little. Both are available in bookstores and online.

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