Starting and running a small business is no small task, as any business owner will tell you. There are a million things to think about when you get your company up and running, and whether you run it out of your home or from a storefront, it can be difficult to grow and expand when you have limited means.
Many new business owners don’t see a profit for months or even years after opening, and while this can definitely be a hindrance when you want to expand, it doesn’t have to be the final word. There are several simple ways you can grow your business without laying out too much money; you just have to be creative with your thinking.
"Sit down and look at the three primary areas where growth will occur. There are a lot of things you can do on a one-time basis, but before they can work, you need to ask yourself what you want this business to be. Have a vision that's real," says business coach Steve Smith.
Here are a few of the best tips on expanding your small business when you have limited means.
Many companies make use of interns, who will work for little to no pay in exchange for experience and/or college credit. If you have something you can offer other than money, market your company to young people so you can work together to make your business a success. Even if you offer interns some compensation, it will likely be less than the cost of hiring a regularly paid employee. This investment might pay itself back over time as you’ll already have invested in some training, and you’ll know if the intern is a candidate for any full-time opportunities that emerge.
Create an online presence
These days, the majority of commerce is done online, and social media can have a huge impact on your customer base. Growing your business means not only keeping the customers you have and creating a reason for them to come back, but finding new customers who can spread the word about the excellent service or product they receive from you. If your company doesn’t have a website, get on it and then make sure you have business profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.
Consider taking on a partner
Though owning and operating a business with a partner can be tricky at first, it can benefit your company to have a second caretaker. It can also be financially beneficial to have someone who can share the costs of marketing and tackle the parts of business you aren’t as comfortable with.
Have some freebies
If you need something from your customer base, such as email addresses that will allow you to market your company effectively, offer something in return for signing up. It can be something simple and cost-effective; many people see or hear the word “free” and immediately jump on board. Just be prepared to be totally transparent with your potential customers and let them know what they’re agreeing to by signing up.
It’s always a good idea to talk to fellow business owners and keep your ear to the ground for any tips or information that will be helpful for your company, but networking has another benefit: partnership. You can look for ways to team up with another business that will help both of you grow. For instance, if you own a candle and fragrance company and your store’s neighbor is a cosmetics business, have them burn your candles in their store in exchange for your employees wearing their makeup. Promoting each other’s product is a great way to get customers talking.
Growing a small business is never easy, but with a little planning and some creative thinking, you’ll be able to take your company to the next level in no time. Remember to connect with fellow business owners as much as possible and look for ways to barter services, share best practices, and cross-promote.