7 Ways to Grow Your Business in 2016

2015 has come and gone, and now 2016 is almost here. Whether you're just starting your new business or are looking to expand it in coming months, we're sure it's a goal of yours to operate a more successful business in the upcoming year. In this post, I've put together a list of 7 ways to grow your business in 2016.

1. Set Measurable Goals with a Timeline This first point might sound obvious, but often times business owners have goals without set timelines for completion, or goals that are hard or impossible to measure. An example of a bad goal would be, "I want to reach out to previous clients to ask about new projects we can collaborate on in the future." An example of a good goal might be, "I want to increase client retention from 85% to 90% this quarter by personally checking in and seeking feedback from each of our clients on a monthly basis." In a study by John M. Ivancevich, it was found that sales personnel see increased job performance and satisfaction up to nine months after goal setting.

2. Review the Budget The new year is when many of us take the time to "trim the fat" in our personal lives, so it's a perfect time to do the same with your business. Take a solid look at your financials from the previous year and see if you can identify any areas where you spent a lot of money. Reduce overhead where you viably can. Run as lean of an operation as you feasibly can and you will find more success in the new year. Many small businesses spend too much money on IT, ineffective marketing, and non-priority projects. There are too many places your business could be overspending to give a comprehensive rundown, but here are some general things to consider expenses in:

Non-core investments - If your business has invested in a project outside of your specialization and it isn't meeting return requirements, consider cutting losses if it isn't something you're confident in being able to turn around.
Technology- Check how much you're paying for IT staff and systems. Do you have full-time IT staff? Are they creating cost savings and value for your company beyond their annual salary? If not, consider remote IT support. Monthly subscriptions for SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions add up quick. Analyze the cost savings/revenue creation of each and decide whether or not to continue service, scale back to a lower pricing tier, or invest heavier if it's a high returner. One last note: check on your server and telecom utilization. Don't pay for more than you use or you will essentially be throwing money away. Ooma is a good option to look into for a lot of companies looking to save money on their telephone service.

Marketing - Marketing is great, but the money spent on marketing and advertising needs to be under constant scrutiny. Are your ads creating an acceptable ROI (return on investment) for your business? Delve deeper. Is your social media strategy driving enough business to your company to provide a strong ROI, or should that strategy and the associated costs be reconsidered? And cost-per-click campaigns like Facebook ads/Google ads? This should all be analyzed for cost-effectiveness. Marketing analysis is too big of a topic to cover in this post, but it is a part of your business that should be checked for overspending.

Office Space - There are some businesses that demand office space and others that do not. If you aren't having clients visit your office or store front, consider switching to a remote work model. If your business needs a physical location, consider the size and location. Are you getting the most bang for your buck? Take a look at other rental locations and see if there is a better fit for your business. Paying a few hundred or thousand dollars a month over what you need to is a quick way to burn your cash, hinder reinvestment, and ultimately slow growth.

3. Increase Customer Retention According to the CAM Foundation, it is 5-8 times cheaper to market to an existing customer than to acquire a new one. With that said, perhaps more attention should be paid to client retention programs. Don't assume, but rather ask if your customers have been satisfied with your company. Actively seek out that feedback from them to improve your goods or services with. Re-market to existing customers. Do you have a complementary good or service you can cross sell? Schedule calls or time to send emails to customers from time to time just to check in and make sure they are being taken care of. It's the holiday season right now- have you sent out holiday cards? Your customers will notice when you go above and beyond for them, and sometimes it is the little things, like getting a card, that matters. Also, a little loyalty program goes a long way.

4. Hire Motivated Self-Starters / Review Existing Employees Hiring can be a bit of a circus for small businesses, as there aren't always dedicated recruiters or other human resource team members on board with expertise in that process. With that said, it is important to conduct performance reviews with your employees, get a feel for the work they're doing, and ask them for their personal feedback. If you get a feeling an employee isn't motivated to be working for you or isn't doing their best work, find a way to get more out of them or it might be time to part ways. Small businesses have a lower margin for error and waste, and unmotivated employees can lead to both of those things. Moving forward, consider developing a new hiring strategy if you think you could have a stronger team than you currently do. Consider mixing in new interview questions, having candidates solve a challenge or puzzle, and have a second interview in a more casual setting to help you get to know your candidates better as individuals. Ideal candidates should be self-starting, curious, quick to learn, and passionate.

5. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone Humans as a whole tend to become comfortable with things and settle into them. Unfortunately, this isn't always a good thing. One of the companies we work with is a small roofing company in Salem, Oregon. For about 24 years, they have served the same area, relied on word of mouth and Yellow Pages, and offered only a few brands of materials. Over the past couple years, they have certified with several new material manufacturers, developed relationships with third-party financing companies to offer credit to their customers, and started developing a web presence. The company was doing well before, but now they're on a much higher trajectory! Change isn't always a good thing, but being open to new ideas, investing in new things, and learning are a crucial part of growing a company. If you have had any new ideas for your business, 2016 is the year you should get moving on them! If you don't, your competition will.

6. Reach New Markets Another tendency business owners have is to become content once they're running a profitable operation. They assume what they are doing is working, so it should not be changed. There are so many communication mediums for businesses to pursue; from TV commercials and print ads to social media marketing and search engine optimization, and everything in between. Don't limit yourself to what has worked in the past. Re-evaluate the way you engage existing communication channels and seek to create new ones.

7. Learn as Much as Possible This ties in well with some of the other points in this article. We're talking about growth here. Learning helps individuals grow. More intelligent and well-read entrepreneurs can grow their businesses with the things they have learned. While I have always been a huge advocate of reading books by successful entrepreneurs, breadth of study in higher education, and blog posts from experts in their field, there are a great deal of other resources for learning online as well. A lot of them are even free! Udemy is one site that offers affordable, focused classes taught by subject matter experts. TED Talks bring in experts to discuss their fields as well. Khan Academy has a plethora of free, streaming online courses in a variety of different fields. If you're looking to learn the basics of coding, try Codecademy. These are just a few of the great resources out there. A quick Google search can yield thousands of other learning mediums. Having knowledge of many things can help you make better decisions, make better conversation with clients and partners, and otherwise grow your business. With so many free resources available, there is no excuse to not put forth the effort to continue learning.

On behalf of SlatePeak, I would like to wish a successful 2016 to all of our readers! Now get out there and grow your business!

Joshua Slate

Entrepreneur. Rock climber. Software engineer. Founder of @SlatePeak and others.

Saint Paul, MN

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