There were more than 32 million small to medium-sized businesses in the U.S. as reported by the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2021 alone. Yet 20% of these businesses close by year one and nearly 50% by year five. The reasons for lower survival rates in small businesses are numerous, but a major component of business failure is stagnation.
Imagine an entrepreneur who found success in launching a business. Their operations and growing customer base have kept them busy through the early phases, but they notice a plateau around year two. To make it as part of the 50% still operating by year five, the entrepreneur needs to be dedicated to persistent improvement efforts.
Small business owners who get their business in motion need to think a few steps ahead to avoid an elongated plateau. With the right tactics in mind, any entrepreneur, including you, can improve business and tackle times of slower growth. You just need to know where to begin.
- Small business owners have a likelier chance of failing when they don’t actively work on improving business operations.
- Tapping into the current market and people associated with your business can support efforts to revitalize.
- Getting organized with paperwork, finances, and different buyout opportunities provides a further place for expansion.
How Often Should You Look for Ways to Improve Your Business?
Every entrepreneur has a goal of sustainable growth in mind. Moreover, it takes dedication to consistent research and improvements. That means having a good awareness of where you currently stand, to identify where you need to go, including:
- Knowing your cash flow and areas where you could curb spending
- Being connected to your customer base and the social platforms they’re on
- Understanding your weakest areas and where to ask for support
Sustainable growth means constant improvement efforts and being open to trying new things. Quarterly, thorough reviews are a great starting place if you feel out of your element with this startup-like mindset.
1. Organize Your Processes and Workspace
The deeper you get into your business, the more cluttered it can become–literally. You may have things such as paperwork spread across your deck, an unsorted Google Drive, and subscription services with old payment details. Your goal to improve business becomes easier when you implement more organization and efficiency.
A great starting point is reviewing your technology and streamlining it with simple digital services. Get rid of applications you don’t use, convert paper files into digital ones, and add relevant team members to platforms.
Every business owner can benefit from the power of automation, and you don’t need to be a computer whiz. Start simply by sending a welcome message to a new subscriber or saving attachments to a drive.
Prioritize taking stock of your progress and learning from your mistakes. You’ve probably tried a lot of strategies to get your business off the ground, but doing what got you to Point A won’t necessarily get you to Point B. Review past processes, identify what didn’t work, and update your business strategy to avoid the same mistakes.
2. Revisit Your Finances
To improve business, you need to know financial numbers like the back of your hand. This includes everything from cash flow to your business’s credit score. Cash flow is a key indicator of growth or early failure, with 46% of small businesses exiting with irregular cash flows.
By revisiting your finances, pay close attention to the accuracy of numbers and determine where you may be spending egregiously. Where are you spending where you should be saving? The only way you can identify financial improvements is by knowing your numbers.
3. Connect With Your Community
Do you remember how you vigorously hunted for customers in the early days? Chances are that spark has dimmed over time, and you may have lost contact with customers to focus on other aspects of the business.
Reengaging with your community is a necessary and fulfilling method to enhance business. In fact, 86% of loyal customers will refer others to a business, furthering the community around brands. You can tap into this method by finding new ways to connect with customers, including:
- Virtual meetups with loyal customers
- Farmer’s-market tables for attracting local consumers
- Live social media videos, sharing tips or fun content
- Monthly emails to customers with updates
To build a community for your brand means building relationships with customers. When you focus on them as people, you find ways to connect in a way that feels more personal.
Engage your local business community and find fellow entrepreneurs. These relationships could be professional, sending referrals your way, and personal, acting as a sounding board for new ideas.
4. Connect With Your Employees
Your employees are also influential on your path to improving business. Creating a positive work environment for your team encourages motivation, productivity, and fresh ideas.
Employees seek out workplaces where they feel valued and respected, and you can implement strategies to create spaces for intentional conversation and celebration. This could be anything from an open-door policy between you and employees to quarterly team feedback meetings and birthday or holiday greetings.
To attract the best talent means offering attractive benefits, and the hottest one at the moment is remote or hybrid workplaces. Offering even one work-from-home day per week allows for a diverse team, attracting those seeking flexible work arrangements.
5. Consider Acquisitions and New Development
A great way to focus on business development is by looking around. Your market is full of inspiration and insightful data, such as a new niche, a trend, or a competitor. You may pinpoint a struggling business that could be open for a buyout, a potential opportunity to break into a new clientele.
You should also aim to diversify your product lines based on the results of your research. The social world has made it easy to stay aware of trends, especially on TikTok, with its 1 billion users. This is a great way to keep your business fresh and in the social conversation. And remember, staying on trend could simply mean marketing or branding a classic product in a new way.
6. Know When You Need Support
The final method to improve business may be a hard lesson for some headstrong business owners. But you need to get comfortable knowing when you’re out of your league and ask for guidance.
The SBA offers specific mentoring programs for small business owners. You can also find business owner support groups on LinkedIn or at local business development or innovation centers.
As you build out the business, strive to put together an advisory board, formally or informally. Identify individuals whom you feel comfortable with and who know the business and industry. Having a trusted group to go to for advice makes a difference.
But at the end of the day, the key activity you can do to strengthen your business is taking a break. Hitting a plateau offers a time to reflect on your business’s progress and where you see its future.
How Do I Improve My Business Credit Score?
A business credit score functions similarly to your credit score, meaning you already have experience in maintaining this. A few ways to improve your score would be to limit credit usage, pay bills on time, and avoid closing accounts. Get into the habit of reviewing your business credit report regularly and reporting any inaccuracies.
How Do I Improve Google Search Results for My Business?
Improving your Google search results means getting familiar with search engine optimization. SEO is a marketing strategy that focuses on getting a business higher on a search page when using select keywords. Getting better placement means selecting pertinent keywords, creating content with those on your site, and optimizing said content for more relevancy.
U.S. Small Business Administration.”2021 Small Business Profile,” Page 1.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. “Longevity.”
JPMorgan Chase & Co. “A Cash Flow Perspective on the Small Business Sector.”
KPMG. “The Truth About Customer Loyalty.”