What you will get from this article:
- Gain answers to the question “how to grow a business”
- Learn 3 key business growth strategies for your company and yourself
- Understand how to identify where your business is at and where you want it to be
- Discover the difference between a business plan and business map
- Find a concrete way to create your own business map
If you’re a business owner, it’s likely you’ve wondered about the most effective ways to grow your business. Chances are you’ve thought about making a business plan. Or maybe you already have one… on the back of a napkin. Somewhere. Or maybe you’ve read up on business growth strategies but don’t know how they apply to your field. You might go on to create a great-looking business plan, but when you go to execute the steps, nothing seems to work.
Does this mean that you should just not try and make a forward-looking document for your business or stop looking for ways to grow your business? Of course not. But instead of thinking about a business plan, let’s consider a business map. More flexible, a business map can help you understand not only where you are today, but where you’re trying to go with your company. The result: a clear vision of how to grow your business.
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Just what is a business anyway?
Let’s clear the air with some terms. In opening or running a business, your goal is to create a sustainable system that allows you to consistently increase the quality of your life and the lives of the people you serve. Ultimately, owning a business can lead to career freedom and fulfillment. The challenge? Most people get caught up in the vehicle instead of the outcome. If your business is organized around meeting your needs, not your customers’, then you have a job, not a business. Understanding this distinction is critical to learning how to grow a small business since it won’t grow unless you master both external and internal business relations.
Businesses have a narrative, and so do you
Everyone has a chronological timeline of events that comprise our personal histories, a type of narrative detailing our experiences and the value and meaning we inherently assign to those experiences. One of Tony Robbins’ core philosophies is that the stories we tell ourselves define us.
What does this have to do with business growth strategies? If you’re asking about how to grow a business, you’re in a position of opportunity. The series of events leading to this point is subject to your narrative, as are current and even future events. Since your inner dialogue influences every decision, including your business decisions, it is critical that you master the art of framing your experiences so that they enhance your state instead of dampening it.
The same logic applies to businesses. A series of events led to the business’ “birth” and current stage of growth. Those events are subject to interpretation by your narrative, so you must work diligently to frame your business’ life cycle in a way that creates effective business growth strategies. Creating a business map provides a narrative, an interactive version of your business’ timeline while clarifying the purpose and goals of the business. If the stories we tell ourselves define us, your business map will tell a story of authenticity, purpose and drive, which become the hallmarks of your business.
Why a business map, not a business plan?
There’s a big difference between a business plan and a business map, and knowing what the difference is can be crucial when learning how to grow a small business. While a business plan can identify goals you want to achieve, a business map gives a top-down view of how your business works and prompts introspection. It makes you delve deeply into processes, inputs and workflows, as well as your impact on the community and your purpose for entering your business’ industry in the first place.
In today’s world, a business plan just isn’t realistic if you’re trying to figure out how to grow your business. Things change so fast in the working world that by the time you’ve created your business plan, you have to start all over again. What’s the point of that? You’re already mulling over the how to grow a business question, and having an outdated business plan doesn’t provide any clarity.
With a business map, you have something that can guide you from where you are right now to where you want to go and the obstacles that could get in the way. A map also helps you connect emotion and meaning to your goals so that you’re more invested in achieving them. When you achieve the success that is laid out in your business map, it will add much more fulfillment to your life because you’ve done the work of already defining what true success means to you.
Once you have your map, you have to remember to update it constantly as you explore new ways to grow your business. Because we are in an environment that is continuously changing, you have to adjust your map accordingly to match your company’s strategic innovation efforts and stay ahead of the game. Think about how frustrating it is when Google Maps doesn’t update to include a new business or permanent street closure – your business map works the same way. Keep your map up-to-date and you’re able to get where you want to go.
How to make a business map
When making a business map to help you learn how to grow your business, you must start with answering a series of questions. The more honest you are about where you are, the better able you’ll be to end up at your desired result: business growth strategies that work. Below is an example of a business map so that you can start mapping out your own process.
Step 1: Understanding your business
What business are you in?
This question might seem obvious, but drill down a bit deeper. Who are you in your business, and who are you serving? For example, what business is Starbucks in? You might say coffee. But ask Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and you’ll likely get the story of his trip to Italy. There he saw people eagerly meeting in cafes before and after work. The promise of a transitional meeting place between home and work was the seed that grew into Starbucks. He knew his business was about creating an experience – one that’s consistent worldwide – not just delivering coffee.
How to grow your business is tied directly to your core company values. These are the philosophies that guide all your business decisions and influence everything from creativity to profitability. Examples of company values are a commitment to sustainability, a focus on helping those less fortunate, a desire to improve the community and a commitment to dependability and honesty to customers and employees. Though you may be in the business of selling tires, you can also stand for helping the homeless if this is your core value and you donate a certain amount of profit each month to local shelters.
If you want to know how to make your business grow, start by truly understanding the “personality” of your company.
What business are you really in? How’s business?
When looking at what business you’re really in, you also need to see it from a higher level. Are you selling tires or are you providing safe and dependable transportation for individuals and families? If you understand what your business really is, you can anticipate changes in the market and continue to find ways to grow your business. You’ll see the possible opportunities and threats that you otherwise might overlook and prevent disruption from competitors who are adept at anticipating change.
As an example, think about the U.S. railroad. If railroad companies had understood that their business was transportation, not simply running trains, it’s likely they could have prevented the sharp decline in railroad usage that the trucking industry caused. Knowing what business you’re really in means having a deep and thorough understanding of your customer and the value they gain from you as well as knowing what values you base your important decisions on.
Step 2: Your origin story
Why did you originally get into this business?
Why are you in it now? What do you need to get from this business in the long term? These questions help you see where you started and where you want to ultimately go. If you can answer these questions honestly, you can learn how to grow your business in a way that will fulfill your needs and you will be well on your way to situating yourself accurately on your business map.
Who are you?
Who do you have now as part of your team and are they on board with your business map and ways to grow your business? Who do you need and do you have effective recruitment strategies to find them? Who must you get rid of? Take stock of the assets you have, the assets you lack and what’s holding you back. Again, no business growth strategies work without a full, accurate picture of your current position. The answers might surprise you.
Who is your current client?
This question gets to the heart of your business. Tony talks about creating “raving fans”; these are clients that stick with you and really appreciate your brand, not just the item or service you’re selling, instead of customers that will leave once you’ve met their needs. Learning how to grow your business means also learning how to attract and retain these types of loyal customers.
Also think about who your client needs to be. What does your client need? What is your client going to need? What do your customers’ lives look like and how can you address their pain points or make things easier for them? These answers will help you map out the future of your business for maximum growth.
Step 3: Where are you going?
With all the answers you’ve gotten, you can now evaluate where you are and how to grow your business. How do you compare to your competitors and what makes you talkably different from them? Given all that you know, think about where you stand in the grander scheme of things. Are you in an aging industry and need to get out? Are you the clear incumbent, or are you charting completely new territory?
No matter where you are, you have two choices: you can grow or you can die. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. It’s easy to say “I want to understand how to grow a small business,” but then what?
Tony says if your why is strong enough, your how will come. And good news: You just laid out your why. You’ve just figured out what business you’re really in and why, what your clients need and why. So now it’s time to figure out the how of business growth, which is the key to mastering business growth strategies.
The core of all successful business growth strategies? Adding value.
Seriously, it’s really that simple. Once you understand how to consistently offer more value than anyone else in your market, you’re in a better position to identify where you are now. You’ll also clearly see what it will take to get to where you want to be. You’ll have more certainty about what your business needs to do to grow now, and you’ll be better able to steer your organization in accordance with that vision. Most importantly, you’ll understand what business you need to be in to become the dominant force in your market.
Resources for ways to grow your business
Need help learning how to provide more value to your customers so you can find new ways to grow your business? Here are some resources.
Take online business courses
You don’t have to go back to a brick and mortar university to get your MBA and learn how to grow your business. There are hundreds of accredited online business courses that can teach you everything from marketing skills to general business growth principles to specialized techniques for finding your niche. The best news is, you can do most of them from the comfort of your home and on your own time.
Work with a business coach
No man is an island, and this is especially true for entrepreneurs who are trying to learn how to grow a small business. Working with a professional business coach can take you from a wantrapreneur to a true force in the business world. A coach can help you develop your business map and problem-solve everything from time management issues to building a team that works.
Reach out to mentors
A good network of mentors consisting of those who are also figuring out how to grow a small business and those who have already achieved success is the perfect way to get new ideas and perspectives. When you expose yourself to others’ ways of thinking and solving problems, you stay flexible and are better prepared to face the changes that inevitably come with running a company.
With a business map, solid core values and strategies and support from peers and coaches, you can learn how to grow your business and achieve financial freedom.
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