You’ve done the hard work that goes with getting your business idea off the ground (well done you!) and you’re up and running, or maybe you’ve been running for a while. Now you’re faced with what is perhaps the even bigger challenge of expansion. Some business types scale more easily than others and while what you need to do to grow will depend to some extent on what type of business you have, there are a few things that are important to know that you can use as guides for mapping out the next exciting stage of the journey.
And the first one is exactly that: mapping out.
1. Have a plan - actually, have 4 plans
It may sound obvious but having a plan, ideally built around a quarterly strategy is vital. Divide your year up into quarters and create a plan for each quarter that makes sense as a whole-year picture. This way you are keeping yourself focused on smaller chunks of time - avoiding overwhelm - at the end of which you can take a broad view, see where you are and review the remaining plans.
Getting it all down on paper (well, on screen) will literally give you some perspective on all those ideas and strategies you have in your head or in documents, texts and talks with others. At the outset you should take the time to evaluate all these ideas and then lay them out in your plan timeline.
And the truth is everything else depends on your plan too…
2. Go deeper to reach further
This one may seem a bit head-in-the-clouds at first and if you did an initial branding exercise you may have touched on it… but it’s worth taking it deeper: what are your values? both for you as a business owner and for your business as a personality in the community. Don’t be afraid to bring the high values out: to spread joy, to empower, to delight, to nourish and support, to include and champion. In our experience, most small business owners have a higher value reason for wanting to take the big plunge that launching a business entails, and having this in mind - or writ large above your office door (thanks Ted Lasso) - can help give you a sense of purpose and guide your decision making on a daily basis.
Having clear values - and by extension a clear purpose - can help a lot when it comes to making inroads into your community, it’s easier to talk about your business, whether in person or through ads, if you know exactly who you are and why you’re here. A transparency of vision builds trust - even if it’s simply something like ‘reliability’ and it means that your customers know that if they can’t find it in your shop but they want it, you will get it for them if you can.
Trust leads to recommendations, returning customers and long term loyalty.
3. Get payments right (right means hassle-free)
This applies to all kinds of payments: the payments customers make for your goods or services and all the payments that you have to make to keep your business open and running smoothly.
There’s nothing more infuriating for everyone than finding that you are unable to accept a payment for one reason or another. Growing a business means reaching clients where they are at and making their interaction with you enjoyable and effortless - right up to check-out. Whether it’s on your website or social media, at the table or counter, at the till or at your desk you want to make it easy for your customer to pay, and ideally in the way that's best for them.
Utilising a finance management platform that allows you to accept all kinds of debit and credits cards, payment links and transfers, that has a QR code payment solution and can integrate a POS machine. This will enable you to take not just any form of payment but many simultaneous payments. For example, one customer is paying via the QR code at their table (on your bar counter, on the side of your food van), while another is making a contactless card payment at check-out, another is texting you a payment link, and yet another is making an online transfer from your website or from the QR code embedded in your social ad… Ideally all these payments get processed through the same business account and can be viewed as separate income streams and managed accordingly. That’s faster business!
Built into your business account should be a smarter way to pay fellow business owners - suppliers, for example. B2B (business-to-business) payments are notoriously tedious and usually carry an unnecessarily steep fee. You want to choose an account that lets you dictate what currency you’d like to use, lets you set up recurring payments and allows you to streamline incoming and outgoing B2B payments by linking them to sub-accounts. You also want to know that payments made and paid show up instantly in your balance so that you are sure about how much money you have in any given moment and are not left waiting for amounts to ‘clear’. In addition to all these features, wamo has a unique wamo-to-wamo option which offers fee-free transfers between wamo account holders.
4. Get sociable
Your business has its customers and now you want more of them. The customers you already have are a great source of information for knowing how to reach more people. This is why big organisations invest so much cash in data gathering. Always get permission first but put some time into getting emails or phone numbers for a WhatsApp group if that’s more your style and then communicate with your customers through a newsletter, blog posts, social media campaigns and loyalty rewards. Send emails or messages about offers and track all your communications, posts, social media campaigns to see what your customers are liking and what they’re not. There are lots of smart tools out there that can make tracking less painful than it sounds!
In all your communication, show that you are open to and encouraging of feedback. Respond in a friendly, professional way to all feedback and then, of course, make changes where it becomes clear they could be made to improve your business. This is all about increasing your visibility and the more you know about the people who are already in your network, the better you will know what decisions to make to reach more people.
‘Getting sociable’ doesn’t mean being falsely outgoing if in fact you’re a proud introvert and your business doesn’t require you to actually see anyone ever (for example… and if that’s possible, good for you!) - it’s more about being genuinely open and in contact with your community in a way that feels right for you. Blog posts can be mainly visual with a couple of lines of texts. Or mini essays if in fact that’s your comfort zone… make it your own, but definitely open up the conversation between you and your business and the world.
5. Make friends with bots
We’ve saved perhaps the most practically important one for last. If you do nothing else, do this: automate as much as possible. Make sure the automation platforms you choose have the capacity to scale with your business without surprise fees attached and with the capability to adapt to your business needs and not the other way round.
Automate your customer journey wherever possible - the welcome email for signing up to your website, the follow up emails about who you are, what you do and then another with an individual offer for your goods or services - are all examples of customer journey elements that can be set up to be automatically triggered without you doing anything.
Automate recurring payments to suppliers and for utilities, tax, rent. Automate social media and other ad campaigns. Automate the generating of accounting reports and analytics at set times every week or month. Automate the ordering and delivery of the weekly team donuts and coffee. Automate whatever you can and feel the hours coming back to you that you would otherwise lose to endless chasing paper, remembering what you forgot and then forgetting it again and runs to the corner shop for milk (and mylks). The more you can delegate to the myriad smart automating solutions available for just about everything, the easier it will be to expand when your business grows… and grow it will!
Get wamo and start automating payments and growing today.