My Top 10 Tips for Organic Small Business Growth

Updated: Feb 8


Small business growth in the middle of a pandemic and recession might sound like wishful thinking.


Is it really possible to grow your business whilst the economy is on its knees? How can you grow a small business when big businesses are shrinking their footprint and reducing employee numbers?


There is no doubt that this recession will take its toll on industry and individuals. I worked at a private bank in the City during the financial crisis of 2008/9 and have vivid memories of the stress, panicked phone calls, financial losses, difficult decisions and redundancies. It is not a walk in the park. A recession is very real, and can be very difficult.


Reacting to a recession


A recession also gives us the perfect excuse to push our goals and dreams to one side and wait for the storm to blow over. Surely surviving is enough? Or perhaps it would be better to pause and start again when we're out the other side?


No. I'm not saying that we should be reckless, we all have bills to pay and mouths to feed! But neither should we give up hope of building the business of our dreams.


Consider the businesses that were started just before a recession, and pushed through coming out bigger and better the other side;

  • Google

  • Salesforce

  • Facebook

Creative entrepreneurs have an advantage: an aptitude for creative thinking. And that is exactly what's needed during challenging times. You'll spot opportunities that others miss. You'll think around the problem, rather than trying to slog through it.


So rather than running from the circumstances, let's face them head on.


Don't react, respond. Plan for growth.


Small business growth in the middle of a pandemic and recession might sound like wishful thinking.


Is it really possible to grow your business whilst the economy is on its knees? How can you grow a small business when big businesses are shrinking their footprint and reducing employee numbers?


There is no doubt that this recession will take its toll on industry and individuals. I worked at a private bank in the City during the financial crisis of 2008/9 and have vivid memories of the stress, panicked phone calls, financial losses, difficult decisions and redundancies. It is not a walk in the park. A recession is very real, and can be very difficult.


Planning Business Growth


If you're in the early days of your business, or you have goals to grow your business, then a growth plan is essential.


So what should you consider? You'll find my top 10 tips below.



1. Review your business


It's important to know what's working and what isn't. Look through every part of your business; finances, services, marketing, processes, systems, people etc. Remove or replace anything that isn't working as well as it should be. I'm a big fan of the lean business model. If you're not sure what I mean, I recommend reading The Lean Startup by Eris Ries.



2. Get clear on where you want to take your business


Everyone bangs on about setting goals. And there's good reason. Goals give you direction and purpose. But there are goals, and there are goals. The former being vague statements (I want £10k months), the latter being considered, brand aligned, SMART goals (I'll be turning over £190,000 by December 2021.This will give me a take home of £83,100 after expenses, reinvestment and tax. I'll increase my turnover by £3000 every month from September 2020-December 2021. £190,000 will enable me to support our family lifestyle and save for a house.).


To create SMART goals, you'll need to do research and planning. Whilst you may start with high level statements, they should become more detailed as you work through your growth plan. Yep, that's right, you need to turn them into a plan. I'd recommend a project planning app (e.g. ClickUp) where you can easily set out milestones and priorities by quarter, and add detailed actions for each with a deadline. This will help keep you on track and moving forward, whilst easing that overwhelmed feeling that comes with seeing the where you want to get to and not knowing how to get there.



3. Know your ideal client(s)


It's important to know who your products and/or services are for. Often our ideal client evolves over time. So regular check-ins are required to ensure our services and marketing are aligned and we're reaching our people. You'll get a good indicator from the types of people who are enquiring. Are they who you want to work with?


Be really clear. Any ambiguity in your ideal client will transfer into your marketing.



4. Create a powerful service offering with intentional pricing


I like to work to a 3 point framework when planning services; Entry level, mid-point, high value.


We tend to start with an idea and build an all singing and dancing service around it. But that can push every service into high value, and you'll have future ideal clients wanting to work with you who just can't afford to yet. Rather than wait for them, create a smaller, accessible package. Give them value and create a loyal client. And for those even earlier in the journey, create entry level offerings (workshops, workbooks, memberships etc).


When it comes to pricing, growth requires moving beyond the time for money exchange. Include things like business operating expenses, holidays, goals, your value and the value of the impact or transformation for the client. This will not only prevent burnout, but it will ensure that you see the financial growth you need. If you'd like to learn how to price using this method, I have a Value Based Pricing Workshop available here.



5. Build an exceptional client experience


Whether you intend to or not, you're delivering a client experience. Every one of your clients has an impression of your brand and services based on their experience of working with you. That impression will determine whether they return to you (becoming a higher value client) and make referrals (becoming a marketeer for your business).


The client experience serves 3 purposes;

  1. It lets your clients know how much you value and appreciate them

  2. It creates loyal, returning clients

  3. It drives word of mouth marketing

According to the book Talk Triggers (which I highly recommend) word of mouth marketing is responsible for up to 19% of all global consumer purchases and a customer is 90% more likely to buy based on a recommendation from a friend or family than any other form of marketing.


So if you get it right, your client experience will form an important part of your growth plan. In fact, you could increase your turnover by up to 19%.


Think about your client experience from all aspects including; process, systems, timelines, templates, automations, highlights and surprises.



5. Implement efficient processes and the best systems you can for your budget


Processes and systems are the engine of a business. They keep it moving, even when you're not there. In fact, that's essential as you grow. Your business cannot rely on you being present to move things forward otherwise your earnings will always be capped. Automation and standardisation are your best friends. What do I mean?


A process will standardise the way you do something, meaning you deliver it in the same way every time. That drives efficiency and consistency, no matter who is completing the process.


Assessing, streamlining and implementing better systems will not only potentially save you money, but it will mean that you can create automations in your processes. Again, ensuring efficiency and consistency. See where we're going with this?


Efficiency and consistency are key to growing a business.



6. Create a strong marketing plan


Marketing doesn't have to be expensive, but it does need to be effective. Now you're clear on your ideal clients, your services and pricing and your goals you can create a marketing plan designed for growth.


Where are your ideal clients spending time? And how are they spending their time on that channel? If there's an opportunity to get in front of them, and for them to pay attention, then you should seriously consider using that channel (Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogging, mailing List, podcasts, speaking engagements, networking, industry events, PR, magazines etc).


If you're uncomfortable with a channel that you've identified, think about up skilling or outsourcing.



7. Stick to your plan, until you need to adapt


Review your progress every 4 weeks and adjust your business accordingly. Maybe you need to tweak your marketing plan or a new process, perhaps one of your systems just isn't capable of keeping up with your growth ... whatever it is, be adaptable. Identify, change and move forward.


Adaptability will give you the best chance of reaching your goals.



8. Maintain a positive outlook


For me, this is the key to growth, in any environment. Positivity can be the difference between trying, and not. Between doing the thing and giving up. Running a business can be a lonely place, particularly in a recession. So get yourself an accountability partner. Talk frequently, at least weekly but more often if you can. Chat through any challenges you're having, and celebrate wins together. Ask each other one simple question every day ... 'what are you doing today to move your business forward?'.


This question really focusses the mind. And the answer can be very simple; sharing a piece of content, researching a blog, having a discovery call, sending out a client welcome pack, speaking at a networking event etc. If you do at least one thing every day, you'll see growth in your business.


Don't be afraid to share the good stuff with your audience. Everyone needs positive stories and hope. Let them know that the newspaper headlines are only one side of the story. That small businesses can grow and thrive, even during a recession!



9. Reward yourself when you hit a milestone


Growing a business is hard work, even in good times! So set yourself mini-goals within your plan. They could be around income or client numbers, for example. Whatever the measure, they are there to be celebrated. Reward yourself when you reach them.


This will not only help you to stop and reflect on the amazing job that you're doing, but it will give you motivation to reach the next goal.



10. Build a strong support network


Nothing quite beats that team environment when there's a job to be done! People around you that you can call on, talk things through with, draw on their expertise etc. People who will keep you motivated on a tough day. Building that kind of support network is a game changer for a small business owner. I honestly wouldn't have the business I have today if it wasn't for my support network. It is small, but mighty!


Ready? Let's grow ...


So there you have it. My top 10 tips for growing your business. Will it be easy? No. Is it possible? Yes, absolutely.


If you're thinking that you'd love to grow but need some support working through it all, then you might be interested in my membership group, Innovate & Thrive Club. Every month we deep dive into areas of our business to improve them, check in on progress towards goals, work through challenges together and support each other. We'd love to have you with us!






Steph Sanderson is a business design consultant who helps service-based businesses to accelerate their growth in a sustainable way through pricing, customer experience, process planning, systems and strategic planning. She has over 15 years experience in the field, working as a business manager, global Change Manager and Implementation Specialist. Find out more.

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