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You may be small (for now) but you can still grow and succeed

January 28, 2012

(By David Fant, owner of Market Mapping plus and chair of SBAM’s Strategic Communications Advisory Committee. From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine)

What do Microsoft, Apple Computer, and Amway Corporation all have in common? And, what is their relationship to small business? It is interesting to note that ALL big businesses started as small businesses. Rockefeller did not start as a huge corporation. Rather, he began small and grew from humble beginnings. Consider this: Amway Corporation, a $9 billion + company, started with two people. Apple Computer, a $350 billion company, started with just two people. Microsoft Corporation, another $350 billion company, started with just two people. Combined, these companies employ over 500,000 people – and that number is even greater if you count the independent sales force of Amway Corporation. So, what does that mean to you?

It does not mean you will become a company worth billions of dollars or that growing so large even has to be your goal. Rather, what it means is that you are the seed for growth. Expansion, growth, diversification are all the watch words of business today. Each of the above three companies became who they are by starting with one product, selling it well, then diversifying into other related fields. How do you go about growing?

1. First, look at what you do and analyze exactly how you can be the best in the market. Look at what you do well, and what you need to improve. Are expenses in line with revenue? Are you spending excessive amounts of money on things you don’t really need? Is your staff doing their job and selling like they should? If you’re a company of one, what is your sales process like? Are you invoicing your clients and collecting those fees or do you shrug your shoulders and say, “they will pay when they can?” Don’t forget, you do the work, you get paid. Don’t ever make an exception on that point.

2. Second, if you’re ready to grow, what areas do you work on first? My recommendation is finding new ways to sell more of what you make. If you have saturated your local market, can you expand geographically? If so, expand the market area for your company and expand sales. Don’t forget to factor in the added cost of servicing clients who are further away from your headquarters.

3. Third, diversify. Adding new products/services to your company’s portfolio is a great way to grow income as well as spread the risk of sales over more than one product line or service. One way to diversify is to purchase an existing company with similar products/services or who have the product/service you want to start to offer. They come with a staff, expertise and customer base that you won’t have to reinvent.

4. Fourth, find a new, undiscovered product or service. At one point in my business life I kept getting phone calls from prospective customers about finding homeowners who live on a body of water. The answer was “sorry, but that database doesn’t exist.” After about eight years of this, I decided there has to be a way. I did some research and analysis and two years later created a nationwide database of Waterfront Homeowners. It is unique in the market and to this day, no one has duplicated this niche database. 

Will you become the next Amway? Microsoft? Apple? Maybe not, but then again, you never know. What you do have the potential to become if you haven’t already is a small business with big impact. Find your niche, serve it well, expand and diversify when able – stay the course – you’ll find great success.

David Fant is the owner of Market Mapping plus and chair of SBAM’s Strategic Communications Advisory Committee.

How do you plan to grow? Join the conversation and leave a comment below.

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