One of the most exciting parts of being an entrepreneur is seeing your business grow. Growth is a sign that you’re doing something right, that people are excited about it, and that they want more. The problem is, growth isn’t enough to sustain your business.
Growth will bring a whole new set of needs for your business: from personnel, to supplies and fulfillment, and you need to make sure you’re asking yourself the right questions to keep from drowning. Here are a couple questions you should be asking that can get you on the right path, and keep your business trending upward.
1. Who Are My Customers?
Before you evaluate any part of your growth pattern, you should ask, “Who are my customers?” Knowing exactly who your customers are will give you a better idea of why your business is doing well. You need to know who is getting excited about your business and who is buying into your product—and equally importantly: who isn’t. Once you know who your customers are (or aren’t), you can start to ask practical questions about what you’re doing well, and what you can improve upon.
2. What Do My Customers Want?
It’s a simple question that leads to a whole slew of practical solutions. By understanding the needs of your current customer base, you can evaluate what’s most successful about your business, and if there are things you need to fix to keep from getting niched in an area you may not want to later on.
Just because your current customer base wants something, doesn’t mean that you have to get locked into one product or service. And it doesn’t mean that you’re adequately prepared to meet a growing demand for it. Knowing what your customers want can help you effectively strategize, prepare, and supply areas of your business that may have otherwise been dried up.
3. What Kind of Customers Do I Want?
It may seem counterintuitive, but maybe after evaluating your current customer base, you feel like you’re off target. Sure, you may have a lot of customers, but they may not be the best suited for your business’s long-term growth. You may want to invest in the next generation, but your current boom is with seniors.
That doesn’t mean you have to dissolve your geriatric audience. But it could mean recalibrating your marketing approach before you get too far off in one group’s direction.
Ask yourself who your desired customer is, and figure out how you can best appeal to them.
4. Do I Have an Online Presence?
No matter who you’re trying to appeal to, it’s impossible to break your glass ceiling without having some kind of an online presence. If your website is outdated, and your social media team can barely form a hashtag (we’re supposed to have a social media team?!), you may have some serious work to do.
Done right, having a strong online presence can be the difference between acquiring new customers and floating off into irrelevance. It’s a fast, cost-effective way to reach a new audience, communicate with your target markets, and present your growing company to the World.
5. What Kind of CEO Am I?
Like it or not, as the CEO, your employees, customers, and future clientele are going to be looking to you in both the good and the bad times. How do you lead your team? How do you handle the day-to-day challenges, slumps, and mountaintops? Are you productive? Are you excited about your company?
If you’re not projecting a zeal for your business, your team is going to lose steam faster than you can say “synergy.” Make sure that you’re the kind of CEO that you would want to work for, and even want to do business with.
6. Are My Employees Happy?
Sure, your employees aren’t always going to be happy—that’s human nature. But according to a Gallup poll, only 13% of employees are actively engaged at work on a daily basis. Double that number of employees find themselves so disengaged, they’re actually spreading negativity within the office.
It’s simple: if you don’t know if your employees are happy or not, then you probably aren’t giving your employees the attention they need. Employees need to know that you’re investing in them, and that they’re a valued part of what you’re making.
Otherwise, they’re just working for a paycheck. And that’s not going to help you get to the next level.
7. Do My Employees Share My Vision?
So when you’re forming a team, you’re not simply putting together a group of talented people that feel appreciated: you want to put together a team that’s striving for the same goal. If your employees don’t believe in your vision, you’re going to waste energy on dragging them along on your mission.
You want to surround yourself with people who are just excited about the next chapter as you are. You don’t want a group of employees who are happy with the status quo—you want employees who are hungry to accomplish the same goals and visions as you. You don’t settle for the status quo, don’t let our employees either.
8. What is My Competition Doing?
Now don’t jump to conclusions: this isn’t about spy vs. spy. Having a finger on the other players in your industry is what keeps you relevant. With the ever-changing landscapes of social media, B2B marketing, and smart technology, you never know what new idea might work best for growing your business.
Keep tabs on what’s considered to be your industry’s new standards, and you’ll never get snubbed by your competition.
9. What Do I Want This Business to Become?
The present is good, and your present growth is something that deserves to be celebrated, but don’t linger there. Know that this growth is a steppingstone to even more, but know that it will disappear if it goes unused. Have a plan for 5, 10, and even 20 years down the road for where you want your business to go.
When you’re following a trajectory instead of blazing a trail, it makes it all the easier to seize new growth opportunities and maximize your investment in your business.
10. What’s My Plan?
It’s not rocket science: you need to have a plan. Brian Chesky, the millennial entrepreneur taking the tourism world by storm, had his business AirBnB’s entire year plan laid out on a single sheet of paper.
It doesn’t have to be a complicated plan, but you need to know what your next move is, and how you want to do it. Want to expand the number of clients you’re taking on? Plan out your sales strategy—better yet, create a timeline for hiring a sales team.
Without a plan, you’re just winging it. And if 2008 taught us anything, you can’t assume it’s going to work out.
Be excited about your growth, but don’t stop there. Use that momentum to ask yourself the tough questions, and bring your business into the next season with confidence.