As we build our business, we must consider how to scale it That is, how do we take our current model and apply it to a larger context. For many entrepreneurs, we’re working from models that positively cannot grow. Because of how we’ve structured our operations, we’re limited by the hours in the day or the sheer number of items we can create. Growing does not mean we just multiply exactly what we’re doing now. For example, imagine a business that creates independently designed wall decals and works 10 hours a day: design + create + print + photograph + list + connect + ship + task manage…. they cannot simply do more of this to grow. They need to analyze their model, make tweaks, and do things smarter.
I write a lot about creatives finding their own path in the small business world. There are no magic promises or specific recipes for success. The same goes for scaling a business for growth. It’s a wonderfully specialized process, unique to each small business. However, there are a few concepts we can take, modify, and apply – shaping our own roadmaps for growth.
4 Ways to Position Your Business for Growth
- Adjust your model. Whether it’s deliberate or not – all businesses function with a model. It may be well defined or loosely translated, but it’s there. Think about how you do business. Do you provide services individually? Create items one at a time? Design work solely upon request? These models may not be set up for growth as they are, but slight changes can make a huge difference. Adjusting your model requires staying true to your core business values yet doing things a bit differently so you can build upon what you’ve got.
- Vary your revenue stream. Going hand in hand with adjusting your business model, identifying additional sources of revenue is also an excellent way to grow a business. For example, in the spirit of growth, a custom clothing designer might also create a side collection of ready to wear items, a graphic artist may offer additional prepared designs for purchase, and a painter might consider sharing some of her work as prints of the original. All of these are working from the same core concept, but applying slight changes to adjust their model for efficiency and increase profits.
- Narrow your niche. It’s a heckuva lot easier to grow a business that has a specific purpose. Many creative businesses start out making and doing just about anything and everything (me? guilty as charged!) but we need to narrow in with laser like focus and find our very own place before we look to grow.
A few examples from too broad to finely tuned:
“Handmade pottery items” vs. “Pottery created for a simple, minimalist home”
“Art Prints” vs. “Bold art with the modern nursery in mind”
“Logo work” vs. “Custom graphic designs telling story of your business”
“Women’s accessories” vs. “Boutique hand-dyed scarves for day and evening wear”
Looking at these examples of defined niches, we can see which ones have room…and the strategic position to grow.
- Streamline your process. When we analyze our business model and consider how we’re operating, we’ll undoubtedly find areas that consume much of our time. As we look to grow our businesses, it’s imperative to increase our efficiency. I suggest creating a weekly diary, logging all of the time spent on business tasks to help identify areas that need some attention. We might find that some tasks can be bundled together (eg. all computer-related tasks), we can delegate some of the more tedious work, or rearrange our schedule for greater impact. It’s easy to get into a routine and think we’re operating efficiently, but something like a weekly log or even just describing your work week to others can be enough of a jolt to recognize areas for improvement.
There are many factors to consider when growing a business, and I’ve just touched on a few. But hopefully we’re feeling empowered to tackle that intimidating wall of growth and are ready to position, expand, and build our businesses. Wider, brighter horizons ahead!
Is your business positioned for growth or stuck in unscalable? What changes can you make to prepare for growth? What does growth look like to you? Please share in the comments!
Great information Allisa, as always. I think is so important to not get stagnant in your business as its something you love so you always want it to evolve and you do.
Always looking to move forward in both career and personal life. Like you said, there is no defined path but our own- so marketing in the right direction is something we have to determine on our own ! Thanks for the info!!
@Shae – Appreciate your feedback….I think you touched on such an important concept – evolve. Sometimes that can be difficult or intimidating…but it’s a must. Best wishes to you & your biz!
YES! These exact topics have been on my mind very recently as they relate to my own growing business (and tackle a new business plan) and that of a fellow mom entrepreneur who creates OOAK designs and is struggling with this. Thanks!
This is such an amazing post! Thank you, Thank you! Last year I made the same path of trying to do everything. Not only did it stop my creative fuel but I also couldn’t find myself in my own brand. After learning to focus my energy on what I love… and not be everything to everyone, I found my footsteps.
I have been thinking about this recently too. narrowing my niche, check. varying my revenue stream, check. adjusting my model? to what? that is what I am still working on.
Allisa – Amazing article! I have been struggling with narrowing my niche and am getting there. When you start narrowing your niche you learn that you can’t appeal to everybody which helps you gain more focus on products and things that you can create specific to the people you are trying to reach. I also love that you talk about varying your revenue stream – I have switched some things up this year in my biz to generate additional revenue like opening a real live mini stationery boutique and working with some amazing creative talent to add some licensed designs to my offerings and VOILA things are really starting to gain momentum so in turn I have had to adjust my business model. It’s really amazing how everything that you talk about in this article is where I find myself currently in my teeny, tiny biz. I am going to start focusing on that delegating part real soon!
Kudos to you Allisa for this awesome article!!!
Thank you for this. As someone who is confident in the product I create and in my dedication to my business, this is a greatly needed reminder that I must tweak my line and production level in order to achieve the financial success I hope to garner from all my hard work. As someone who loves OOAK creativity, but would like to sell wholesale, this balance has been difficult for me to achieve.You’ve got me thinking, lady! 🙂
@april – Thrilled that this discussion resonated with you! You’ve got an amazing business – I look forward to watching you grow 🙂 – allisa
Great article! I read your post yesterday, kept thinking about it and came back to read it again. I love the part about adjusting your model. We find that our model is so entrenched in who we are as people that we’ve had a really hard time getting out of our own “rut.” Despite the challenge, we’ve grown our business every year since we started full time about 10 years ago. It’s an ongoing process- something we work at every day. There some really great take homes here- like “streamline your process.” Thank YOU very much!
Wonderful post! I’ve also been guilty of trying to tackle too many different projects, and not honing in on one or two specialty areas. Since I’ve recently had another baby & am taking a little “time off” (ha, what’s that when you work for yourself??) I am using this time to really figure out my core revenue streams & how I can use that understanding to help my business grow. Great insight here! 🙂 Thanks!
Wonderful ideas and clearly written! The wheels in my head are turning. Thanks Allisa.
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