Monday, April 25, 2011

4 Smart Ways to Expand Your Small Business

Today's guest post is from Carol Roth, author of Entrepreneur Equation.  This post is adapted from the book.

A new ADP survey says companies with fewer than 50 employees increased payrolls by 117,000 last month -- the biggest hiring surge since 2006. AndPaychex Inc., which manages payroll accounting for companies with fewer than 100 workers, said checks per client rose 2.8 percent from a year ago in the first quarter of 2011, the biggest gain in two years.

For many small businesses -- particularly sole proprietors and mom-and-pop operations -- expanding brings with it challenges as well as opportunities. The key to growing your small business is to do it the smartway. Here are some tips that may help.

Learn to delegate.

You were smart enough to start your own business. Now use those smarts to figure out a way to simplify, standardize, automate, and delegate tasks in a way that can't be screwed up by the average employee (think McDonald's). Create a list, and every time you have a task you would delegate to an employee, add it to the list. Not only does it get you in the habit of delegating, but over time you have created a job description so that you know who you're looking for when you're ready to hire.

Hire thoughtfully.

Beware of "hiring gotchas." For example, spend time putting together a hiring strategy and good questions in advance. Educate yourself on what you can't by law ask in an interview, and research what other companies pay for such a position, as well as benefits you're willing to offer (beforethe applicant asks). You might want to steer clear of hiring friends and family. If you're clueless about how to find a good pool of candidates, consider using one of the new, low-cost virtual services, such as Elance.

Expand by outsourcing.

Let's say you're ready to offer new services to your existing customers, but in order to motivate these customers and woo new ones, you have to do social marketing. The problem is, you have no clue how to do it. That's okay! Smart business owners don't try to do everything themselves -- they outsource professionals to help them focus on what they do best. There are great new online enterprises like Deskelf that will match your needs with virtual helpers -- from accountants to social media marketers. And they don't have to be expensive -- Fiverr, for example, links you to professionals who do tasks for as little as $5!

Partner up.

Imagine you're a professional photographer/videographer who's got more gigs than you can handle. Find another business owner in your profession and partner up so you can take on more jobs without having to hire new employees. Another way to grow your business is to expand your menu of services. For example, you have a lawnmowing/landscaping business and you find someone who maintains pools. By partnering up, you can offer your clients a twofer -- weekly pool service and property maintenance. Finding complementary businesses that don't compete for customers creates a win-win for both small businesses.

Carol Roth has been helping businesses grow for over 15 years, ranging from solopreneurs to multinational corporations. She has helped them raise more than $1 billion in capital, complete hundreds of millions of dollars in M&A transactions, secure high-profile licensing and partnership deals, create brand loyalty programs, and more. A popular media personality on Fox News, MSNBC, and WGN-TV Chicago, among others, she has an award-winning blog at Her new book is The Entrepreneur Equation: Evaluating the Realities, Risks, and Rewards of Having Your Own Business (BenBella Books, March 2011) -- #4 on the New York TimesBestsellers List and #1 on the USA Today Money Bestsellers List.
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