There will come a time when your company is no longer a startup or small business.
I’ve been there. Back in 2011, I started Pixloo, a virtual platform for selling your home, with my mentor and fellow entrepreneur, John Rampton. We slaved away for eight months before launching the business. When we finally went live, it was incredible. We had thousands of customers every day. We then sold only 42 days later to a large real estate firm.
Despite all the problems we had along the way, I also learned what it takes to get your startup to the next level. Here are some of the key steps:
Revisit Your Business Plan Often
Your business plan isn’t set in stone, and it will change as your business evolves. Revisit it to re-assess goals once you see what’s working and what’s not. Then make adjustments as necessary. This is a fluid work in progress. Plus, it’s helpful to remember what your initial goals were and the steps you took getting there.
Our business plan changed three times before we officially launched. This will happen as you innovate and pivot. Revisit your business plan and adjust as needed.
Up Your Social Media Game
Many businesses benefit from a social media presence and a social media manager. If your social media analytics aren’t where you want them to be, consider hiring a professional to build your online reputation and engage customers.
We used social media to communicate with people signing up and they loved it. Since we had them connect on Twitter or Facebook, we always had somewhere we could communicate.
Start a Blog
Only do this if you have the time to post at least three articles per week, or hire someone to do it for you. A blog takes time to build traction, so keep an eye on your analytics, practice good link building and reach out to other bloggers to build your following.
We outsourced most of our blog to a top-tier writer who wrote for us daily. Don’t skimp on paying for this, if that’s the route you take.
Get a Mentor
You’re always in the right place to benefit from having a mentor. Someone who has learned lessons the hard way is indispensable. Maybe you already know someone you want to approach, or maybe you want to tap into an organization that connects people.
My personal mentor is my business partner. He follows up with me until I do something and helps when I don’t understand. Every great entrepreneur should have a friend who is also a mentor — someone who helps you entirely for free.
Trim the Fat
This could mean downsizing your commercial space or ditching it for a virtual office, moving from permanent employees to freelancers, or just better budgeting. Most businesses can be more frugal. The more you save, the more you can tackle your debt.
We originally started with a large office and it was eating our cash. We had to trim the fat. Most businesses will have to trim in some way. If you don’t absolutely need something, don’t have it.
Everyone will make mistakes when hiring, even pros — which is why you shouldn’t do this on your own. Your employees need regular training, but keeping someone because you don’t want to hurt their feelings is not beneficial to your business or the employee. Let an HR agency take care of employment so you can get the most out of your employees.
Reconsider Your Location
Did you incorporate in a state with high-income taxes, high corporation taxes, a high cost of living and staggering property taxes just because it was convenient? Consider moving abroad for foreign income exemption or to another state with no income tax if it makes sense for your business.
Practice Good SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is what moves your website up the rankings when people search your keywords. Without SEO, you might as well not be online. We focused on SEO in every aspect of our business, using Searchmetrics to figure out what our competition was doing and then doing it better.
If you don’t know what you’re doing with SEO, you need to figure it out. It took us seven months of work to get on the front page of Google for our keywords, but it made our business. It doesn’t happen overnight, but great tools are key for making your company shine online.
Reel in Good Reviews
Digital word of mouth via reviews are the best form of marketing. Ethically provide incentives for existing customers for honest, thoughtful reviews to boost your reach and credibility.
We focused on good reviews from all of our customers. When the customer logged in we asked them to review our product; we had a 45 percent conversion rate when we attached it to the login. This got us more than 30,000 reviews in just 40 days.
Keep Wooing Investors
A great investor doesn’t just have cash. They also have expertise and leadership to share. Consider different platforms to connect with investors, but make sure to correctly value your company and have a game plan for funds.
We were always pitching investors since it’s always a good time to take money. Plus, investors aren’t just good for your bank account, they are great for getting returns. In our case, they helped with a deal that got them their money back within six months.
How are you planning to grow your startup this year?