There was a time about 5 years ago that I wanted to quit my business.
Shutter it and move on.
I’d reached a point where I was working 14-hour days on client work. Sustainable growth felt impossible. I couldn’t get my head above water long enough to acknowledge or even think about what to do next.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that what I was actually experiencing was a period of growing pains. I was butting up against my current business practices and I needed to try something new.
Call it what you will: a pivot, a shift, a new perspective.
At some point in your entrepreneurial journey, you will outgrow your own business.
But don’t despair! Because change is GOOD.
I think these moments are hugely important in shaping us as business owners. The shifts and unease we experience are actually what propel us to the next level as leaders.
Fortunately, there are a few times in your business journey where most of us really start to feel the pain…and there are some predictable solutions, too.
The early stage: small & steady growth
When you’re just starting out, you’re making the rules up as you go and often figuring it out as you go, too. Here are some strategies for avoiding common growing pains you’ll face during this phase of your small business.
Manage & avoid burnout
Entrepreneurship is much different than being a salaried employee, and many new business owners find there’s a learning curve to juggling the many demands they face each day. As you’re navigating new demands on your time and the challenge of overseeing every aspect of your business growth, try to remember your energy levels, motivation and your reason for starting your business in the first place.
Experiment with strategies for managing your time and build self care and family time into your schedule. The chance to reflect and recharge will keep you motivated and focused.
Raise your prices…slowly
We all have to start somewhere, and often your first few clients in your service-based business won’t be at the price you’d hoped. If you aren’t where you want to be with your pricing, apply a simple rule of thumb: For every 3 clients you serve successfully, raise your price by 10-20%. This helps you gradually increase your authority and confidence as a provider.
Focus on what you love
You launched your business because you had a dream of making an impact in an area that you love and excel at. Unfortunately, when you’re in the weeds of your daily work, you may lose sight of what lights you up and take on projects and work that doesn’t fit with your initial vision.
Take the time to reflect on what you love…and what you don’t love…with each client you work with. This will help you identify the right niche for you and start to be more discerning in turning away poor-fit prospects.
Build your referral network
In the early days of your business your referral network is everything. Make a list of old contacts, past colleagues, and other past contacts that may want to hear about your new business. Don’t be shy in updating your social accounts and professional portfolio with your new ventures, and reach out directly to past contacts that may be interested in becoming a client.
Build your portfolio
With each new project is the chance to build your authority and expertise. Create a system for collecting testimonials and feedback from every person you work with.
Don’t have a client yet? Reach out to past colleagues and bosses who may be willing to write you a testimonial to get you started. Use your testimonials on your website, social accounts, and anywhere else prospects interact with your marketing efforts.
In the early days of your business, you’ll feel overwhelmed and at times, discouraged. Focus your energy on understanding what you’re great at and what you love to do. Every new prospect, sales call, or project is another chance to build the confidence and structure you need to move forward.At some point in your entrepreneurial journey, you will outgrow your own business. And that’s a good thing! Learn how to overcome common challenges at every stage. Click To Tweet
The growth stage: stability & processes
Once those early days are behind, many business owners find that they’ve reached a point where they know what they want, who they want to serve, and where their zone of genius lies. But you’re also more in demand, and suddenly you can find yourself with too many clients and not enough time in the day to serve them all–at least not with the same high standards they’ve come to expect.
Here are some pivoting strategies to consider once you reach this phase:
Define & automate your processes
Chances are, you still have manual processes in place, or you haven’t yet had the chance to invest in automating your business processes so you can accomplish more with less.
Hire the right people
Hiring is often one of the most challenging jobs of an entrepreneur. That’s because as a small business owner, you know that every dollar eats into your profit…and it’s hugely important to make the right hiring decisions the first time around.
Chances are, though, you’re ready for extra support. Consider the areas of your business that are the most inefficient and that you enjoy the least (or are more apt to overlook) before starting the search. But just one great hire can take some of the pressure off of your daily load and open up more space for profit:
- An accountant
- A virtual assistant
- A junior person to subcontract your work to
- A social media manager
Nurture your lead engine
While you might feel swamped today, how will your business look 6 months from now? This is the time to put some prospecting mechanisms in place to serve you if and when your current momentum stalls. It’s also a great way to set up a long term strategy for your business that will serve you as you continue to grow.
How can you do that?
- Create a content & blog strategy for your website
- Expand your social media efforts
- Carve out time to network
- Appear on or start your own podcast
- Invest time in finding guest blogging or speaking opportunities
The growth stage is exciting and at times, overwhelming. Focus on better, more efficient processes, systems, and prospecting that will ‘grow with you’ in the long term.
The “stable” stage: scaling & refinement
As your business matures, you’ll naturally work through many of the problems you experienced in the early stages of your business. But of course, new challenges will arise!
As your business reaches maturity, you may start to wonder what’s next…what will your next big challenge, offer, or venture be? You’ve achieved success serving your clients and customers well, but you may be ready to serve more people or try something different like launch a course, focus in a new area, or teach what you’ve learned. Here are some strategies to see you through:
Specialize & niche down (again)
It may be time to specialize…or re-specialize. You’ve got your niche and you know your zone of genius…but at this point in your entrepreneurial journey, you’re ready to serve a more exclusive group of clients. You’ve also got (likely) years of data to draw from to help guide you.
Take some time to review your business to date and reflect on what you’ve achieved, the feedback you’ve received, and what brings you the most joy in your business. That’s the best starting point in knowing where to go next.
Reassess your offers
If you’re still serving clients 1:1 in small groups, you may be ready to try something new. You’re also probably ready to think about your legacy and the long term trajectory of your business.
- Do you want to sell?
- Do you want to create a micro agency?
- Are you hoping to productize your offerings?
Adopting new offers, expanding your original offers to a new audience, or thinking through products that attract new prospects into your pipeline can help you continue to scale while impacting more people. Think through the ascension model and the funnels and programs that will best align with your strengths and your goals.
Build team culture
As you continue to grow and scale, you’re likely adding more team members to your roster, which means you’ll need to rethink both your brand identity and your company culture. Your original values and mission probably look quite different than they did when you started, and it’s time to reshape them with your employees (and your future growth) in mind.
Learn to delegate
Similarly, you’ll reach a point in your business where you can’t manage every aspect of it. That means that in addition to having the right team to support you, you also need to know exactly where to delegate–and where to maintain control.
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About The Author
Rachel Gogos is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for people, the web, and creating strong personal brands. She started her career at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, where she helped create the look and feel for the organization’s first website. Today, in her current role running brandiD, Rachel channels over 15 years of marketing and communications experience into each and every website for brandiD’s clients. Find out more!