A December, 2018 report from the National Federation of Independent Business reports the Small Business Optimism Index was basically unchanged from previous months. Job openings set a new record high, job creation plans strengthened, and inventory investment plans surged. Over the past few months, the Index has remained at historically high levels.

The small business owners I have spoken with in the area are also optimistic. The biggest problem, as is the case all over the country, is finding qualified workers to fill job openings. If you, as a business owner, are optimistic and looking to grow your business in the future I urge you use caution and planning. If you’re not ready to handle sudden growth, you risk losing customers because of poor quality work and missed deadlines. Added costs of meeting an increase in demand may outstrip your profit margin, turning what should be a boom into a bust for your bottom line. Here are some tips to help you plan for and manage growth in your business.

To start a growth plan compare the current status of your business with your original intent. Are you where you intended to be, or have you modified your mission? What are current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? What areas can you improve? Problems or shortcomings should be addressed as quickly as possible.

Take a comprehensive look at your market. There may be emerging trends that will radically alter your industry. Examine the needs and issues facing your existing and target customers.

Project three years out, and set objectives that will keep your business in step with these trends. What resources will be needed, and where can they be found. You may need new staff, training, upgraded equipment and facilities. What costs are involved, and what kind of learning curve may be required? Develop an action plan for each one with milestones as appropriate.

One key for managing growth is to recognize your limitations. If you’re already maxed out on time there’s no way you’ll be able to take your business to the next level. Learn and practice good time management techniques to keep you from getting burned out.

Managing growth means making good decisions. You’ll need to step back and get an accurate picture of where everything stands. Is this a temporary spurt or the start of a sustained uptick in business? What resources are available to help you meet this demand, and are new suppliers readily available? If so, how much will utilizing them cost? 

Create Processes by documenting functions and activities in a step-by-step format. This will give you clear instructions for your employees, old and new. Things like: fielding and qualifying leads, prospecting for new business, creating proposals and estimates, creating products, invoicing clients, receiving client payments, etc. Also examine the systems you have established in your business to carry out various processes. Examples might include: accounting software, email platform, website content management, social media management, customer relationship management systems, etc. Well thought-out processes and systems will allow your business to grow and should be designed to accommodate future requirements. They give your organization the flexibility to change and grow.

Most of the time growth is a good thing. Be prepared so if the opportunity presents itself you’re ready to take advantage and grow your business.

Let me know your thoughts at eddavis@scorevolunteer.org

For more information on starting, promoting and growing your business, or to request a mentor from SCORE Port Charlotte go to www.portcharlotte.score.org. Volunteers provide confidential one on one business advice to meet the needs of both start-up and existing businesses at no cost.  Follow us on Twitter; @charlottecscore