After 20-plus years as a small business owner, Jim Kolb knows that passion, determination and inventiveness aren't the only catalysts for small business growth. Patience also plays a big role.
"The key to our success has been the slow and gradual addition of services. You have to make sure all your ducks are in a row before marketing them to the public."
His shop, Wisconsin-based House of Flowers, has expanded twice over the course of its existence, and though they experienced their share of difficulties both times, there were also valuable lessons to be learned. As you begin to scale your business, keep these four principles in mind to maximize growth and minimize setbacks.
1. Don't rest on your laurels
Avoid complacency by refreshing marketing materials, testing new products or services, and staying well-informed of what industry front-runners are doing.
When Jim saw how packed the parking lots of the big flower shops were during their holiday previews, he saw an opportunity to try something new. He started his own holiday open house, and now people travel from across the state to take part in the annual celebration.
2. Keep your business model fluid
In order to thrive, your business model will have to adapt to its environment. Consumer demand and emerging technologies will forever be in flux, so be prepared to react and adjust your expectations accordingly. The power of the market will always generate new opportunities and innovations, and they can either be your biggest assets or your biggest threats. Embrace change and capitalize on it.
3. Engineer an experience
Jim prides himself on creating a "floral experience" for customers, rather than just a simple transaction. Regardless of how much is spent, every item purchased is branded and packaged to make it feel special for the customer. The layout of his store utilizes every square inch of space, and locals have grown to love finding things tucked away in small corners. He says this tactic encourages people to take several turns around the store so they don't miss anything.
From the decor inside your business to the personalities you hire, your mission statement should be reflected in all facets of your business. When was the last time you thought about the lighting, the music, or even the aromas inside your business? Make sure these things work to enhance a customer's experience and not detract from it.
4. Be patient
Whether it's spreading yourself too thin or growing too big too quickly, the fall of many small businesses can be attributed to overeagerness. Don't let customer relationships or product quality deteriorate because of your impatience.
After expanding his shop, Jim was soon met with two years of road construction that made access almost impossible. Looking back on his decision, he wishes he had waited another year before expanding.
Some obstacles you cant predict, but having a game plan for certain scenarios like this one and creating a six-month emergency fund will leave you better equipped to handle them.
Risk is inherent in growing a small business, and owners who aren't actively looking for innovative ways to provide a better product, service or experience will be left in the wake of competitors who are.
"Not a day goes by that I rest on the idea that we made it and that the business we have isn't vulnerable to the next big idea."