Angie’s Advice for Small Business: 3 Tips for Growing Wisely

Being smart about growing your business involves more than simply hiring the right people. Even more fundamental is the question of how big you want your small business to get, and in what directions you want to take it.

Here are three ways to approach growth decisions, based on the experience and wisdom I’ve gathered over 21 years of talking with and helping small-business owners:

  • Know yourself. People start businesses for many reasons, including the desire to be their own boss, to pursue a passion and to experience the satisfaction of creating value for customers. Being clear about your personal motivations will help you manage growth intelligently.

Ask yourself: Do you want to stay a solo operator or would you like to expand? Growth can mean hiring additional crews or taking on a partner. All these decisions can affect your role. You may be a great painter, electrician, dentist or dog walker. But are you good at managing people? Would you be happy having to answer to an investor? Would you be satisfied if employees did the lion’s share of hands-on work with customers while you ran the operation from the office?

Angie’s List has been a catalyst for some businesses to expand in major ways. But other top-rated companies choose to stay small. For these, managing growth may mean focusing on favorite types of jobs or narrowing geographic reach.

  • Plan ahead. In business, it’s important to look forward, thinking about the organization’s next step. In today’s world, how you use technology to enable your company to be more mobile, nimble and innovative will be a big factor. But be sure to strike a balance between attending to what’s in front of you and what’s six months or a year down the road. Technological change is constant and in recent years has pushed through a huge transformation in consumer preferences and behaviors. When Angie’s List began, for example, I communicated with members and service companies primarily on the telephone. Today, it’s an online world.

  • Don’t lose focus. It’s crucial to keep an eye on the future, but don’t get distracted. A business can try to get too big too fast or be tempted to move in too many directions. By staying true to your company’s core mission, delivering quality service and taking care of your customers, you will reinforce a virtuous circle that will provide the foundation for growth.

Follow Angie Hicks on Twitter @Angie_Hicks.