If you’ve planned, launched, and run a business, you have so much to celebrate at this point in your entrepreneurship journey.
It took grit, a whole lot of teamwork, and unshakeable leadership to get you here.
But once you have a well-established business, you need to start thinking about what the future looks like.
Fine-tuning your company is one of the most enjoyable parts of being an entrepreneur. This is about making your business the best that it can be — and figuring out what you want to do when you reach the end of the line.
There are four key areas where you can improve and grow what you’re already doing to take your business to the next level.
#1 — Establish team accountability
84% of employees say the way leaders behave is the single most important factor influencing accountability in their organizations.
You’ll be a better leader and manager if you learn how to inspire loyalty and productivity from your employees, instead of forcing it.
To get these results, there are specific, consistent actions that will help you build trust and lead a high-functioning workplace. This means building a culture of communication and accountability, including team standups, all-team meetings, and 1:1 meetings.
If done right, they’ll empower your employees to give you their best work.
Accountability is a two-way street. Same with communication. You should be modeling the behavior you expect from your employees. This means always keeping your promises, and being a consistent, effective communicator company-wide.
Here’s what this looks like.
First thing in the morning of each workday, gather your team in a casual huddle. It’s a chance for everyone to start the day on the right foot and re-establish accountability and communication. During this daily standup, each team member should share:
- Their biggest win from the day before.
- The top three items on their to-do list.
- What they need help with and from whom.
Weekly all-team meetings
Weekly all-team meetings provide the sense of purpose employees need to stay happy at work. Your goal should be to keep everyone pointing in the same direction to achieve goals.
Once a week, a leader from each area of the organization needs to run through a presentation agenda that describes company progress, including:
- A review of actual month-to-date and year-to-date metrics compared to goals.
- Problem areas and how to fix them.
- Success areas and the plan to double down on them.
Weekly 1:1 meetings
26% of workers strongly welcome feedback from their direct managers.
Setting up dedicated 1:1s between managers and direct reports will enhance personal accountability and if done well, improve employee retention. Don’t miss this key opportunity to guide your employees.
Your goal during a weekly, hourly 1:1 is to align on the four essentials of employee happiness:
- Perceived control: They have a say in their actions and the results.
- Perceived progress: They feel they’re making headway in their jobs and have support to overcome challenges.
- Connectedness: They have a significant number of deep relationships at work.
- Vision/meaning: They feel they’re a part of something bigger than themselves.
Don’t use this time for what could be covered in a daily stand-up. Instead, focus on building employee confidence, connecting them to a broader purpose, and removing obstacles to help them to continue progressing forward.
Check out this template to get started with a 1:1 meeting agenda that works for you.
You owe it to your employees to be the best leader you can be.
By taking steps to grow in your own skill set and industry knowledge, you’re setting an example for your team to take their own development seriously.
We recommend you check out the Co.Starters small business acceleration program for Eastern Kentucky entrepreneurs. Reach out to the SOAR Innovation team if you want to join the next cohort.
#2 — Optimize your operations
Examining your finance and performance data is key to improving your business. You can’t continue to level up unless you fully understand what’s driving growth.
Gross profit margin is the place to start when measuring the profitability of your product or service.
You want to continue driving up your gross profit margin over time. To do that, dig deeper into customer behaviors that make the greatest impact on the bottom line.
To help you think like your ideal clients, check out our complete listing of business metrics that you need to be tracking, including specific checklists for eCommerce, service or subscription-based businesses, and manufacturing.
Be sure to dedicate time to analyzing the why behind what’s driving these metrics. There could be many positive or negative factors related to each.
Turning your negative customer behavior metrics into positive ones sets your business up for success. This may be one of the most important opportunities for you to improve your business.
It also prepares you to launch into new areas.
#3 — Enter new markets
If your business already counts on a high-performing team, and you’ve optimized your existing operations to their fullest, this may be a great time to launch a new product or service.
Before you jump in based on a gut feeling alone, though, first run through these steps to be sure you’re in the right position:
- Sales are steadily growing or have leveled off, your team is a well-oiled machine, and you’re reaching or exceeding all your goals.
- There’s an obvious opportunity to expand, and you have the industry know-how to do it well.
- You have enough money, and funding this new idea won’t negatively impact your existing business.
- Your customers are asking for it, and you can count on them to be there when you launch.
- Your industry is growing, and you need to continue differentiating yourself from competitors.
If you’ve checked the majority, if not all, of these boxes, you may want to consider launching a new product or service.
You know how to launch a new product or service, because you’ve done this before.
Now’s the time to draw from your past experience. Also be sure to take advantage of your available resources, including our launch checklist, to increase your likelihood of a successful result.
#4 — Plan for the future
Reaching your full potential often requires a little guesswork. While no one can predict the future, you can still plan for common risks that many businesses will face in their lifetime.
Planning for the future will help stabilize your small business during a crisis.
For example, 85% say their businesses would be impacted if the economy went into a recession. But only 32% say they feel fully prepared for one.
To recession-proof your business, follow these 5 steps:
- Managing cash flow, and knowing exactly what levers to push or pull to keep your business running under varying economic conditions.
- Developing multiple revenue streams to diversify your offering and spread out risk.
- Building unshakeable client loyalty through special attention, gifts, and increased service.
- Ensuring your operations are bullet-proof, scalable, and repeatable in your absence.
- Keeping your finger on the pulse of funding by maintaining strong relationships with funding partners and keeping your pitch materials up-to-date.
The future also holds the inevitable fact that someday, you’ll want to get out of the business to start something new, or retire. It’s important to choose and plan for an end goal that aligns with your business and your needs.
If you like the hands-on, day-to-day involvement of growing your business, you’ll likely want to stay private. Many entrepreneurs do, and sometimes hand their businesses down to the next generation of their families.
Businesses that grow significantly, often through venture capital funding, may have the option to go public one day through an initial public offering (IPO). This requires significant planning and growth. Your funders will need to be on the same page if you want to pursue this path.
Some entrepreneurs build a business with the end goal of selling to new owners. If positioned correctly, your company could be acquired by a larger company in the same industry. If you take this road, make sure you’re properly compensated for all the hard work that brought you to your exit.
Conclusion: Improve and grow your business to future-proof it
Sometimes, the last mile of the race feels like the longest.
But remember how far you’ve come, and let that continue propelling you towards the finish line.
To help you reach your full potential, download The Complete Guide to Entrepreneurship in Eastern Kentucky. This free resource is designed specifically for small business owners in our region. It contains helpful tips, checklists, and action steps that help you determine what the next steps are for your business.
By making strategic improvements and planning for the future, you’ll have the tools to take your company to the next level.