100 years ago, business in America took off in a big way. Historians now call that era “The Roaring Twenties.” Today, history looks set to repeat itself with the American economy appearing stronger than it has in decades. Consequently, a lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners will make serious money in 2020 and beyond. How can you ensure that 2020 is a year of success and growth for your business?
Here are 16 ways to position your company for business growth in 2020:
1. Reinvent the Wheel (then do it again)
Conventional wisdom says “Don’t reinvent the wheel.” It’s a good thing that Michelin, Goodyear, Bridgestone, and every other tire company in the world didn’t listen to conventional wisdom. The wheel needed reinventing so we could run cars, tractors, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, and wristwatches. In every industry, successful businesses reinvent the wheel every day.
Only the tiniest fraction of ideas are revolutionary, after all. Most of them simply modify what already exists, repackage it, sell it, and that’s how we all stay in business. So whatever your company does, keep reinventing it in 2020. Try a different package, price, ad, feature, or aesthetic. See what works for you and your customers. Don’t worry if you feel like you’re just rearranging details. That’s probably all it takes.
2. Merchandise Your Service Business
Selling a product almost always makes more money than selling a service. So service-based businesses need to figure out how to merchandise their offering as much as possible. If you own a consulting business, for example, you can offer packages instead of charging by the hour. You may also be able to create a course, book, or video that allows you to sell part of your service in a packaged format. Or you could shift from a one-to-one offer to a group offer and potentially 10X your income.
3. Go Micro on Everything
Yes, we borrowed that title from Gary Vaynerchuk who has been preaching the benefits of a microcontent strategy, and of course, we believe he’s right. Paradoxically, “going micro” means starting out macro. Create a piece of long-form content such as a whitepaper, e-book, or podcast episode. Break it into smaller pieces you can use on a blog, in a Facebook post, or as an answer to a question on Quora. Then, take each of those pieces, and break them into smaller pieces to use as memes, quotes, Tweets, or captions for photos on Instagram. In this way, you have maximized each piece of content you create, and since the original piece was long, you’ve also increased your chances of having shared original ideas.
4. Stay Out of the Middle
“The high end and low end are thriving,” says leadership expert Carey Nieuwhof. “The middle is MIA with a trail of bodies behind it.”
For decades, the middle has dominated American retail. Middle-size department stores sold middle-grade products at middle-level prices to middle-class people. Those department stores are now going broke, however, and the malls they sat in are morphing into schools, offices, amusement parks, and parking lots. But people are still shopping at discount retailers such as Wal-Mart, and they are still buying high-end products from specialty stores. It’s only the middle that’s being squeezed out. As a small business owner, decide if you’re a low-cost, high-volume retailer or if you’re a high-cost, high-value retailer, and own your space. Just keep out of the shrinking middle.
5. Communicate Meaning More than Content
The world is awash in content, and most of it repeats what’s already been said thousands of times in other places. What people want isn’t more content. Anyone can learn anything with a little help from Google. What people want instead is access to content makers and insight into the specific actions those content makers recommend.
Would you rather see your favorite business speaker on stage giving a generic presentation or spend an hour in a small group with them asking for specific insights? You’d rather get the personal touch, right? Your customers feel the same way about you. As you consider your content marketing strategy, think about what that might look like. Are you wanting to share your thoughts from the stage? Would it be better to get on the biggest stages you can with a boiled down message? Or should you host monthly dinners with 12 targeted prospects who find meaning in what you have to say?
6. Invest in Audio
Cleaning house? Working out? Mowing the lawn? You can’t read a book or watch a video, but you can pop your earphones in and take in a podcast. Audio is quickly gaining ground on print and video with 144 million Americans now saying they’ve listened to a podcast. Some podcasts exist primarily to entertain or educate, but businesses are starting value podcast media, too. As a small business owner, you can either host your own podcast, which gives you a chance to position your company as a genuine expert in your industry as well as expands your network. Or you can start appearing on top podcasts in your field, giving you access to large numbers of listeners.
7. Forget Feedback, and Coach Your Team
Traditionally, managers believed rigorous feedback helped employees improve. The research isn’t supporting that notion, however.
“Telling people what we think of their performance doesn’t help them thrive and excel,” says the Harvard Business Review, “and telling people how we think they should improve actually hinders learning.” What should you provide instead of feedback? Coaching. According to a survey by HCI and the International Coach Federation, employees in organizations with strong coaching cultures are 24% more likely to be rated as highly engaged. And companies with highly engaged employees are 21% more profitable.
8. Listen to the Market
Most entrepreneurs fail because they build what they want to make instead of what the market wants to buy. Successful entrepreneurs, however, operate at the intersection of their own interests and their product’s viability in the marketplace. Consider the case of Sara Blakely, the self-made billionaire who founded Spanx. She sold fax machines successfully because the market for business machines existed. But fax machines weren’t her passion. She wanted to sell something fun and feminine. It took years of selling fax machines and experimenting on the side, however, for Sara to figure out that the market also existed for a special kind of women’s apparel that she enjoyed making. The rest is history. So listen to the market, not just to your own interests.
9. Protect Your Business’ Most Important Assets
Security is a growing concern for many small business owners, and rightly so. Half of all cyber attacks target small businesses who lose about $80,000 per successful breach. If you do not have a cybersecurity plan in place, now is the time for action. You can work with a local Managed IT Services company to set up and operate a strong technology wall.
You can also educate your team members on safe cyber practices since human beings are the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain. If you are in the Internet of Things world, you absolutely must invest in a full review of your security protocols this year and upgrade as necessary. IoT-related manufacturers and users are going to take a beating from cybercriminals in the near future. Be warned, and be ready.
10. Don’t Neglect the Back Office
In all the excitement of sales and marketing, it’s easy to forget about the bookkeepers, accountants, and human resources teams. But these are the people who keep your business between the rails, so to speak. If you outsource these tasks to professionals, make sure you take some time to review their work, make necessary adjustments, and say a big “thank you.” On the other hand, if your back-office team works in house, verify that the members are getting the support, technology, coaching, and inclusion they need to thrive.
11. Build a Bigger, Better Base of Talent
The most lucrative business opportunities go to those companies that have the talent to handle them. For a small company, building a talent pipeline can seem daunting, but it’s not impossible. Start by analyzing your future needs so you know the leadership and talent you’ll have to have to achieve your company’s goals.
Then, develop branding that’s focused on recruiting potential team members instead of appealing to clients. Assess your current team’s talent to see what can be developed in house, and then make a plan to nurture the growth of the people currently on your payroll. Finally, reward your top performers so you can keep the best performers instead of having to hunt for them.
12. Orient Your Teams and Processes Toward New Opportunities
Nothing inhibits change like success. So if you had a good 2019, it’s tempting to stick with what you know works instead of striving for a great 2020. Growth, however, requires change. That means you and your team will need to suss out and respond to new opportunities this year instead of relying exclusively on current clients, products, and packages. As Alyssa Satara writes in INC, “One of the hardest parts about entrepreneurship is being able to focus on the task at hand while staying open to new business, and learning opportunities. Still, entrepreneurs who master this duality are the ones who continue to succeed.”
13. Hire a Business Coach
A business coach can help you work smarter and move faster than you would alone. A good coach will not be afraid to challenge your ideas and correct your missteps. They will serve as both confidantes and examples. Business leaders who work with coaches generally earn more money, grow larger networks, and improve their leadership skills.
When hiring a coach, you can select the exact person you want to work with, someone who gets your business inside and out as well as someone whose personality you find engaging. You can also determine what you want to work on improving and begin and end the coaching relationship when it’s convenient for you.
14. Stay on Social Media
Many things will probably change in 2020, but social media isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, you may want to spread out your investment in social a little more, and try something fresh like TikTok or a WhatsApp chat group. For sure, you’ll want to keep up with the fundamentals of a strong social media strategy — add value first, repurpose long-form content, be authentic, and engage with your customers often. If you’ve been wanting to make changes to your social media approach, this may be the year to go big in video and/or to test working with an influencer.
15. Emphasize Customer Success
Remember that the customer’s success is your success. So working collectively to make customers successful may be the most important initiative you can undertake as a business owner. Companies now see marketing, sales, and customer support as one giant, interconnected loop all of which falls under the heading of customer success. If you’ve been breaking apart the customer’s journey into different pieces, consider the benefits of an inclusive, customer success approach. Customer success reduces churn and extends the customer’s lifecycle. It also improves revenue while driving down costs.
16. Build a Company that Will Last
Don’t build a company you want to sell. Build a company you want to keep forever. That’s the only kind of company you can really love.
It’s been more than 25 years since Jim Collins’ now-classic book Built to Last appeared on bookstore shelves, but the main ideas are still true. You don’t need a great idea or a charismatic leader to be successful. Instead, preserve your core ideology, set audacious goals, try new things, and constantly be innovating. These are the hallmarks of the companies that make it over time. As an entrepreneur, you already have an idea to build something you can love. Why not build it to last?
The new year provides opportunities for fresh initiatives and new growth. Embrace those opportunities. Prepare for success. Expect it. Let’s see what the Roaring Twenties have in store for business in the 21st century.
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