When you hear the term “business growth”, where does your mind go first? Is it to increasing revenues; adding more staff; finding an acquisition; entering new markets; opening more locations?

Or is it to increasing profitability; working on sustainability; eliminating low-margin products and services?

There’s no “right or wrong” answer to this question: each item is a perfectly valid version of “growth”.

It’s certainly possible for a large business to be paying attention to all of these aspects of growth. But for small businesses, including professionals and the solo-preneurs, it’s always tough to hold focus and commit time and energy to even just one or two.

The challenge for the small business owner is to be clear and realistic about which choice will be the most relevant and effective for them in the “right here, right now” environment of economic uncertainty, conflicting recommendations, and information overload.

The following 3 – stage process may help you cut through the fog and the chatter.

  1. What you absolutely need to do in the next 30 days that will ensure that your business will be strong and healthy enough to survive and thrive in 2016?

  2. What do you want your business to look like by the end of 2016? (That’s right, one year from today.)

  3. Which two or three aspects of your business most need to be nurtured and strengthened in order to get you there?

  • Financial resources and cash flow
  • Support staff
  • Connection with past and present customers
  • Range of products and services, including pricing
  • Image and branding
  • Focus on customer experience

Yes, I know that they are all important in their own way, but you’re going to have to pick just the two or three most important ones to work on.

What did you say? Oh yes – how do I make the choice?

Well, here are a couple of options. The first one is to look at each item on the list above and consider how strong your business is in each area relative to your market and your competition: “market leader”, “market follower”, or “somewhere in the middle”. (These score 3, 1 and 2, respectively). Start working on the “1” areas. (And if they’re all in the 1 or 2 zone, I suggest you have a bigger problem than we’re dealing with here!)

The other option is to look at your business from the perspective of a potential buyer. As you face your imaginary buyer, and they start asking questions about the business and why you want such an outrageous price for it, what are the questions that you’re dreading? These questions should point you to the areas you should work on.

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