Growing a Business

Starting a business is a great accomplishment, but it’s only the first step. In order to be successful, entrepreneurs must find a way to grow their business. Here are 10 steps you can take to help you achieve the goal of growing a business.

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Step 1: Research the competition

In order to compete in any marketplace, you have to be aware of your competition — what areas they serve and what services they offer. That way you can locate the appropriate market for your business and formulate a plan to better serve prospective customers.

Broker and Realtor Misti Bruton worked in real estate beginning in the mid-1990s. She took a 10-year break, and then opened AVO Realty in Austin, Texas, at the end of 2015. When she started her company, Bruton considered possible challenges of her industry and if there was anything she could create to help others. She started looking outside the box and assessed if any brokerages had come about, and if any of them had changed their models.

With that knowledge in hand, Bruton was able to determine where and how her company could flourish. Her goal was to nourish growth in her brokerage field and ensure that the agents who joined her firm would be content and equally successful.

Step 2: Hire the best people

In order to ensure that you are hiring the most appropriate employees for your business, you must have a clear idea of the skills required to perform each job function. The people you hire must also be able to represent your company in a positive light. Bruton decided that having diverse levels of experience was the most beneficial way for her to expand her business.

“I created a brokerage that has multiple models,” she said. “We have a place for a brand-new agent, an established agent, maybe a recommitting agent and someone who may want to phase themselves out of the business.”

Initially, Bruton was the only employee. “Then I organically grew it,” she said. AVO Realty recruits through social media, including Google and LinkedIn, community and educational events, networking and word-of-mouth.

“We have been as big as 40 agents,” she said. “We’re scaled to be large. We’re across the state of Texas and we’re recruiting at a very high level.”

Step 3: Find your base

The methods that you use to locate the best talent can also be used to locate customers or clients.

“Real estate agents are ultimately my clients,” Bruton said. In terms of locating buyers and sellers for her real estate business, the same avenues work, including social media, community events, networking and word-of-mouth.

Bruton said you have to use all those methods extensively to ensure the visibility of your company and that potential customers have your business in mind when they are seeking a product or service that you can provide.

Step 4: Acquire more funding

It may take additional money to expand your business, whether you want to buy a building, rent additional office space, purchase new equipment, add to your product line, or increase staffing.

You should start by preparing a business case and financial statements to show prospective lenders or investors that you will be able to pay off your debt. This should include a statement of the total amount required and how you specifically plan to use it. It’s also helpful to include descriptions of your management team’s skills and expertise. Local experts, counselors and business mentors from the U.S. government’s Small Business Administration (SBA) can offer guidance.

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Step 5: Promote your business

Social media is one of the most valuable tools for promoting a business. Almost 70 percent of adults are on social media and more than 77 percent of small businesses are currently taking advantage of social media marketing. Social media can create brand awareness and promote sales, while also alerting existing customers to changes in your product lines or services.

Sponsored events are another way to create visibility for your company. There are numerous opportunities to buy a booth or support a festival, community, school, or park district event. This also offers an opportunity to gather email addresses.

Step 6: Create an email list

An email list can be a valuable tool for keeping current customers informed of new products or additional services you’re offering. Your goal should always be focused on how to grow your contact list. You can do that by collecting email addresses at events that your company attends or sponsors, whether it’s a community festival or a chamber of commerce event.

You can also request email addresses on your social media accounts or through incentives and contests, such as being entered in a drawing or a prize. It’s important, though, that you don’t send email messages too frequently, as your contacts will likely hit unsubscribe.

If you’re a member of any business organizations or groups, such as your local chamber, be sure to add those members to your list (with permission). Other members may need your products or services at some time, or they may recommend your products or services to their customers.

Step 7: Select a customer relationship management system

As your business grows, you’ll need a way to keep track of your customers. There are numerous software programs that can help you do this.

Capterra has rated many of them based on factors like cataloging, customer support tracking, email response control, performance metrics and search capabilities, among other factors. Examples of Capterra’s software programs include Salesforce, Pipedrive, Freshsale and Zaius. There are many other programs, so be sure to read up on your options before making a choice.

Step 8: Acquire a smaller company

Acquiring a smaller company with a similar product or service can be a quick way to grow your business. In an acquisition, your company will fully absorb the acquired company. Before taking this step, however, it is essential to conduct a business evaluation in order to determine the value of the other business. The sales agreement you prepare, which allows for the purchase of assets or stocks, should list all inventory and be reviewed by an attorney.

Step 9: Foster customer loyalty

Having loyal customers is an essential element in growing a business. Customer loyalty programs typically pay off because it creates repeat business and also helps to ensure positive word-of-mouth.

AVO Realty fosters an ongoing relationship with customers. “We do a lot of client events,” Bruton said. That includes an Easter egg hunt, a fall festival with a petting zoo, picnics in a park and photos with Santa.  “We make sure that we reach out to (customers) many, many times throughout the year,” Bruton said.

For VIP clients who have used AVO Realty services multiple times, Bruton might invite them to a sporting event and provide VIP seats, or take them out for a steak dinner.“I believe it’s important that they have us in mind so they never forget us. We want to make sure that we’re always in the position to be their Realtor for life.”

Bruton has also found that offering a variety of additional services beyond just selling real estate creates a positive relationship with customers. “Our clients get access to our local vendor partners,” she said. “It might be moving companies or home inspectors or lenders that pay for their appraisals. We are always focused on improving the customer loyalty.”

Step 10: Keep innovating

Being innovative means always being up-to-date with changes in your industry. It also means finding a way to expand your business, whether it’s adding to your product line, adding new services or expanding to additional locations.

AVO Realty primarily serves Austin, San Antonio, Houston and San Marcos, Texas, but plans to expand far beyond Texan borders.

“We want to have agents across the nation in every state,” she said. “Our model is plug and play. We have an agent services hub that anybody can tap into. It doesn’t really matter where they’re at. I know that there are so many people out there (who) are frustrated with their brokerages. I know this because I lived it.”

The bottom line when growing a business

Continual growth is the key to success in business. It can be accomplished by knowing your market, hiring the best people and giving them the tools they need to succeed. Constantly promoting your brand, products and/or services through social media and other means is essential to your growth. Finally, you must always look to the future by finding new ways to gain and retain clients.

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