Believe it or not, 80 percent of U.S. small businesses have no employees. It’s not because these solopreneur businesses can’t grow – it’s because they want to stay small, nimble and adaptable. In fact, small businesses in general thrive precisely because they are small. They offer their customers a personal touch, direct communication, and boundless creativity – attributes often lacking in large organizations.
Navigating periods of growth – particularly the hiring of new personnel – can be challenging for the small business because it threatens their ability to preserve the very attributes that made them successful in the first place. As you grow your team (and your small business), here are four things you should keep doing in order to maintain and cultivate your small business edge:
Stay close with your customers
Nothing defines a small business better than “personal touch.” Unlike large companies in which customer relations is primarily transactional, small business owners have real relationships with their customers, often responding directly to email inquiries, or simply being present in a brick-and-mortar shop for immediate assistance. There’s no better way to maintain the personal touch of a small business than to stay close to your customers. Even as your staff grows, keep the lines of communication with your customers open by offering an easy way to connect – a phone number, email, or social media direct message – and prioritize responding to inquiries yourself (they’ll notice and appreciate it).
Don’t forget your niche
Because of their size and agility, small businesses have always been uniquely positioned to serve niche markets with customized and unique products and services. And it’s these niche offerings that often make small businesses so successful in the first place. You’re unlikely to find a rose gold medallion with your full name on it from Target or Walmart, but rest assured – there’s an Etsy shop for that. Whether you sell custom jewelry on Etsy, or provide specialized paint jobs for cars out of your garage, don’t lose sight of the niche markets that helped launch your small business. Even as you grow, customers will expect the same highly targeted products and services that you’ve always been known for.
Keep your culture intact
“Company culture” can refer to a lot of different things, but I like to think of it as the personality of your business, and a big part of that personality comes from the work environment that you champion. As you add employees, culture becomes even more important because it becomes shared. Freed from the bureaucratic levels of a large organization, small business culture is typically known (and valued) for being open and collaborative. To this end, you might consider keeping your physical space open as you add employees, to provide a natural catalyst for engagement and collaboration, or avoiding the standard performance review process in favor of honest feedback in real-time.
Preserve your passion
Small businesses are usually founded out of a personal passion, and that passion comes through in the products and services offered. The best way to scale passion during periods of growth is to hire contractors or employees who exhibit the same entrepreneurial fervor that your company was founded on. Look for people who are engaged, enthusiastic about your offerings, and have the drive to move as quickly as your business is evolving. If you’re not quite ready to make full-time hires, hiring individuals on a contract basis via on-demand talent platforms like Upwork is a great way to find freelancers – many of whom operate their own small businesses – with a strong entrepreneurial spirit and drive.
Even though most small businesses would prefer to stay small, team expansion is often a necessary step for the small business looking to scale their operations, enter new markets or expand a product line. Whether they’re hiring full-time employees or contractors, small business owners must strike the right balance between business growth and the preservation of their unique small business edge – the personal touch, niche offerings, collaborative culture, and founder passion – so valued by customers and employees alike. If you want to retain your loyal customers and attract the right talent, make these areas a priority and continue to cultivate them as you grow.
Originally posted to Inc. on August 3, 2017.
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Source: QuickBooks Blog