As a small business owner, you may have dreams of your company becoming the next Amazon or Apple, or you might be content making a splash in your local community. Either way, you may wonder how you can make it against large companies that seem to have the people and resources to do the things you can't do.
Just because your business is small, that doesn't mean you can't think big. Below are four ways you can grow your small business without a big budget.
Find your niche
Big businesses tend to appeal to wide, general customer bases. As a result, customers with more specific needs are left out, because there's not enough profit potential for a big company to cater to those customers' needs. However, a small but eager customer base can be perfect for a smaller business.
"Step No. 1 is to recognize that a larger business is not necessarily your competition. Ask yourself how you are different," Joanne Chang, owner of and chef at Flour Bakery + Café and Myers + Chang in Boston, said in The Wall Street Journal.
Identifying and focusing on your niche also lets you work to your strengths and develop market expertise and loyalty.
"Many are afraid to eliminate part of a potential market," James Clear, founder of Passive Panda, wrote in an American Express Open Forum blog post. "It can seem scary, but you need to focus on your core customer if you want a clear path to growth."
Danielle McPhail, founder of eSpec Books, said she has seen this in the world of small-press publishing.
"When you diversify too much when you're small, then you can't maintain your market," she said. "I've worked with a lot of small presses, and when I see them self-destruct is when they start making imprints to reach different markets and they don't have the support structure to reach that different demographic.”
Put your efforts into innovating
One way to innovate an industry is to find a problem that most businesses are ignoring.
"Don't be afraid to solve the hard problems that everyone else avoids," wrote Clear. "There is a lot of money to be made when you're the first person to fix something."
"Because you have passion and because you can tap into agility, you have a perfect mix to better innovate," Pam Moore, founder of Marketing Nutz, wrote in a blog post. "It doesn't require an intense board meeting to kick off an idea for further research. You can simply plan it and do it."
When you innovate, be sure to keep in mind your market and customer base. McPhail encouraged small business owners to diversify within their existing product or service scopes but warned against branching out into completely different demographics.
Plan for growth
If you think big, you have to anticipate expansion. That might mean having some general plans in place for taking on more employees, setting up checklists and procedures to ensure quality control, and investing in products and equipment that will grow with you.
Purchasing hardware and software that grows with you is especially important. "Continuously having to upgrade is going to cost you money in the long run. Implement for growth now, and it will save you time, money and headache down the road," said Moore.
Clear noted that growth doesn't always mean creating more products or hiring more people.
"Acquisitions can be a massive source of profit and a means to growth if you make a few key moves," he said.
Clear recommended keeping a list of companies that fit your niche and have the characteristics you're looking for so that any acquired business enhances your focus and mission.
Don't do it all yourself
It takes an independent streak and a do-it-yourself attitude to start your own business, but that doesn't mean you have to do everything on your own. For example, partnering with a business that handles a specific task and sharing the profits lets you keep your focus on what you do best while getting a big project done.
Clear uses the example of tennis balls: If you have a high-end tennis ball, instead of trying to make yourself in the image of Wilson, which has its own manufacturing and distribution, you should find an existing ball manufacturer and offer to share the profits. This frees your time and money so you can concentrate on selling the balls to your specific market, he said.
Thanks to modern technology, you can even harness the power of the crowd to fund your business or specific products.
"What made [starting my publishing company] possible was crowdfunding. Because I'm very good at marketing, we can fund the project and be in the black from the beginning. After that, it's pure profit," said McPhail.
Your business may have started small, but it doesn't have to stay that way. Plan for growth and seek out help and partnerships. Then, you can expand to something larger, successfully and on your terms.
Check out the Find a Solution section of Business News Daily to find business products and services that can grow with your company.