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Expanding a business takes careful thought and planning. But sometimes an idea for expansion just comes at you.
Listen carefully to your clients/customers. They can point you in a new direction, a new future that you might not have considered.
Example: Guthilda runs a salon and spa. When she took notice that many of her clients were undergoing cancer treatments, she felt badly for them and wanted to help. She decided to add oncology esthetician services. After doing a search, she found an independent certified esthetician and made arrangements to offer the service at the salon. It has worked out well.
Example: Jonathan runs a landscaping business. He does lots of fall cleanups, winter prunings, spring plantings and year-round mulchings. Many of his customers had questions about shrubs and perennials that Jonathan could not answer. He realized that this might be an area for expanding. He made contact with a Master Gardener and they formed an informal partnership--working together and referring customers to each other. Both benefited.
Example: Law school and the bar exam behind her, Annabelle opened her own law office.The first year was filled with traffic tickets, real estate closings, drawing up wills, forming partnerships--and handling worker's comp cases. She suddenly saw a bright future for her law practice if she concentrated on worker's comp cases. The more she dug into the field, the better it looked as a way forward. Today, Annabelle has added a partner and together they devote full time to worker's comp cases. Her firm's reputation is spreading and referrals regularly show up at her door.
Be alert to expansion possibilities. New directions for your business pop up on a regular basis. Pick the good ones, test them out, and select the best. Good things can happen to those with eyes to see and the patience to follow through.
Before heading off into a big expansion, however, always do--or re-do--your business plan. Whether you plan in your head or write out a formal document, it's that projected bottom line that will keep you in focus.
More on expansions and business planning can be found scattered throughout these write-ups. In my own businesses, I tended to plan by jotting down ideas on whatever piece of paper happened to be at hand, throwing all these into a drawer, and once every three months or so, go through them. Sometimes, I threw them all away. Other times, I found the nugget that pointed the way forward. In my case, I let the ideas simmer for a while before heading off in another direction.