Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Easy business expansions

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     Expanding your small business is not hard. It can be downright easy.

     Service businesses are almost always easy to expand. You might have already tried several approaches. Keep trying. Keep looking. And remember--what you tried and discarded in the past might be just the thing tomorrow. It can take the world a while to catch up with you.

     Example: A small struggling frame shop expands by offering local artists a place to show their works--paintings, photographs, sculptures. Hold an open house, a meet-the-artist event. This can generate lots of community interest, and it's the back door approach to establishing a high end gift shop. The owner might want to go on in that direction. Or, another possibility is for the owner to reach out to the business community--banks, corporations and organizations--offering to rent artworks for display in their lobbies, hallways, offices. This part is not easy to set up (think insurance, security, deliveries). But it can all work together, expanding considerably the reputation of the frame shop.

     Build on what you have when thinking of expanding. Keep the core and look for ways to enlarge it. Nudge your operation in a new direction.

     Example: A small independent web designer expands his business by offering on-site services. Services at their site. Previously, the web designer did jobs for other very small businesses. His new customers are larger--15 to 50 employees. Now, he helps them set up networks, troubleshoot systems, offers maintenance contracts, and holds training sessions for employees. It was an easy expansion, building on what he already did and with some of the same customers. 

     When looking for ways to expand, remember that your customer might also be expanding. The needs of your customer's business can change. Are you keeping up with them?

     Example: A store that offers healthy foods can easily expand into offering additional lines. The current trends can show the way--no gluten, no sugar, no nuts, no GMO foods are obvious. But have you thought about adding a line of foods for pets? Every one of your customers has a pet. Fresh raw foods for dogs and cats? Cat litter that's more earth-friendly? Booties for dogs?

     You might be missing opportunities to do more for more people. Your customers already have needs that are related to what you do. Right now they are calling other businesses to satisfy some of those needs. 

     Any business can add on-line ordering and free deliveries to locals. And I would happily pay a delivery charge to have cat food delivered when there is snow on the ground. 

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