“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”
– Benjamin Franklin
Second stage businesses are established entities that have successfully navigated the startup phase, and are looking to grow. Taking your company to the next level of growth involves engaging with the variety of resources available that can help you plan your strategy, build capacity, market your product or service, attract the right employees, and all the items that are critical to building a strong and dynamic business in today’s economy!
Plan Your Business
Those who fail to plan, are planning to fail! Driving your business to the next level starts with a well-crafted business plan. This ensures that you uncover your areas of growth potential and identify potential challenges BEFORE you have to address any issues that could derail your success. Additionally, if you plan to seek funding for your growth, most lenders will want to see your business plan. Check out the Resource Navigator to locate who can help you with your plan.
Drive Profits through Marketing and Sales
Marketing is all about connecting with your customers! Knowing the needs and wants of your target market and then creating an environment that makes it easy to buy from YOU is critical for success. Use the Resource Navigator on this site to locate all the organizations near you that can provide excellent marketing and sales coaching for your individual needs. It’s easy to connect and definitely worth the time to make sure you get it right the first time!
You can also check out the following resources for more specific marketing applications:
Hire Great Employees
Your people are your company’s most valuable asset. You must be thoughtful in how you attract and retain the right employees to support your growth because turnover will cost you in valuable time and money. Here is an excellent human resources blog that covers topics like leadership, recruiting, performance management and much more. Check it out and you can always use the Resource Navigator to locate any assistance in this area!
Maintain Permits and Registrations
Be sure that you have current licenses and are registered to operate your business in your municipality. As your business grows, the licensing requirements may change, especially if you are adding employees. Having a current Business Tax Receipt, an Occupational License, and any other licenses that are required is essential to your business success. Get legal and stay legal!
There are a variety of creative ways to fund a business. From attracting friends and family members to exploring micro-lenders and commercial banks. Use the Resource Navigator to discover resources that can assist you in preparing for seeking funding, and then locating potential sources of money to fund your growth. Below are some additional topics that you might consider as you look at your options for fueling your business’ growth.
Marketing Research and Planning
Doing your homework on your clients and the marketplace up front, will always save you time, money and a lot of trouble in the future. The most successful businesses will do market research as part of any business planning process. Basic Research might include:
- Determining what people would be willing to pay for your product or service and if there are enough of them to make it worth your while to serve them.
- How you intend to cost efficiently deliver the service or manufacture the product you intend to offer.
- Discover your competition and what might be unique about your offering.
- Understand whether your product might be something that is extremely unique or proprietary which might involve a patent.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has launched an online tool that allows small business owners to see how their company compares to the competition. Research your competitive edge by checking out the SizeUp tool. Also, don’t forget to search through the Resource Navigator to find local organizations are ready and available to help you with your marketing challenges.
Expanding Revenue Through International Trade
If you have a website to sell your products or services, you have the potential to reach markets and customers around the globe! One of the best ways to begin exploring international trade options in Central Florida is visiting the Central Florida International Trade Office (www.cfito.org) and checking out the Export Assessment at export.gov. Each of these resources can guide you to more information on your specific needs and help you to assess your readiness for taking on international trade.
The following organizations provide excellent support to Central Florida businesses looking to engage in International Trade:
Business Development Managers help Central Florida companies smooth their entry into worldwide markets with value-added services, including:
- Preparing marketing plans for international markets
- Handling export operations
- Import Information Assistance
- Providing international market research
- Identifying best market prospects
- Advising on finance and insurance options
- Working to find customers and partners
U.S. Export Assistance Center
The US Department of Commerce Commercial Service has a network of export and industry specialists located in more than 100 U.S. cities and over 80 countries worldwide. These trade professionals provide counseling and a variety of products and services to assist small and midsized U.S. businesses export their products and services.
Selling to Big Business and the Government
Selling to the Government
Government agencies and large corporations purchase all the same products and services that most businesses do, however, selling to government agencies can be tricky and time consuming. Businesses throughout Central Florida rely on the professional assistance of the area’s Procurement Technical Assistance Centers.
(PTAC) PTAC professionals provide small businesses assistance in understanding RFP’s and submitting bids to large businesses and government agencies. Additionally, the PTAC office may assist businesses in gaining certifications for women-, veteran- and minority-owned businesses which may benefit businesses as part of their bid responses.
Certification programs can help you market your business to both large business and governments. Many large corporations and governmental entities set-aside a percentage of their purchasing contracts for small businesses, minority, and/or women owned business enterprises. (MWBE) Becoming “certified” as one or more of these types of businesses enables a company to improve their bid on some contracting opportunities. MWBE.com offers a description of certification.
Most government entities will require a company to at least go through a streamlined or shortened verification process that is specific to that agency. Certification can take from 30-90 days.
The following Resource Partners assist in procurement and certification.
Hire and Manage Employees
Building capacity may require adding employees to accommodate growth. Attracting and retaining the right team for your business can be challenging. It is critical that you attract the right person for the job and the right fit for your company culture, so spending time up-front to get it right will save you time, money and headaches in the future. Check out the resources below to get an idea of what things you might want to consider before making the offer:
Attracting and retaining good employees is key to business success.
- How to Know When It’s Time to Hire Your First Employee (Entrepreneur)
- 10 Steps to Hiring Your First Employee. (SBA)
- Employer Identification Number (IRS)
- Employee or an independent contractor (IRS)
- “Really Easy Employee Handbook” (Opus Communications)
The following Resource Partners provide guidance on issues related to hiring employees.
Boards and Advisors
Outside oversight and input becomes increasingly vital as a company grows. Official boards of directors and unofficial advisory boards can provide connections and ideas to drive business expansion.
- Overview of boards of directors (The Free Management Library)
- Harnessing the Power of an Advisory Board (About.com )
- Ten Tips to Setting Up an Advisory Board (Stengel Solutions)
Mentors, peer groups and roundtables also offer some measure of input.
One of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is to begin with the end in mind. It’s never too early to look at options.
Networking for Growth
Networking is essential for entrepreneurs and small business owners, and it is happening all over town. Networking offers direct interaction with people from a variety of other companies and organizations. This allows you to plug in to the community, enlarge your circle of influence, and increase exposure of you, your company, and your products. However, before you go to that next networking event, consider the following tips:
- Be Prepared: Think about who you want to meet at the event. Have a plan, and ask others who will be at the same event to help you meet the people on your list. Think about what you want to say and how you might engage them. You’ll find tips on how to develop an elevator pitch.
- Be Easy to Talk to: Actively listen to what others have to say and ask questions as appropriate. Don’t try to make a sale immediately, ask how you might be able to assist them. People want to do business with people that they know… and like! Have a positive, upbeat attitude. Be sure to wait for the right opening to enter into others’ conversations. Don’t interrupt!
- Be Ready to Follow Up: Once you’ve made a connection, don’t lose it. Phone or e-mail promising contacts the following day. If you promise to provide something, do it!
- Making the Most of Social Media: Successful social networking demands professionalism as well as a heightened sense of self-awareness and value. Many times sharing photos of an event and tagging people will get you connected with others. Check out 5 Tips for Social Networking Success.
Check out the BizLink Orange Events Calendar for upcoming events and networking opportunities.