Earlier this year, I attended a conference of small business owners and decided to do an informal survey of the biggest obstacles they’ve had to overcome. Most owners responded that initially their challenges were focused on getting business. Then, they spent so much time on their customers’ work that they let go their efforts on new business development. The result almost always created a gap in bringing on new work creating a temporary dip in revenue, workload and morale for employees. So, instead of stressing yourself and your employees, let’s talk about an appropriate balance of new business development and current work.
Fatal inflection point
In most small and mid-size businesses, you, the owner, typically invest your time in bringing on new business. Once work comes in, you’re still putting on most of the hats of a business owner but your focus has turned internal to the client work and you may put aside your lead generation hat. Often, it feels like there’s no time for developing new business when you can barely meet your current clients’ demands. This is the fatal inflection point.
When I asked my colleagues at the conference how much time the owner should spend on business development the response was a surprising 40-50%. How do you do it? Overwhelmingly, owners said to make it an everyday practice and stay committed to new business development even if it’s only 10% of your time. Find that time. It’s not as easily said as done but here are some suggestions.
Open up your time
- Look for the common aspects of the work you do for clients. Can you streamline and package it instead of doing the same thing over and over again for every client?
- Delegate. Start training and trusting those who work for you. If you’re a solopreneur look for other ways to get help. Barter with others whose expertise you need and who need what you have to offer.
- Consider virtual assistants who provide support through the internet, usually from their homes. A virtual assistant can coordinate your schedule, keep you organized, plan your business development activities and keep you accountable.
- Hire employees. This is scary because owners in young businesses may worry about hiring too soon. Look into hiring college interns for a specific period of time and give them defined projects in which they can excel. Train them well and they may become your next ready-to-onboard employees.
- Decide how you want your business to grow. What are YOUR expectations of the business? Plan out how you’re going to get there and work your plan every day.
Best ways to reach and get new business
Now that you freed some time on your calendar here are some ways to reach new customers.
- Ask current customers for referrals. This is obvious but often overlooked.
- Go to networking events before or after work. Select how often you need to go to networking events and go. Talk about your business. Then follow up with the people you’ve met.
- Develop strategic alliances. Get to know the person who has similar customers to yours. If you like him/her then work out how you can share the contacts you have and make introductions for each other. Your strategic alliance may never become a customer but may put you in contact with many new potential clients.
- Be a thought leader. Share your insights publicly and make them easily available on line. Write blogs.
- Speak at events, conferences, meetings. Your business is based on some expertise or passion you have. Figure out a way to share it with others on a large scale and be seen as an expert in your field.
- Do surveys your customers may be interested in and share what you learn. The surveys don’t have to be difficult. Look at the informal survey I did at a conference and got good information worth sharing.
- Scour newspaper articles for people mentioned that you could reach out to and share what your business offers.
You can start at least one of these activities anytime. Current business and customer satisfaction is critical to your success but so is bringing in new business consistently. Set goals that you know you will bring you energy. Make the time every day even if it’s 60 minutes and you will see the results.
Paradise Workplace Solutions, LLC works with business owners dealing with disappointing business results get on a path to improved productivity and profitable growth by aligning people strategies to the company’s business plan.