Increase Your Business Growth by First Outlining These 4 Things

A great business idea isn’t enough to guarantee success. Although growing their company might be at the top of many business owners’ minds, most startups fold. And it’s not because the founders lacked qualities like grit, passion, technical aptitude, or leadership skills.

The reality is it takes more than an entrepreneurial drive to bring a business idea to life and keep it going. According to Harvard Business Review, two-thirds of startups don’t produce positive returns for investors. That means only slightly more than 33 percent of businesses sustain enough momentum to become profitable.

So what makes one founder’s idea take off and expand? And once you’ve crossed the breakeven point, how do you prevent your business from stalling or moving backward? While growth isn’t always linear, achieving it involves gathering the right resources, planning strategically, and executing with precision.

1. Investing in Customer Relationships

Customer service gives you an opportunity to increase business growth by exceeding expectations. Customers that feel valued by good service can send more referrals, spend more money, and advocate more. When misunderstandings or issues arise, try to be transparent and work through them as efficiently as possible. By listening to the customer, you can learn from them while showing that you value their feedback.  

A good strategy for customer service is to not only deliver for the customer, but give them a little extra value. For example, the company Spoonful of Comfort recently had a situation where a customer provided a wrong address for shipping. Some companies might say that’s the customers fault and make them pay for it. However, in this example the company messaged the sender, corrected the address, and sent another package for free. Strategies like this can have short-term costs, but in the long-term you can build a customer base that loves your brand. 

2. Determine Who’s in Your Corner

Entrepreneurs may have solid industry knowledge and impressive skill sets. That doesn’t mean that expertise is going to be sufficient to carry out all the company’s goals. Before you start anything, you need to know who you can rely on.

Determine what human resources are a must and who your go-to team players are. Maybe you’ve got a great group of business partners but need to attract more investors to boost funding. You could need people with know-how in areas that complement or extend yours.

Think about casting your net outside of traditional hiring pools. Consider working with different freelancers and consultants that have different backgrounds from what you are used to hiring. You might enlist the help of other experts during launch or keep them around for the long haul. The key is to find others willing to jump on board and help you see your business ideas through.

3. Refine Your Plan With Expert Guidance

You can have a well-written plan for your company that spells out every last detail. But if no one else sees it, you won’t know where the holes in your ideas and strategies are. Successful growth looks different to everyone, but it has to be defined measurably and realistically.

Saying you want to be the No. 1 wireless communications provider in your market might be a goal. But it’s too vague, doesn’t include a timeline, and may not be attainable given current conditions. Planning to gain a 10 percent market share by the end of your first year is a better objective. And it’s one you should base on research and expert opinions.

As you gather feedback from others about your plan, be open to assessing its pros and cons. Remember that a perfect strategy doesn’t exist, but remaining flexible gives your ideas legs to stand on. Completely scrap and tweak what you need to, and remember that those providing constructive criticism want to see you succeed.

4. Map Out Your Strategy’s Implementation

Besides having a team of experts in your corner and a well-conceived plan, you need to know how you can realistically execute your strategy. Calculate costs based on real-time research and market data while guesstimating future changes. Your plan should also consider potential disruptions and shifts in buying behaviors.

CBInsights reports that 35 percent of small businesses fold because of a lack of market need. Being beat out by the competition is the reason for 20 percent of startup failures. As you bring your products or services to market, you might discover you need to pivot. Some strategies deliver short-term success, while others produce long-lasting results. Anything can happen. New developments from competitors can render your core products obsolete. To avoid becoming part of the past, focus on your customer and their current wants. Anything can happen, including new developments from competitors that render your core products obsolete.

During your implementation, leave room for failure and have a contingency plan. Preparing for negative outcomes isn’t pessimistic; it’s realistic and wise. Most businesses can’t claim victory without going through some trial and error. And just because you find something that works doesn’t mean you won’t have to go back to the drawing table. To cement your strategy’s execution, it helps to know its logistical ins and outs before you begin.

Every business owner wants to see their ideas come to life and make money along the way. But it takes more than dreams, drive, and startup capital to grow and sustain a company. Securing expert support, filling the holes in your strategy, and executing well while adapting to change can keep your business moving forward.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.