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How to Break Through 5 Common Barriers to Small Business Growth

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How to Break Through 5 Common Barriers to Small Business Growth

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: February 21, 2013

Trying to grow your business, but thwarted at every turn by problems within your own organization or by external factors such as broken supply chains?

For many businesses, the biggest obstacle to growth isn’t poor sales, financing or tough competition; it’s often the business itself!

So, if you find yourself operationally ill prepared to grow, what can you do about it? Here are some strategies that can help you break through some of the common barriers to growth that many small businesses experience.

1. Watch the indicators for growth

Before you embark on any growth strategy, step back and take a look at some key business indicators to help you decide whether you are actually ready for growth!

Are you successful in a current market and want to open a new location? Are you about to clinch a big sales deal? Is your sales pipeline full? Is product development success opening the door to new opportunities?

These are all important indicators that will drive growth and should be constantly monitored to ensure you are able to effectively prepare for that growth. Study your pipeline, conversion rates and market trends in dashboard form every day.

2. Keep one eye on your competition, but always think big picture

Underpinning any growth strategy should be a deep knowledge of where you stand against your competition. A simple SWOT analysis, reviewed quarterly, can help you determine where you fit in relation to your competitors and areas of opportunity to exploit your strengths and their weaknesses. Likewise, it will give you a good view of any threats to your growth and guide you towards developing a plan to fix or compensate for these.

Then take a look at your market – your potential customers. Do some market analysis to find out how your customers view your business and what they see in the competition that would make them buy from them instead of you.

Look for ways to differentiate yourself – how does your competition position itself in the marketplace relative to your business? How does your business/product/service contrast with theirs? Why would a customer buy from you and not them? The answers to these questions will help you see your strengths, exploit market opportunities, and execute a tactical plan to get ahead in areas that you don’t measure up to the competition.

3. Always be recruiting talent

Setting the stage for growth has to involve superstar employees. Even if you can’t afford to right now – keep looking for talent and bring them on part-time or on a contract or hourly basis. Another option that can help guide your growth is to work with an organization like SCORE. SCORE provides free business mentoring services and can partner you with someone with business management experience to help you steer your business on a path to growth. Whether you need help across the entire business, or are looking for help with functions such as business planning or marketing, SCORE can pair you with a mentor for free.

Get more tips in 6 Options for Staffing your Growing Business.

4. Constantly assess risk

If there’s one thing being a manager or business owner teaches us all, it’s that we must always anticipate and manage risk. Look ahead—what variables could occur that might compromise or damage your growth plans? These could be supply chain issues, hiring and training problems, competitive activity, cash flow, or patent infringements. Include these in your SWOT analysis and develop a plan to prevent or manage any issues.

5. The bottom line

If there’s a common thread here, it’s the importance of being prepared. This, of course, means having a plan. Never embark on a growth strategy without a plan. It doesn’t have to be encyclopedic, but it should contain the key elements discussed above.  Break your plan down into chunks – have one strategic plan that contains your market findings and helps inform where you are and where you want to be. Then assemble smaller plans. For example, have a day-to-day operations plan, a hiring plan and a marketing plan, each of which lay out the tactics for using your business resources to accomplish your strategy.

If you don’t have a business plan, check out SBA’s Build your Business Plan Tool. This step-by-step online tool guides you through the process of creating an actionable plan.


About the Author:

Caron Beesley


Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley


For the growth of small businesses it is very much essential to define parameters/goals. Generally it should be short term goals (atleast initially) and mapping the activities to the targeted goal will help it. Always keep an eye on competitor or market leaders. What they are upto? Small businesses cannot be a brand name overnight, but following the market leaders will certainly help in gaining some visibility. Its always said: Either be a market leader or follow them. Skilled employee is always an ask for small businesses. Many small businesses are now going for contractual or vendor employee who are looking to earn some extra apart from their current job. Small businesses can save resources via such employees. Try to involve in least risky fragments. Play safe and in profitable manner.
Wonderful article!!! @davidcapece I agree with you 100%. If I'm guilty of anything it's not prioritizing and keeping my head focused.
The big obstacle in the way of success of small businesses is the competition with big companies which have capture the big market share and majority of customers prefer to buy from them rather than new companies. This create a big problem for small entrepreneurs because they don't have enough finance to compete with these big giants in terms of technology and human resource, but yes with the proper planning and strategies they can slowly and steadily meet their goals and targets. Small businesses need to provide extra ordinary high services in order to gain and maintain their customers.
For small and growing businesses, the key is focus. Many opportunities will present themselves, and the reality is that we can't pursue them all. Prioritize your opportunities and focus on those that are best aligned with your big picture goals. Then, as Caron says, get the talent you need to accomplish your priorities, and monitor key performance indicators and the bottom line.
Ya i agree with you..small business goal is more important..That must be targeted and the business should not get diverted from the focus..Moreover analysis the competitor business for your better positioning...
Thank you)))
I've wanted this kind of information for a while and yes this post is helpful. But i had some problems about one thing that i want to know. Is any small business needs to be competitive absolutely ? Companies are so big. How can i do that ?
  There are several ways small businesses can be competitive too. Check out this blog for insight.
Thank you, may control it is only be applicable to the actual tế with model big
Very helpful. This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices (http://www.sba.gov/community) for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.


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