How to Maximize Growth in Your Solo Operation
More than 70 percent of U.S. businesses are owned and operated by sole proprietors. These independent professionals — often freelancers, consultants, and contractors — essentially own and run the whole show themselves. They work alone to provide products and services to their customers.
If you’re going it solo, here are some simple but effective tips for growing your business without the complications and headaches associated with bringing employees on board.
Never Stop Marketing
Many sole proprietors tend to focus so intently on existing customers that they forgo reaching out to new prospects. But when you don’t pursue leads, for any reason, your workflow — and revenues — gradually decline.
It’s important to engage in some type of marketing activity every day. Create a simple, straightforward list of tasks, such as:
- encouraging existing customers to send you referrals
- cold-calling likely prospects
- following up with inquiries from your advertising and promotional efforts
Try new approaches from time to time, and keep track of what works for you, as well as what seems to be working for your competitors. After a while, you’ll be able to hone your outreach efforts to take relatively little time and produce relatively strong results.
Be Smart About Spending
In most cases, small operations like yours have very little margin for error when it comes to spending on equipment, facilities, services, and the like. Always revisit your budget before you commit to any expenses. Read reviews, ask trusted colleagues for opinions, and calculate the likely return before you buy.
If you can’t be sure in advance that you’ll receive a good return from an expenditure, try to “test drive” the item or service first. Ask for a free trial, a short-term subscription, a rental or lease-to-own arrangement, or some other cash-conserving strategy.
Strive to Be the Best
The best advertisement is a satisfied customer, so strive for excellence in everything you do. In addition to offering top-notch skills and up-to-date professional knowledge, look for opportunities to:
- provide one-stop shopping for the products and services your customers want and need
- communicate expertly, promptly, and frequently, which sets expectations and prevents misunderstandings
Honor Every Deadline and Promise
One major slip-up can undo years of fine work, so make meeting deadlines and keeping promises your top priority.
Meanwhile, high performance significantly slows the natural (and inevitable) rate of attrition among clients. Outperform your competitors — and promote your track record — to keep business rolling in. Tell prospects that if a current vendor misses one too many deadlines or fails to fulfill obligations, you’ll gladly step in and treat them the way they deserve.
Offer a Money-Back Guarantee
This is the single easiest, most satisfying add-on for any product or service. A no-questions-asked guarantee can help you attract new business, overcome a prospect’s hesitation to work with you, and encourage customers to air any grievances (vs. switch to a competitor).
Underscore this philosophy by waiting to invoice customers on a product, service, or project until you’ve not only delivered the goods, but also verified that they’re entirely happy with your work.
Robert Moskowitz is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.