Big to Bigger – Secrets to Growing Your Small Business | LinkedIn

I never set out to run a company. I left Corporate America and started my individual consulting practice assuming I’d always be a work-from-home, one-woman show. Fast forward 12+ years and I have an office, co-workers, and a business model.

Looking back, I wish I had consulted business experts sooner. Today, I have a small, yet powerful group of advisors I tap into. Getting outside perspective has been extremely helpful to me when making strategic decisions to grow the business.

Tips To Make Your Business Jump to the Next Level

I wanted to write a post for fellow small business owners to inspire them to keep going in 2014. We’re the future job creators of the world. I want to see as many small businesses as possible turn into bigger ones. So, I reached out to John Fox, an Internet executive an entrepreneur who advises businesses to get his take on the most important secrets to growing your business into a big one. Here’s what he shared:

A carefully constructed team. A team defines your company’s culture, product, customer service, happiness/frustration and your overall success – so don’t rush it, get it right. Here are John’s four keys to hiring:

Hire people who are smarter than you, people that will challenge your assumptions and make your business significantly stronger–know your limitations and hire to fill those gaps.

Hire experience over education – having experience building or scaling a product is far more valuable.

Hire for cultural fit. John says, “I recommend letting someone go within the first two weeks if you know he/she just isn’t working out from a cultural perspective. They may have the best experience and be the hardest worker, but if they don’t mesh with your current team your company won’t work.”

Remember you are creating a team, not just looking to hire individual all-stars. Just look at the NBA All-star game, or the NFL ProBowl… all of the world’s best players playing together on one stage… you’d think it would be amazing… usually, doesn’t turn out that way.

Knowing who you’re building for. Talk to your customers/users, bury yourself in analytics, customer studies, etc. Fly out to see them and talk to them in person. John explained, “When I was building Games.com, I answered customer support emails and got on the phone with my users, I saw how they used the product and made changes when users operated the product differently than I had intended. Finally, understand what they think they want, and make sure you don’t always build what the customer tells you they want–sometimes, the customer doesn’t know what they want until you put it in front of them (and even then, they may complain for months until they get used to it–change is hard for people).”

Doing one thing and doing it well. Make sure you have a clearly defined vision, you can’t be everything to everyone. John shared, “As my former McKinsey colleagues would say, “you can’t boil the ocean.” Make sure you hold yourself in check to your vision, and get advisors to do this too (see point 4). You may have the aspiration to be the next Google, which has many different types of web offerings, but they didn’t do it all at once–they became the experts in search, and then started to expand outside of that.”

Finding advisors. Find people to hold you accountable, who are connected in the industry and have your best intentions in mind. It’s lonely to be the CEO or GM of a division, so find others that have done it before and learn from their experiences and get them to “catapult” you forward.

Loving what you do. Life is too short. It’s never too late to make a career change, and most people will be surprisingly supportive to help you do that.

John’s Tips Were Validating

For me, running a business is a lot of work, but it feels so much better than any other work I’ve ever done. It’s extremely hard…but oh so worth it. The tips John shared above are all ones I’ve embraced (often unknowingly!), but can validate are what helped to get us to where we are today.

What other tips would you add to this list to help small business owners get to the next level in 2014? I”d love to see your comments below.

P.S. – First time reading my posts? Thanks for taking the time to stop by! Not only do I write for Linkedin, but I’m also founder of the career advice site, CAREEREALISM, and currently run the career coaching program, CareerHMO. I hope you’ll check them both out!

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CAREEREALISM’s Founder, J.T. O’Donnell is a nationally syndicated career expert and workplace consultant who helps American workers of all ages find greater professional satisfaction. Her book,CAREEREALISM: The Smart Approach to a Satisfying Career, outlines her highly successful career-coaching methodology. Purchase her e-book of CAREEREALISM for only $9.95 by clicking here !

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