Last month, Paul Graham of Y Combinator wrote a fantastic article on “doing things that don’t scale.” If you’re not familiar with Graham, or his startup incubator Y Combinator, it basically goes like this: startups apply to Y Combinator and, if accepted, they receive a small amount of funding and lots of guidance to help accelerate their businesses (it’s a 3 month program). Graham’s essays are an excellent read for anyone with his or her own business — not just startups.
From the start of the article Graham sets the scene:
Actually startups take off because the founders make them take off. There may be a handful that just grew by themselves, but usually it takes some sort of push to get them going. A good metaphor would be the cranks that car engines had before they got electric starters. Once the engine was going, it would keep going, but there was a separate and laborious process to get it going.
At TrackSmart Scheduling we’ve been thinking of the top ten things you can do to give your business a push. In no particular order:
- Write thank you notes to your customers. This goes a long way in making your customers feel special and drives word-of-mouth. How special is it when you receive something written by a friend or colleague?
- Respond to your Yelp reviews. No business is perfect and the day will come when someone writes a poor Yelp review of your business. The best businesses recognize that an unhappy customer experience is bound to happen – address the issue directly on Yelp.
- Improve your cash flow by offering discounts on future services. Let’s say you have a home cleaning business and you charge by the cleaning. You can always sell you services in bundles, say 10 cleanings, and offer a 10% discount if your customer pays in advance. This will help you improve your cash flow by collecting funds for 10 cleanings, instead of one. Improved cash flow will help you grow your business faster.
- Start blogging. Writing blog posts can be tiresome, but it’s important that you establish yourself as an authority in your business area. When you write great blog posts, you can attract new business from Google searchers who land on your corporate blog.
- Use Google Keyword Planner. Understand keywords relevant to your business and website. Let’s say you have a small home health care business. On your website, you might write content with the word “home health care services” in it. Google Keyword Planner (formerly Google Keyword tool) will help you find other keywords folks are using to find home health care services, such as the keyword “hospice”. You never know what keywords might be relevant to your business, and Google Keyword Planner will inspire you to write new blog posts with those keywords.
- Outsource tasks that you hate ;). Hate blogging? Find a consultant on Odesk to help you with tasks that you don’t enjoy but are important to your business.
- Call your customers for feedback. We do this a lot here at Hello Scheduling. Every week, I call over 10 customers to understand whether they are satisfied with our product, and to learn how we can improve. Regularly we use this feedback to add new features to our software. Our customers absolutely love when we’ve implemented a new feature based on their suggestions.
- Consider funding an aspect of your business via crowdfunding. Let’s say you have a restaurant and want to open up a food truck. Rather than going to a bank for a loan, you could put up a Kickstarter website for your project, and get your restaurant’s fans to invest in the project. Small investments from a large group of people can go a long way.
- Join forces with another business to promote your company. Partnering with a company in a related industry can really improve your business for very little cost. Let’s say you make delicious baked goods; you might be able to convince local coffee shops to carry them. You might also offer discounts at your business, if customers patronize the local coffee shop and bring in your flyer. Look for local opportunities to partner.
- Sponsor your local community. It’s important that folks know about your business. Getting involved will make you feel more connected to the community and help build relationships you’ll need to succeed.
So there’s a list of 10 ways to get your business moving forward. You’ll have a lot more time to try these 10, if you no longer had to worry about employee scheduling or time clocking ;). What do you do to make your business “take-off”?