Congratulations! You’ve launched your own business. It’s attracting customers and you’re hearing positive feedback.
But what’s next? A new business needs your constant attention. You’ll want ideas for finding more clients, exploring ways to grow the business, and getting support in areas where you’re less sure of yourself.
Now that your business is up and running, here are some ways to make sure it succeeds:
- Word of mouth. This is one of the fastest and easiest ways to attract new clients. If you’re lucky, your clients are already telling others about you. But don’t be shy about asking them. Tell them upfront that you’d like more work and would be thankful if they could mention you to people they know.
- Client service. The best way to make sure clients recommend you is to give them great service. Try to meet or go beyond what they expect. They’ll want to share their experience with others.
- Networking. If there is a professional association for your field, join it, and go to the events it hosts. Consider offering free workshops. Give your business cards to friends, family, neighbours, and members of your social circles. Attend trade shows for your industry.
- Online. Build your web presence. Start with a website, and add social media. Some businesses get the most use out of social media sites where people place ads. Others benefit more from sites that help you build your network.
Ensure search engines can find your business easily and rank it highly. A good web design company or search engine optimization specialist can help. Link your social media platforms to your website, if possible.
- Warm calls. Try to get “warm leads” for your cold calls—that is, ask clients and colleagues for introductions. That way, you can send an email (or make a call) that begins with: “I hope you don’t mind if I introduce myself. So-and-so suggested I get in touch.”
- Your elevator pitch. You never know when you may run into someone who will ask what you do. This is a chance to pitch your business. Prepare a sentence or two that sums up what you do. Keep a mental note of a few clients and recent projects so you can provide examples.
Sometimes, as the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money. You might need more computers, a bigger office, a company car, or a better website.
One option is to reinvest your profits to get what you need. But if you want to scale up more quickly, look for loans or grants.
Alberta offers various types of funding to support small businesses:
- Grants usually don’t need to be repaid, so they can be a great source of funding. Many come with conditions, such as the need to complete paperwork or give updates.
- Tax refunds and credits can reduce your overhead. For example, the Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit gives you a tax credit equal to 10% of a new apprentice’s salary if you qualify and hire one.
- Small business loans are available from banks or government loan programs, such as those offered by Community Futures Alberta.
- Equity and other financing options may be available, depending on your business.
Visit the Alberta Small Business Resources website to learn about a variety of topics, including a free advice service called Ask a small business advisor. An advisor will answer your questions, offer information, point you to resources, or connect you to an expert.
The Canadian federal government hosts a concierge service where experts can connect you to funding, expertise, and facilities to help you grow your business. This service is geared towards technology-driven, innovative start-ups.
It may seem like getting your business off the ground is the hard part, but growing it is just as important. Taking the time to find and please your clients, get a good deal on funding, and find the information you need will give you the best chance of success.