If you stand still, you’ll soon see your competitors speeding past you. You need to be on the constant lookout for growth opportunities or you’ll be left behind.
Steven Schussler, author of It’s a Jungle In There, advises entrepreneurs to observe the world around them and make a conscious and consistent effort to ask themselves: “Is there something hiding here that I could change to uncover new opportunities?”
Schussler provides several examples of how he used this approach over the course of his own career. Summarized here are several fundamental growth strategies that sometimes get overlooked in favor of more complex strategies:
- Explore adjacent markets. Look for ways to apply your core competencies to new market areas, or for different types of customers. By leveraging economies of scale, common design, and location, you may be able to compete in new markets faster and at a lower cost than incumbents already in those markets.
- Sell new offerings to existing customers. Your existing customers already know and trust you, and hopefully you have a strong understanding of their needs. It should be easy to introduce new products and services that complement what you already sell to them. You don’t have to develop the product yourself, of course – you can become a licensee or distributor of existing products.
- Add add-on services that enhance your product. For example, you can help your customers make more effective use of your products by selling them support, customization, or training services.
- Extrapolate and iterate. Today’s “cash cow” is tomorrow’s dead technology. Think of where the technology is heading, and don’t be left in the dust like the book and music publishing industries. The Nook is now worth more than parent company Barnes & Noble.
- Expand your reach. The alternative to selling more to existing customers is to reach out to new customers. Depending on your business model, you can open new locations or expand your online presence.
- Merge with or acquire another business. M&A is a common way of acquiring new products and services or distribution channels. This often works best if you find a company with a culture similar to yours with great potential, suffering in areas where you have particular expertise.
- License your product to distribution partners. If your sales organization has reached its limits, or if you lack access to some slice of the market, then explore distribution partnerships that already have access to those markets.
- Hire people smarter than you. If you always hire people less capable than you or who see things exactly the way you do, you can’t expect your company to move forward. Look for people who will will see things that you don’t see. Foster a culture of innovation, and reward performance. If you don’t, your best people will leave and join your competitors.
Great entrepreneurs are always on the lookout for new growth opportunities. Sometimes, the best ones are the fundamental, time-tested approaches that have served entrepreneurs well for eons.