Planning for Success

Expanding your business will most likely involve significant investment of time and treasure. This is why it is necessary to take the time to think it through and develop a solid and doable business plan before anything else. There are numerous business action plan templates available over the Internet but one authoritative model, called SWOT, is a tried and tested model that has proven to be reliable and valid in a number of industries, from corporations to small businesses. The acronym SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The first step is to carefully analyze all of the internal strengths and weaknesses of your business operations. What services have you perfected over the years? Then, be honest with yourself and make a list of all perceived business weaknesses that you can identify. Next, determine what new external opportunities for business expansion and development are possible. Finally, are there any possible external threats to your operation, related to your competition’s services and operations, for example?
Once you and your management team have completed a thorough and comprehensive business plan, it is crucial that you carefully monitor it so that you can be sure you are actively striving towards, or meeting, the goals that you have set. For example, some businesses conduct a quarterly review of their business plan, while others choose monthly reviews and updates. By consistently calculating and assessing your business’ progress against the objectives and goals that you and your management team have outlined, you will have a clear sense of when the time is right for business expansion and growth. Another benefit of careful business plan reviews is that, during the process, emerging trends may be discovered that can aid your decision-making processes about what types of growth to pursue, and which to avoid.

Market Awareness
As you are well aware, you are most likely not alone in providing your services in the areas and regions in which you operate. In addition, you might not be aware of the number and variety of possible new customers that are out there that your present advertising and marketing might not have reached. For these reasons, it is important to research your market in order to identify a viable segment of clients that you can target with your marketing and advertising. Know your main competitors well, who is their client base, and what kinds of services do they provide. In this way, you can identify areas that may be underserved. This way you will be able to eliminate part of the larger market and carve out a corner of the market for yourself that you can focus on and grow your business. Part of your business plan should include a good marketing plan, which ideally outlines everything from understanding your target market to understanding your competitive position in that market and how you intend to reach that market, as well as the costs of how you are going to achieve your expansion goals within a certain timeframe.

Increasing Market Share
Increasing market share is all about determining how much of the business in your operational area uses your services, as compared to how many clients are attracted to your competition. Therefore it is important to not only have a good understanding of your present client base, but it is also crucial to have an understanding of who in your operational area(s) are not included in your current list of customers. This requires implementing a business intelligence strategy and conducting some competitive analysis. Taking advantage of the first half of a SWOT analysis, try to figure out your competitors’ strengths. Why do clients seem to seek out others’ sweeping and property maintenance services and not yours? What services do they offer that you do not, but you are in fact in a position to offer without much capital investment? What advantages could you offer over the competition that could prompt those not in your present client base to try your business instead? This information should emerge when you try to figure out your competitors’ weaknesses, as compared to your strengths. Then, develop the most effective strategies that could reach, and possibly attract, your competitors’ clients. A simple, relatively inexpensive tactic is to offer some form of discounted service, in the form of coupons, for example. Perhaps your competitors’ clients are not aware of your business, or what you can bring to the table. Develop a marketing plan that you could target to your competitors’ customers. This can be accomplished by first doing some sleuthing and coming up with a list, and then possibly mailing them a flyer, laying out what you could offer them that could be more productive, efficient, and/or cost-effective.

Partnering with Like-Minded Businesses
An alternative to these ideas is to transform competitors into partners. This often happens organically over the years when, for example, you recommend a competitor to a client who needs a service that you do not offer. However, partnering could be more systematic and strategic. Few businesses are able to offer every possible service and so working with other industrial sweepers in areas where you operate could be a win-win situation. For example, a client may approach you asking for power-washing services, something that you presently do not offer. On the other hand, a competitor’s client may be in need of some property landscaping, something you provide but they do not. Developing and maintaining professional business relationships with other sweeping companies can go a long way in structuring a mutual reference strategy where your strengths are matched to their weaknesses, while your weaknesses are matched to their strengths. An alliance with other companies can help your business expand faster. You can survive alone of course, but partnering with another small business could provide you access to a larger client base, while at the same time giving you increased visibility.

Story by Mark Joseph Manion