The following is an excerpt from Connections magazine.
Archie Williamson, founder and president of Diversified Systems, Inc. shares the following strategies for growing a sustainable business.
Join Industry Groups and trade organizations.
Look for industry groups and organizations that are specific to you. These groups can connect you with other entrepreneurs. This is a great way to gain insight, learn best practices and network. “SCOMSDC serves as a valuable organization for minority businesses,” shared Williamson. “Network with people who do what you’re trying to do on a bigger level; this is where business leads come from.”
Maintaining accurate financial records is an essential part of running any business. Don’t wait until your business reaches a certain level to begin creating monthly financial statements. Inaccurate or incomplete financial records can be a barrier to growth, and will affect our ability to access capital. Not having your books done correctly will cause you to miss business opportunities. Moreover, when you seek to borrow money, the first thing that banks or investors want to see is your books. Be prepared for growth, or you will miss out.
Implement and monitor your business plan.
Developing and implementing your business plan should be an ongoing process. You must continuously adapt to the situation and the marketplace. Monitor your business plan and review your financials against your goals. You must create a scorecard for your business. If you project the business to grow by 20%, go back to see if you are achieving that goal. If you are not, then ask why. Reflect on what you’re doing right and what you can do better. “Business plans are so dynamic, you really need to tweak your business model every year to maximize where you’re trying to go. Use your financial statements as a check and balance.”
Good mentorship will provide you needed guidance, information, and tools that help empower you. Having a good mentor can help direct you through the challenges that face every small business. Gaining insight from someone that is already successful can save a lot of time and help position your company for growth. “When I first got started, there were other African Americans out there doing well in business but there was always a disconnect with those succeeding and start-ups. However, people love to help when they know that you are truly intent on making it.”
Never be too proud to ask for help.
There are people with valuable leads, information, feedback or advice that can help assist you. “Even though I’ve been in business for over 20 years, I ask people for help when I need it. I’m never too proud to ask for help. Get your ego out of the way and pretend like every year is your first year. No one is going to help you if you think you have it already or if you are perceived to be that way,” shared Williamson. “People will give information and resources to someone that they know will appreciate it.” Follow up and thank those who give you advice and help. A thank you is always good, and a complimentary statement at the end of every conversation or note that you send lets people know that you are appreciative.
Treat people with respect.
“It will only take one or two people in your business life to change your whole life; and you don’t know who that will be. It is better to be nice to everybody and not pick and choose,” says Williamson. “Every person that you interact with may be the person to give you the opportunity that takes you to the next level. So always have a good first impression and treat people as you want to be treated.”
If you’re not growing you’re dying.
At least every six months, look back to check your scorecard based on the numbers. “If you’re not growing, you’re dying. Like a body, you may need to see someone for help. You doctor in business may be a board member, mentor, staff or consultant. Sometimes, when you’re in the weeds and you’re doing business yourself, you may need a fresh set of eyes or perspective to inform the decision making process.”
When the window of opportunity is open, take it. When there is astronomical growth in demand of any product or service, that’s when you jump out there. Position your company. Be on the cutting edge of trends. “Once demand stabilizes at the top of the bell curve, you want to have made the money and have the ability to position you company for what’s next.”