Updated on 12.26.14

15 Ways to Grow Your Business This Year

Call someone -- a client, a business contact, a mentor. Then put your phone away for at least two hours. Seriously. Photo: Alfredo Caceres

Call someone — a client, a business contact, a mentor. Make a connection. Then put your phone away for at least two hours. Seriously. Photo: Alfredo Caceres

When I look back at my 15 years of business, people often ask what my specialty is. With a diverse background in startups, working in finance, a former business address on Wall Street, and as the co-founder of two nonprofits, the only common theme I see is business growth. Some have grown steadily in the double digits, a few times there have been explosive triple-digit growth numbers.

Show me a business and I will show you a way — or sometimes many ways — to grow it.

So, happy New Year: 2014 is behind us and 2015 is our new reality. Today’s post is going to focus on ways to grow your business in 2015.

Without knowing where each of your businesses is, it’s challenging to create any blanket statements about how you should grow your business, so let’s focus on some concepts and ideas that can help grow any business. My goal is that each and every one of you comes away with at least one idea you can use to grow your business.

You may be aware of some or all of these ideas and strategies, but if you’re not using them, what good will they do? Understanding them occurs at the point of execution. So my hope is that even if you are aware of every strategy in today’s post, this will serve as a catalyst to take action and that, by the end of the day, you will have taken action on at least one item on this list. Are you up for the challenge?

And be sure to share this list with your team and your staff. Getting everyone on the same page and writing some of these strategies into your KPIs (key performance indicators) will get the whole group committed to the same goal.

Ready? Here goes.

1. Pick up the phone and call existing clients every week.

All of them. Seriously, so often sales reps and businesses chase new clients that we forget to give our existing clients the royal treatment. Believe me, the competition is calling them to try to win their business.

Call to see how they are doing. Call to ask them why they selected your company in the first place. Ask questions and listen intently. Find out how your firm can do a better job to serve them now and in the future.

You will solidify client relationships, lower attrition, and learn valuable bits of information on how to attract more clients and keep them happy. Don’t call to upsell them anything. Call to see how they are doing and how well they think your company is serving them. Take notes and aggregate the data.

How well should you know your clients? Business legend Harvey Mackay says there are 66 things you must know about every client to keep them as clients for life.

2. Pick up the phone and call your prospects once a week.

And instruct your entire sales force or account management team to do the same. Again, not to sell them anything. Learn about what’s going on with them, their business, and any other personal details they are willing to share.

Is there anything you can help them with?  Study your clients and learn about what’s important to them. Once you identify what’s important to them (you may have already done this), research solutions and valuable information based on that, and call to share the information with them.   Watch your closing rates start to improve with this one little habit.

3. Write someone a handwritten thank-you letter.

Repeat as often as necessary. I’ve been writing a note a day for the past three years. Here are some tips on writing thank-you notes.

4. Commit to reading more in 2015.

“Joe, you said you were going to help me grow my business. What does reading have to do with it?” Leaders are readers. Reading for business or pleasure will stimulate your brain and expose you to new ideas and thought patterns that can be applied to your business. Not sure what to read?  Here are two valuable ideas:

  • Read 10 pages of something positive or motivational every morning.
  • Find two or three books and read a few pages from each every day. You don’t even have to read them in sequential order. I often open up to the middle of books and read a few pages during breakfast.

5. Start an exercise plan.

Have more energy. Think more clearly. Look better, feel better. Do I really need to further explain why this will help your business in the year ahead? Bonus points for holding early morning workouts or boot camps at the office.

6. Go to bed earlier to get more sleep.

And start waking up earlier with clear intentions to guide your day. When was the last time someone called you at 6 a.m. to interrupt you or ask you to help them with something? Mornings are my favorite time of day to be uber-productive and start on my most important task first thing. Brian Tracy’s book “Eat That Frog” has some powerful ideas and strategies to get more done. If you want to browse notes of the book, click here.

7. Write a personal or company blog to share your ideas or industry knowledge.

In this digital age, content and content marketing are king. How else can mutual funds and money managers get us to pay fees we don’t realize are eating away at our investments while the fund managers, not the investors, are getting rich? Good marketing. We believe we need an expert fund manager to pick our funds for us, when in reality, low-cost index funds consistently outperform most actively managed funds.

Starting a blog and sharing your thoughts, insights, and expertise will help you and your company strengthen your relationships and touch potential customers and consumers. The beauty of the blog is that the marketing is out there working for you 24/7 and will help to create TOMA (top-of-mind awareness) with clients, customers, and your community.

8. Turn off your phone for two-hour intervals at least twice a day.

Require employees to do the same. If you can’t do this, you lack the discipline to exercise self-control, which is probably why you’re nodding your head that you know all these things, but you’re not doing them.

Don’t worry, there’s an easy out: Get a flip phone. It will limit your cellphone activity to calls and text messages and help you avoid the noise or the need to always be connected. The goal is not to get a flip phone to embarrass yourself. Quite the opposite. Get a flip phone and you will be embarrassed by your former self as you find your productivity unlocking new opportunities and results both personally and professionally.

9. Reach out to one of your business mentors.

Let them know how they’ve positively impacted your life and your business. Schedule a time to speak or meet with them. Mentors are invaluable to help you achieve your business goals faster than and will help you avoid pitfalls that could set your business back.

If you don’t have a business mentor, make it a point to find one in the next 30 days. Make a list of 20 business mentors you would like to connect with. Then narrow down your list and start reaching out to people on the list until you find one willing to mentor you formally or informally on an ongoing basis for the year.

10. Find an accountability partner.

You know what you need to do; so why aren’t you doing it? Find a friend, co-worker, or business coach to hold you accountable to your goals.

I have weekly calls with my partners to check in with one another on our intentions and goals from the previous week. Do not confuse your accountability partner for a cheerleader or enabler. The latter two are best done by your mother; your accountability partner’s job is to bring out the best in you and hold your feet to the fire when needed.

11. Is there an employee you’ve been thinking about firing? Do it.

Yes, I have a heart. And I understand people have families and mortgages to pay. I’m sympathetic to everyone’s struggles and battles we are each facing every day, but bad energy in the office brings down the whole team. You can’t put a price tag on company culture, and he or she is ruining it for everyone. Let them go.

If your big heart is resisting this idea, call them into your office and put them on a 30-day evaluation period and give them the opportunity to be a positive contributor.  If they don’t show an improved effort and attitude in the next 30 days, let them go.  Odds are strong they are already thinking about leaving and, and this person is just pursuing the wrong path.  Help them get on a path that’s a better fit for them.

12. Pay more attention to email marketing efforts.

Start collecting emails on your company website or optimize your list-building strategy. Develop an email marketing campaign for your business or more effectively segment your existing email marketing campaigns and messaging. Email marketing is still one of the most affordable and effective forms of marketing.

13. Hire someone much smarter than yourself.

I cannot count how many small business CEOs and founders I’ve met who believe they are the center of the universe. If there is any reason you can think of not to hire someone smarter than you, please leave a comment about it in the comment section below.

If you cannot afford to hire someone smarter, that’s exactly the reason you need to, so they can help you grow your business and you won’t have to avoid making smart business decisions due to a lack of financial resources in the future.

14. Find a social media platform and D-O-M-I-N-A-T-E it.

Mistake No. 1: Your company is on every single social media platform because your teenage relative told you about it, so you figured you needed to be on it. You don’t.

Conduct a social media audit and find one platform that best fits you or your company and absolutely dominate it.

For me, Twitter is where I play, connect, and hang out. It’s intentional. It’s how I gather news, it’s how I connect with thought leaders. Yes, I have Facebook and Instagram accounts, but Twitter is where I focus my time and energy. Pick one platform, hire a marketing manager if need be, and dominate that platform in the year ahead.

15. Pick up the phone and make one more call.

It doesn’t matter whom you call. Call a client, a prospect, someone on your staff and see how they’re doing. Call your mother. Call your spouse. In 2015, promise yourself to be more present, more personal. Make more phone calls and hide less behind your text messages and emails. Phone calls strengthen connections and improve turnaround time for just about everything.

Which ones on the list stand out to you? Were any of them new concepts, or were they all things you’ve heard before?

If there are some new concepts on the list, consider yourself lucky. Pick one and start acting on it right away, even if it means delegating it to someone on your team.

For the second group, those of you who nodded at everything on the list: Your biggest hurdle to growing your business this year is staring at you in the mirror every morning. It’s not a lack of knowledge that’s holding you back, it’s a lack of execution. It’s you.

You’ve got to decide once and for all that you’re willing to take daily action along with pig-headed discipline this year to start making some changes and improvements you’ve been putting off for far too long. A 1% change every day will leave your company in a totally different place a year from now, but it starts with you.

Change is never easy, but without change there can be no growth. So be brave. Pick something off the list. And take immediate action on it before you close your web browser.

The year of change and growth starts right now, and it starts with you!

Joe Sweeney is a social entrepreneur, committed to helping individuals and organizations grow and solve problems. Most recently, he was the co-founder and CEO at 100state, a nonprofit, startup community of entrepreneurs, educators, and innovators in Madison, Wis. Joe was recently named one of 53 entrepreneurs on Madison Magazine’s “M List: The New Who’s Who” for his work with 100state.

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