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Cindy Bates

Vice President, US Small and Midsized Business & Distribution of Microsoft

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4 Factors Holding Your Business Back from Long-term Growth

January 19, 2017

Common reasons entrepreneurs struggle with growing their business and how to avoid them.

When starting a business, landing on an executable idea is just the first step.

You also must have a keen understanding of today’s economy, markets and competitors. Then you must draft a business plan, organize financing, register for both a name and tax ID, and obtain the proper licenses and permits, among several dozen other steps not listed here.

Happily, those steps don’t often act as a deterrent. The number of small businesses in the United States has increased 49 percent since 1982 and some predict nearly 50 percent of Americans will be self-employed by the year 2020.

But it is not enough to simply think about how to get started; a new business needs to plan for growth. The most successful businesses are those that start with a detailed growth plan and revisit it often. They also troubleshoot potential roadblocks before they become problems.

Here are a few factors that can hold your business back from achieving long-term growth.

1. Fear of change

Businesses large and small need to evolve in order to survive. Learn from brands like Xerox, which had to disrupt legacy perceptions and communicate a new breadth of service.

Brands that are able to see threats such as the growth of digital, as opportunities, tend to be the most successful. Plan for change and get an outside-in perspective from industry leaders on trends that impact your business.

2. Lack of fresh ideas

It is especially important for small businesses to be open to new ideas. You should be diligent in reading about new trends and innovation.

Numerous methods are available to allow you to listen to your customers which can reveal fresh ideas for your business. The wide variety of social media channels are great tools to engage with your customers and gain a new perspective on your current or future products and services.

3. Location

 There was a time when being in a prime location with high foot traffic was enough for small-to-medium-business success. Now, with competition crowding in from far beyond the neighborhood, there’s the need to explore online opportunities and perhaps tap global markets that were unattainable 20 years ago.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is a good resource for those looking to go global.

4. Technology

 Across all of these factors there’s a common thread: technology. The right technology can enable your business to engage with customers online, source new ideas and reach global markets. Any SMB looking to grow in today's digital world must think beyond hardware like smartphones and laptops and explore the cloud and line-of-business solutions available, which can help a business become more mobile, more productive and ultimately more profitable.

More than ever, cloud computing services are affordable and increase productivity. For example, instead of emailing coworkers back and forth to pin down a document’s location, the document can live in the cloud, and be edited and shared internally or externally across a multitude of devices.

The elasticity and flexibility of an organization are important factors when it comes to growth.

Cloud tools can help manage the ebb and flow of everything from contract workers to seasonal demands, creating new efficiencies and allowing employees more time to concentrate on new ideas and enhanced offerings.

It’s true; starting your own business is a major challenge. But using the right tools will help you work smarter and accomplish more.

This article originally appeared on Cindy Bates’ Blog.

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