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Michelle Pluskota

Vice President, Business Services, Big South Region of Comcast Business

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Think Big, Execute Small: Practical guide to small business growth

March 04, 2016

Learn how small businesses can think bigger through small, tactical, actionable steps and ideas.

Growth. It’s a word that has long been top of mind for nearly every entrepreneur, in every industry, in every region. More recently, there’s been an uptick in buzzwords like “growth hacking,” “disruptive innovation” and “exponential thinking.”

In fact, a search on Amazon turned up 106,894 book results for “thinking big.” One of those books is Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.

Recently, Patrick Schwerdtfeger, an author, speaker and expert on global business trends, discussed this mindset during a workshop for local entrepreneurs at TechTown Detroit. He leveraged the success of major brands such as Tesla, Apple and Google to showcase how a focus on growth has led to some of the biggest innovations of our lifetime.

Schwerdtfeger has lectured at prestigious universities, been featured in top tier media and spoken about business, technology and digital marketing at hundreds of conferences and business events around the world. There’s no denying his expertise, which got me thinking there’s something to this idea of thinking big – even when your business is small. But when you’re just starting out, it can be an overwhelming thought. His ideas got my wheels spinning about how small businesses can think bigger through small, tactical, actionable steps and ideas.

Here are my six practical tips for taking small steps toward big growth:

  • Know your audience: One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given is to simply know your audience. Take the time to understand your market and your opportunity. Know how your customers like to buy, how they like to communicate and how often, but don’t stop there. Continuously ask your customers what else they want. That way your customers are directly informing the choices you make to grow and expand into adjacent markets.
  • Use technology: Technology will do one of two things: Speed up your business or slow it down. Think carefully about the tools you use and the technology partners you choose. Work with providers who are responsive, flexible and scalable, meaning they understand your business in its current state as well as your future goals for growth and are able to adjust their solutions accordingly.
  • Leverage data: The great thing about the modern world is there’s data everywhere and, more importantly, there are easy tools to help you make sense of it. Schwerdtfeger shared his experience with Facebook’s custom audiences, which help you strengthen your existing connections by comparing the information you have with Facebook’s to more effectively help you reach the people you know. The businesses that come out on top will be those that are able to find the best ways to use data to build relationships with their particular audience.
  • Be flexible: Sometimes a concept that’s great on paper just doesn’t pan out in the real world. Don’t be afraid to scrap a concept that isn’t working. Overconfidence in a particular approach will doom your business faster than anything else. Flexibility is critical to growth and survival. Often the only way to grow is to halt the historical point of view and instead ask “What do we do now?”
  • Create a culture: As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you have the luxury of being able to create a blueprint for your company’s culture. Ask what’s important to you and your customers and build a team around the answers. It’s also important not to let things get stagnant. Don’t be afraid to solicit new ideas from your team. Focus on how your team feels about the work they’re doing and ask for ways to improve. This will empower employees to become part of the growth process.
  • Test, learn, adjust, repeat: When coming up with new products, services or offerings, look for ways to combine what’s innovative with what your customers want. Look to your competitors for inspiration and once you land on an idea, test it, learn from the results, make adjustments and then start the process over. Look at the holistic customer experience and make sure all of your teams are working together and supporting one another – from the front office to the back end. Over time, the focus on continuous improvement will help take your business to the next level.

By thinking bigger, you will inspire the people around you and speed past the competition because you’re doing what no one else has the guts to do. The first step is often the hardest but it’s also the most rewarding.

This article originally appeared on Crain’s Detroit Business.

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