Whether you're running an established small business or just starting your journey toward entrepreneurship, it's safe to assume most business owners are on the hunt for new ways to grow their enterprise and improve their bottom line.
And we should all want to help them do so. Why? According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses create nearly 70 percent of net new jobs nationally, and drive tremendous growth in our local economies. When small businesses flourish, everyone wins.
My father-in-law is a small business owner. As a result, I have seen first-hand the sacrifices they make on a daily basis, and am driven to design products and provide resources to help small businesses meet their goals and fulfill their dreams.
In honor of National Small Business Week, here are four ways small business owners (SBOs) can drive business growth this year.
1. Go grassroots
While tried and true marketing tactics like digital advertising, email campaigns and direct mail are great ways to extend your reach and awareness, a 2015 Nielsen report found consumers are 90 percent more likely to trust a brand recommended by a friend. Never underestimate the power and value of word of mouth.
For example, San Francisco-based entrepreneur Gerald Luna wanted to build local buzz for his Belgian waffle company b. street waffles. In 2012, he proposed a partnership with the local Capital One Café to serve waffles at the bank once a week. Five years later, Gerald developed a faithful following and has expanded his business to cater some of the top tech companies in the region.
The lesson here: local partnerships and engagement can bring big results. Whether its learning from other small businesses and turning to them for advice, or finding opportunities to connect with new customers, small business owners need to capitalize on opportunities to engage with their community, which will ultimately help their business thrive.
That's the inspiration behind the new Capital One Spark Business We Work As One program, which is offering small businesses in Chicago, San Francisco, New York, Denver and Boston the chance to: host pop-up experiences to share their products and services with consumers and other businesses, share educational demos to connect with their local communities and network with other local businesses.
2. Fail fast and pivot often
The word "fail" may seem counterintuitive when it comes to business growth, but playing it safe can stall progress. This is especially true for businesses developing new technologies or tools.
As you introduce new products, adopt new technologies or expand your sales strategy, identify key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine the customer and business impact. If the new strategy works, great. If it doesn't, learn from it, refine your approach, and try again.
For example, I recently spoke with a photographer who pivoted his entire business to focus on photo editing as new technologies now enable anyone to take professional quality photos. As a result, his business is still relevant and is experiencing growth due to the change in focus.
3. Be opportunistic
Oftentimes, small businesses stick to what they know when it comes to running their business. It's not that they are reluctant to modernize, they're just so busy managing day to day financials and tasks, they have little time to educate themselves on new ways of doing things. By dedicating time to learning about new technologies, business owners can ultimately benefit from tools that automate tasks and streamline processes, and that help save time and reduce operating costs. This allows SBOs to focus on what matters most: growing their business.
One emerging technology businesses are adopting is mobile payments, and there's a good reason why. According to a recent report, 46 percent of SBOs currently offering mobile payments say sales have increased over the past six months, compared to 35 percent who do not use the technology.
4. Find a mentor
In addition to networking with other local business owners, you'll want to find a local mentor who can help you navigate the inevitable ups and downs that come with starting, owning and running a business. They'll oftentimes have more experience in certain areas, and can share their own lessons learned and advice on fostering growth.
There are resources, like BusinessAdvising.org, which can help make those connections for you. Or, sometimes all you need to do is ask someone you admire if they'd be willing to mentor you. Most of the time, they'd be more than happy to share their insights and provide business advice.
Having been directly connected to small businesses throughout my life, I've seen the lasting impact they have on communities. As we celebrate National Small Business Week, I always remember that when small businesses flourish, we all do too.
Yumi Clark is VP of new product development for Capital One's small business segment, Spark Business. Throughout her career in product management, her specialty has been creating new business and scaling them for large corporations. Using lean start-up approaches, Yumi has evangelized the methodology of test-and-learn and failing fast to build successful technology ventures in Silicon Valley companies including Adobe, Intuit, eBay and PayPal.