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.