Let me start by making a couple of things clear. Entrepreneurship is a sport for the brave and persistent.
You need to be brave enough to make the calls others wouldn’t and persistent enough to stay in the fight until you succeed. Those two points will remain critical throughout your start-up journey.
Growing into a corporation is a lofty endeavour and one which you cannot take lightly. If your aim is to grow to that size, you had better be prepared and willing because everyone wants that level of success but not everyone wants to put in a unique level of effort.
Unique effort and decision making is exactly what is required. To achieve your aims, you must be willing to do it differently.
1. Plan the Future – Use the Dream Big, Win Small Philosophy
Achieving corporation status might be the top of the wishlist but what gets you there? The small steps.
You need a plan that shows exactly what benchmarks you need to hit along your path to success. Beyond that, a plan shows the risks you will face and how you should approach them. The businesses that failed through 2020 and 2021 were the least agile and able to adapt to new risks.
When we say plan; don’t make it watery. It needs to be specific and achievable to keep you accountable.
When are you going to hit the milestones and how? What does the next 3 years look like? When will you be investing or hiring more people? When are you reaching out to investors? What potential mergers and acquisitions are in your future?
Your company and team can’t follow a direction if you don’t tell them where you want to go.
2. Find, Build or Invent New Markets
Where else could this product or service be used? Having a narrow focus closes off opportunities to expand your reach. Similarly, a singular target market might just be undervaluing your potential. Take any bank for an easy example. Banks routinely segment their marketing campaigns based on life stage, age profile and location even when the products offered are not all that different.
Think deeply about how you might be limiting yourself. Have you considered exporting or using digital sales avenues? Don’t get trapped in pre-digital thinking that your locality is the only place to sell to. Look for new markets further afield.
If they don’t exist, can you build one? Many start-ups fail because there isn’t sufficient market need. However, maybe your target customer doesn’t know how much they need your product just yet.
Facebook built a small market in Harvard by creating a lot of noise before opening to users from Yale and Stanford. Users were queuing up to get on the platform the same way as travellers are queuing up to go to space with SpaceX now. Creating a compelling story and generating hype opens the door to new markets. If potential customers see others enjoying products and services, they tend to get jealous.
Conduct your supply chain analysis. The more links a chain has; the weaker it becomes. This means for every additional hoop your customers jump through, you lose a percentage of them. Can you develop the complimentary products that people like to buy with yours? If they need to buy something elsewhere just to use your product, the chain is too long.
Partner with other stores to create a one-stop-shop and a strategic alliance. The more physical or digital shelves your offerings are on, the more visible your brand becomes.
If this doesn’t apply, what else can you open yourself up to? Are there other buyer personas you can appeal to? If you just hit a niche, can you go mainstream? Where else can your product or your company reach?
3. Maintain Current Market Share
In addition to new avenues, never forget about your current market share. New customers are attractive but they are 7 times more difficult to get than retaining your current ones. The base you have built is the foundation for future success so it is a necessity to maintain your standing within the market.
Adopt a selection of strategies to grow your position while continuing to serve your current clients. This may take the form of loyalty programs such as points collection, subscriptions to discounts or thank you emails.
In addition to loyalty, keep your brand fresh with new packaging, innovative products and different price points. While your pricing strategy may appeal to one target customer, you could easily attract others with new packaging at a higher price point. Each successful proliferation develops your market share and strengthens your branding.
4. Merging and Acquiring is Caffeinated Growth
Mergers and acquisitions are typically the quickest route to dominating your market. The initial capital outlay is beyond the reach of start-ups but if it’s possible it does grab the marketplace by the horns.
Scan your market for the low hanging fruit. If you can find a host of smaller competitors with a sizable but underserved SAM (Serviceable Addressable Market) and you have the funding, make the inquiry. Branching out and furthering your brand through established providers is exactly what is needed to achieve corporation status.
Don’t just stick to competitors either. There are far more options out there including:
- Vertical mergers – working with other companies in your supply chain including suppliers, distributors, online platforms etc.
- Horizontal mergers – buying up the low hanging fruit competitors
- Market extensions – acquiring or merging with similar vendors who operate in totally different markets to you
- Asset mergers – what IP, technology or even platform could you acquire that would greatly improve your operations?
- Product extensions – what are the products your customers buy after to enjoy your product more? What are the complimentary products to your business?
- Conglomerate mergers – looking at companies that offer completely different products and services but that can be produced easily.
Bringing all the pieces of the puzzle under one roof bolsters your position. It exposes you to new economies of scale, better pricing, diversifies your offerings, more customers, new locations and intensifies your reach and brand awareness.
M & As are a huge part of why some brands stay local and others reach around the world.
5. Find and Leverage Investment Capital
Angel investors are not waiting in the wings to fund your small projects. They are looking for exciting growth opportunities. They are looking for dynamic businesses who back themselves with big ideas and aggressive strategies.
Everyone has sat there with the daydream of what you would do if you won the lottery; so, what would you do? Be bold and brave.
What investment is required for you to open another 5 locations? Who would be your top 3 M&A targets and why? What could you achieve with significant investment? What new markets can you dominate?
The more impressive (and thought-through) your ideas are, the more interesting it becomes to the investor.
The possibilities are out there because in today’s marketplace. Fortune favors the bold. The more willing to be different and the faster you show growth, the more likely it is that your start-up can explode into a corporation.
Be different, persistent and brave.