Expansion Pitfalls All Small Businesses Must Avoid

A great number of small business owners have a constant urge to expand. Of course, the mere idea of expanding and becoming a “big” business known to thousands and millions of people is fascinating. However, expansion is not all about finding a new office space and hiring new employees to fill the vacant seats.

There is much more to expansion than most small business owners realize. It is unfortunate that a larger population of these business owners is only focused on the benefits of expanding while completely omitting the challenges that entail business expansion. Let’s take a look at some of the most common challenges, concerns and considerations before you expand your small business.

Major Pitfalls to Avoid before Expanding a Small Business

Outdated Information of Market Conditions

Too often, the decision to expand taken by most small business owners is based on information that is many months old. The important thing to consider here is continuous market research. An idea that seemed like it will lead the market a few months ago might be an average offering today.

For example, you might have landed in the market with a unique product, and its sudden popularity might make you think you should expand as soon as possible. What you don’t realize is that the acceptance and popularity rate of your product can diminish with time. The big reason behind that is the competitors who can imitate anything that you have created.

It does not matter if you have patented the technology, method or the product itself before launching it. Your competitors will always find some way to imitate and emulate your products. A great example of this is Apple, the tech giant that patented the touchscreen technology. You can see there are more non-Apple touchscreen smartphones in the world today than Apple’s own iPhone.

Regional Limitations

When you are expanding your business into new territories, you must know them well. You cannot expect people to react to your offerings, marketing methods, advertising tactics in the same way everywhere. In fact, cultural considerations are an extremely important consideration when businesses are expanding.

You don’t have to be expanding to a completely new country to consider culture. There are many things that people in one state might love and people in another state completely hate.

These considerations have to be made based on the type of business you have. If your business has some cultural dependencies, you have to be very careful with where you are thinking of expanding your business operations.

Cash Flow Challenges

You need to be on top of your cash flow before you expand. Cash flow is important for any business, but it is essential when it comes time for expansion. It does not matter how much money you are expecting to come into the business after making the expansion move; it is going to require a lot of money upfront too.

This is the time when you have to stop thinking about the revenue and start focusing on your income. Your revenue does not tell you how feasible it is for you to expand your business. It is the money that you can use without affecting your current operations that matter in the expansion.

Look at your profits and see how big they are. If your profits are small, don’t just assume that things will be fine and you should just make a move. You don’t want to create a situation where not only you fail with expansion but affect your existing operations as well.

Technological Issues

The way modern businesses operate, technology goes wherever your business goes. Many small business owners think of expansion only regarding new office space, furniture, and new employees, but that’s not the case. Today’s businesses rely heavily on technologies, both hardware, and software. When your business expands, you have to support it with better hardware but what’s more important is the software side.

Unless you are using a cloud solution for your database and other internal tasks and activities, you will have to spend a lot of time in arranging the right system. Syncing information across multiple locations and managing bigger databases with more accounts and information can be a challenge in the beginning.

Overestimating Business Popularity

Some businesses that start with a unique idea and get attention from media fast are able to reap great benefits from sudden demand spikes. This situation often makes business owners feel that they should expand as soon as possible. What they don’t realize is that this is only the “trial” period for customers in their minds.

Even if they like your product, in the beginning, it does not mean they have put full trust in your offerings. A onetime purchase does not translate to loyal customers and repetitive purchases. You might have received a great response from customers when you started the business but wait for some time to know if your customers have started to repeat.

It is only the number of repeat customers that can tell you if your product/service has been a success. It could be a nightmare for you if you start getting negative reviews from your first customers as soon as you expand into new markets and locations. You could end up creating too much inventory that no one is willing to buy.

Underestimating Growth of Employees

While a lot of things get overestimated by new business owners before expansion, there are some things that they underestimate. Sometimes, business owners are not able to fully foresee their growth regarding employees.

They arrange new space to continue business operations in a new location without realizing that the growing number of employees will force them to expand their office space again. Not only is it inefficient but it could lead to a lot of hassle for the working employees if the expansion of office space takes place while they are working there.

Final Words

The most important thing to keep in mind when you have your own business, and you are considering expansion regarding business operations or product/service offerings, is patience. Always take your time before making a move because when you are a small business, you don’t have a lot of support to recover from huge financial losses like large enterprises do.

New Business Startup Checklist

There are a few fundamentals that every business must have in order to operate as a business. First and foremost is the fact that your primary objective is turning a profit. Even the IRS takes the position that if all you do is continuously generate losses they will consider your “business” a hobby and disallow your losses. There not only needs to be a profit motive but a profit generated. This may seem like a no-brainer to you but in my 30+ years of experience I have seen far too many startup generate nothing but expenses and there are some good reasons for that which I will cover next.

Before quitting your day job to open your 1st business I suggest checking off on a few items of importance. The first item on your list is to have a product or service that people will actually pay for. Not something you think they will pay for because in the end it doesn’t matter what you think, it’s what “they” think. That’s the plain, simple truth. If you’re not sure about it then before you spend tons of cash and bankrupt yourself do some testing. Use your circle of friends and family and then their circle of friends and family. It’s important to be able to get people that don’t already know, like and trust you to buy. If you can show that without a shadow of a doubt that you have something that will generate revenue continue reading. If not the rest of this article is of no use to you.

BUDGETS

Once you determine that you have a product or service that will generate revenue these are the next steps you need to take and why:

1: Prepare a monthly personal expense budget.

You need to determine how much you need to generate in distributions from your business to at least meet your monthly outlay. Unless you are already out of work with no other income options you need to keep paying your bills. Don’t just quit your job unless you have at least a year’s worth of savings to carry you through.

The reason for this is that without a cushion you will feel the stress of having to make money. Stress clouds our judgement and drains our energy. You always need to be in tip-top shape mentally and physically. You’re going to have enough distractions and obstacles to begin with and don’t need to add any self imposed burdens on yourself. Additionally, knowing what you need is 1,000 times better that operating in the dark. Knowing your numbers is essential if you want to run a successful enterprise.

On the next page is a simple worksheet to help you determine your monthly nut. Don’t make the mistake of omitting things like meals and entertainment, vacations, holidays, birthdays and the all important surprises that are sure to occur like car and home repairs. If you have children leave a nice big fudge factor. This is just your expenses, not revenue and not even broken out on a monthly basis. It’s just an estimate so don’t go into needless details. Keep it simple!

PERSONAL MONTHLY EXPENSE SCHEDULE

CATEGORY

FOOD

CLOTHING

RENT/MORTGAGE

DWELLING REPAIRS/IMPROVEMENTS

CAR PAYMENTS

CAR REPAIRS/MAINTENANCE

GAS

AUTO INSURANCE

UTILITIES

CELL PHONE

BIRTHDAYS/HOLIDAYS/VACATION

DOCTORS/DENTIST

OTHER INSURANCE

LAUNDRY

LOANS

CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS

MISC-FUDGE FACTORS

TOTAL

After checking off the personal expense budget one of two things will happen.

Reality will set in and you will realize that starting a business is a big risk not worth taking or to proceed with caution.
You want to go on to the second item on the list.

2: Prepare a schedule of startup cost.

These are all the expenses and capital investments associated with getting the business off the ground before you start generating revenue. This is another potential blow to your plans on starting a business. Reason being is that entrepreneurs are full of enthusiasm and optimism which is needed but also one of the characteristics that get us into trouble. Getting the numbers down on paper and reviewing them accomplish a few objectives. It brings us down to earth revealing exactly what’s at stake financially. It’s also the first step in learning how to know your numbers. You will learn that part of running a successful business is knowing your numbers.

BUSINESS STARTUP COST

INVENTORY

1ST MONTH RENT/RENT SECURITY

UTILITY DEPOSIT

EQUIPMENT

WEBSITE

FURNITURE

COMPUTER/OFFICE SUPPLIES

LEGAL/ACCOUNTING

PRINTING

ADVERTISING

TRAVEL

TOTAL

3: Prepare a schedule of monthly business expenses.

Going back to fundamentals, you need to generate positive cash flow which is not the same as generating revenue. Positive cash flow occurs when your revenue exceeds your expenses. This must exceed expenses (net profit) to the point that it covers your personal expenses, the 1st schedule on the list. If these numbers don’t work you’re going to put stress on yourself and nothing positive comes from stress. That’s why I strongly suggest having the 1 year expense cushion.

I realize that these numbers are only estimates and that your actual expenses will be different. I highly recommend overestimating these because inevitably you will get hit with unexpected expenses, both business and personal.

MONTHLY BUSINESS EXPENSES

RENT

UTILITIES

SUBSCRIPTIONS (WEB HOSTING,

MARKETING

PAYROLL

PAYROLL TAXES

ACCOUNTING & BOOKKEEPING

OFFICE

INSURANCE

AUTO (GAS, REPAIRS & INSURANCE)

TRAVEL

TOTAL

This is a simple list outlining the basic issues every small business must address. It’s highly advisable that you know and have a general understanding all of these areas before making any decisions about formally starting your business. I can guarantee that if you don’t address these issues now you will be forced to address them later, hopefully not under duress when you are more likely to make mistakes.