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BusinessColumnistsJamie Herzlich

Small Business: Preparing to grow in 2015

Some 58 percent of small-business owners told a

Some 58 percent of small-business owners told a CAN Capital survey that they expect growth in the next 12 months. But, experts caution, be smart about it. Photo Credit: Jupiterimages

With the New Year comes new opportunity for growth.

At least that's the hope for the 58 percent of small-business owners who said they expect growth in the next 12 months, according to a CAN Capital survey.

Topping the list of growth strategies is expansion and trying new forms of advertising and marketing, but as with any new endeavor, businesses should proceed with caution.

"Smart growth is driven by taking a calculated approach and not looking for a silver bullet or quick win," says Jason Rockman, vice president of brand marketing at Manhattan-based CAN Capital, a tech-based company that offers small businesses access to capital.

Too often, companies jump into a growth opportunity without fully anticipating all the costs or what impact it will have on their core operations.

Gradual stages. "Small businesses need to grow in stages," suggests Rita Maniscalco, a Huntington-based career, life and business coach. "They should proceed with confidence and optimism, but not overextend themselves."

Being patient and waiting on the right opportunity can pay off.

John Robertson, president of the Sexy Salad Catering Co. in Hauppauge, found this to be the case after he scouted more than 200 options for a second location.

He'd been looking for the past year and by waiting it out was able to find an underperforming cafe in a high-traffic retail area in Huntington for a good price. He is finalizing the deal now and plans to open in March.

Two years ago, he set out to reorganize his core business, documenting policies and procedures along the way in anticipation of replicating operations in another location.

"You've got to be really careful with your growth," notes Robertson. "If I was to grow in the wrong location, it could destroy my whole concept."

Your unique value. When anticipating growth, it pays to understand your "unique value proposition" and constantly be refining it, says Olga Mizrahi, author of "Sell Local, Think Global" (Career Press; $15.99) and a Long Beach, California-based speaker and small-business blogger at ChunkofChange.com.

A value proposition is an "inherent promise of benefit that a company gives its customers, employees or business partners," she says.

Basically, why would a customer choose you? If you have a clear understanding of your unique value, you can make growth decisions that enhance or improve that, Mizrahi says.

If you're trying to figure out your unique value, look to online reviews to see what customers are saying, she suggests. "Don't be scared of online reviews."

In the survey, 41 percent of small-business owners cited mobile and/or online business reviews as having the biggest impact on their small businesses.

Other areas to consider. When pursuing growth strategies weigh your company culture, technology and productivity, adds Maniscalco, a past president of the International Coach Federation-Long Island.

You need to have a mission statement, and employees need to have a clear grasp of it or it will be difficult to grow.

Also, consider what technology you need to get to the next level, because if you don't progress, you're regressing, she notes.

Twenty percent of small-business owners plan to implement new technologies or operational tools, such as a customer relationship management system, according to the CAN Capital survey.

Mobile will play a big part in that, says Rockman. "Mobile is everywhere."

Productivity. On this end, assess your staff, asking yourself "which employees would you hire again knowing what you know now," says Maniscalco. You can't grow if you don't have the right people, she notes.

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