Grow Your Business by the Numbers

14158_056One of the most effective ways to achieve business growth is to make growth a priority and set corresponding goals. If you don’t manage your business by the numbers, you are putting it at risk and limiting your growth potential.

Here’s a quick test: Ask yourself if you know what your revenues were for the past three months or what you think your revenues will be for the next three. Do you know the answer?

How about this: Ask yourself how many customers you’ve had in the same time period. Can you identify the repeat customers and those who were new to your pipeline? Do you know how much it cost to get their business? How about your costs for goods sold?

This is only a sampling of the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself to gather the information you will need to effectively run your business. Knowing the answers will put you in control and enable you to grow more intentionally. [Read more…]

It’s a business, treat it accordingly

Guest Blog Post by Laurie Breitner

Laurie BreitnerPeople frequently go into business to do — and, hopefully, make money at — what they are passionate about. Like the massage therapist who got her start in her kitchen formulating oils, creams and lotions because the market did not offer the quality products she wanted to use in her practice; the mechanical engineers building wind turbines to bring reliable, renewable energy to hard to reach places; and the second generation business owner caring for her family’s legacy.

Spending your days doing what you love is a wonderful ideal but the reality of small business ownership is often a far cry from that, not that there aren’t significant emotional and financial paybacks. But make no mistake. If you want to make money, treat it like a business with all that implies.

Each of us has activities that we enjoy (and feel confident and competent to do), and those we don’t — it’s human nature. Too often business owners are taken aback by the range of competencies and experiences needed to ensure business success. Significant difficulties can ensue when business owners put off or just don’t do the essential tasks (whether too difficult or too mundane) that help ensure long-term success. [Read more…]

The Lean Launchpad… It’s Not Just for Startups

Guest Blog Post By Karen UtgoffKaren Utgoff, Karen Lauter Utgoff Consulting

For an established small business, introducing significant new products or services or entering new markets can be very difficult and uncertain. Traditional approaches to these significant growth initiatives require substantial additional work on the part of owners/employees as well as significant time and money before there is any clear indication of success; many business owners avoided these efforts because of the uncertainties and for fear of “upsetting the applecart.” However, ignoring them could put your business at risk from disruptive trends in markets, technologies, or customer needs and jeopardize your business’ long-term value. That’s why it’s important to make room for entrepreneurial activity in addition to business as usual.

While the Lean Launchpad methodology was developed to help technology startups find their product/market fit efficiently, it would be a mistake to dismiss it as only for startups. That said a new external venture is different from an internal venture within a successfully operating business. To adapt the methodology to an existing business, I have previously suggested a New Venture Manifesto for Small Businesses that parallels Steve Blank’s Customer Development Manifesto. [Read more…]

Raising Businesses in the Village

Marla Michel, director of The Business Growth Center, on mentoring and growing businesses

You’ve heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, the same can be said about raising a business.

Business owners don’t know everything, but society seems to expect they should. Instead, they need society, this “village” – their families, friends, community members and even strangers – to help them succeed.

People start a business because they excel at something or have a passion for a product or service, and they dream of being their own boss. Then, they learn quickly that they need more than passion and energy. They need to know record keeping, insurance management, inventory oversight, marketing and, maybe one of the hardest areas to master, human resources rules and regulations.

Western Mass business owners need to be leaders, managers, salespeople and the overseers of countless details. Fortunately, The Business Growth Center offers them many resources so they can learn the skills that will truly allow them to grow their businesses. [Read more…]

The Small Business Buzz

The words “entrepreneur” and “start-up” just keep appearing in the news lately. I think the buzz is great because the economy relies on small businesses to support it, so new enterprises can only be a good thing.

Marla Michel directs The Business Growth Center and is the author of this blog, The Small Business Buzz

The increase in conversations about entrepreneurship has made it clear that there are a lot of people who want to learn how to be their own boss. Like those already in business, they are learning that money isn’t free and that it takes a lot of skill, thought, planning, execution, and relationship development to start a business. And, while it’s tough to start a business, it’s even harder to stay in business, let alone grow a business.

That’s why my heroes are the existing small business owners. They are the ones actually doing the work of commerce day in and day out for 80 to 100 hours per week. They deliver services or make a product, pay their employees, and lose more sleep than most of us get.

It is for them that The Business Growth Center exists: to help entrepreneurs who have done the hard work of starting a business to prosper and expand. We want our Valley’s small businesses to succeed and not be one of the 20 to 80 percent of businesses nationwide that fail in their first five years.

We know that it’s very difficult for business owners, when already in business, to take time out to work ON their business. But, we also know that the businesses in our region have a lot of capacity for growth – in their strategies for new products and markets, their marketing to reach new customers, their operations to be more efficient, and their use of the regional networks.

We know this because we’ve been helping small businesses start and grow since 1999. We have dozens of local professionals who have served as advisors to our clients through our Growth Advisory Program, the evolution of our business incubator. We offer seminars and workshops on advanced topics for existing business owners to provide the tools needed to grow – a different set than those to start. And, for those that choose to locate in The Business Growth Center, we’ve got a great space with a community of like-minded business leaders who call the Scibelli Enterprise Center home.

The small business buzz should also be about the Pioneer Valley’s existing small businesses. They are to be celebrated, nurtured, and supported because they already have their markets, products, and services. They already have much of their personal assets (current and future) leveraged and invested in their businesses. We need them to be successful for a thriving regional economy.

We are here for them. We offer advice, networks, inspiration, training, and space through our Growth Advisory Program, workshops, and facilities.

Visit, sign up for our newsletter, and follow us on Twitter @BusGrowthCenter to learn more about our programs and schedule of events.