About this time last year the most pressing concern among small businesses was survival. The economic outlook was bleak and no one was sure how long the downturn would last.
As it turns out, not all that long. The economy may not have checked out of the hospital quite yet, but it is definitely in the recovery room. Underscoring this are the results of a recent Microsoft Canada survey of 1,000 small businesses. It found that 63 per cent of owners expect to see growth over the next six months.
Microsoft released the numbers at a media event in Toronto, and several small businesses were in attendance, including Cupid's Gourmet Cupcakes. It's the brainchild of Niki Brinton, a former math-teacher-turned-entrepreneur with a passion for baking. The event focused on managing growth, something Ms. Brinton knows well. Her business started modestly as part-time effort based in her own kitchen. But all that changed after her daughter developed a nut allergy. Ms. Brinton began to specialize in nut-free cupcakes and was soon met with unprecedented demand.
On Valentine's Day she launched the company with four full-time and seven part-time employees.
Many business owners, myself included, are constantly looking for ways to grow our companies. When it happens it's like a dream come true. But it can also backfire if not properly managed. It's easy to get caught up in the adrenalin that comes with new customers and revenue opportunities. So much so, the focus on what made a company's brand great in the first case – the people, the personal touch - risks falling by the wayside.
It doesn't have to be that way. With a little planning, growth can help your brand evolve and become stronger.
First, make sure all new employees learn about more than just the ins and outs of the job. They should also know what your company stands for, what image you're trying to project, and their role in bringing it to life.
Next, look for new opportunities. With growth comes more arms and legs and new things to try. It could be something as simple as sending a staff member with cupcakes to a charity event, or giving an insurance seminar in the community. Play to your advantage, and put your new-found resources to work building your brand.
Growth can arise from careful planning. But, as in the case of Cupid's Gourmet Cupcakes, it can also be sudden and unexpected. Either way, it pays to be prepared. Doing so will help ensure that when your company hits the next level, your customers will want to come along for the ride.
Special to the Globe and Mail
Mia Wedgbury is president of the Canadian region for Fleishman-Hillard Canada and its sister company, High Road Communications. With more than two decades of experience in creating and growing award-winning communications agencies, she is focused on fostering the overarching vision for the Canadian market. Her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle. She works in partnership with her clients, some of the most innovative and well-respected companies in the country, to build brands, mitigate risk and shape communications strategies that drive measurable results. Ms. Wedgbury is known as an innovator, an advocate of career opportunities for women and a dedicated supporter of the technology industry.