Running your own business as an owner-operator is exciting, rewarding, and a point of immense pride—but what if we told you there’s a way to enjoy all those positive effects on a larger scale?
It’s time to think big. Bigger than making every decision on your own. Bigger than doing all the work yourself. Bigger than you ever expected your business to be. To get to that next level and, ultimately, a successful exit, you’ll need to get serious about market placement, or how your business appears and appeals to potential buyers.
If you’re a seasoned solopreneur (perhaps with a few longtime employees), this might be the first you’ve heard or thought about market placement. In that case, we’re talking about modernizing what you’ve built with your bare hands and positioning the business for success as a self-standing operation. Here’s how:
Expand Your Audience
As an owner-operator, you can only service so many customers or clients. There are only so many hours and there’s only so much you can do in a day. This limitation makes it easy to settle for a very specific type of customer and never branch out. If you’ve been selling solely to business owners, targeting other senior leaders with your marketing can create a new dynamic for your business beyond the personal relationships that you’ve become so accustomed to forging.
Professionalize Your Business
The systems and processes that work well for you personally might not be cut out for a larger and growing company. When you think of modernizing your business, technology is probably (and rightfully) the first thing that comes to mind. Outdated technology doesn’t interfere so much when you’re working solo and simply to sustain rather than to scale, but it will eventually stand out as a sore thumb once things like communication, collaboration, efficiency and cost-effectiveness come into the picture.
Put the Right People Around You
Remember, you’re turning your focus from surviving to scaling. You’re now in it to build something bigger than yourself. At least early on and sometimes all along, many business owners have trouble letting go. When you get comfortable working long days and doing everything yourself, it almost seems easier to keep going than to invest in hiring, training and trusting others. However, modernizing your market placement means modernizing your team and knowing how to make the right hires. If the work starts and stops with you, a buyer can’t realistically take over and expect to maintain (much less grow) the business once you’ve exited.
Build Your Brand
You’ve been the face of your business from the beginning. You’ll still very much be the face when it matters most, but the business now needs to be a true brand and not just the product of your daily grind. If you’ve neglected or maybe even feared social media, search engine optimization (SEO), digital advertising, and other modern marketing tactics, bring in marketing experts asap. Tell them your goals, communicate your values, and turn your marketers loose to do what they do best. There are many ways to get reliable, scalable, professional marketing support, from hiring full-time to working with contractors, agencies, or any combination of the three.
Plan Your Exit
Everything to do with modernizing your market placement is through the lens and with the purpose of positioning your business to stand on its own, so you can eventually achieve your ideal exit, aka your Win. Once you get on the freeway of entrepreneurship, it’s easy to go into overdrive and lose track of where you’re headed. Read more on that analogy and the importance of defining your destination here.
By Andrea Steinbrenner, Chief Operations Officer, Exit Consulting Group