The question every business owner should be asking now

Don Mercer
Posted by Don Mercer
Small Business Banking

The news that first-quarter Gross Domestic Product declined 2.9% might make some business owners uneasy about the business climate. Given the demand I’ve been seeing from businesses for credit, I wouldn’t be worried by that first quarter GDP report.

Three male chefs preparing food on steel counters wearing black-and-white aprons.In my 25-plus years in banking, I’ve seen demand for credit ebb and flow with economic cycles. I saw the phone practically stop ringing in the fall of 2008 when credit requests slowed to a bare minimum. And I’ve seen a lot of healthy years — with businesses being formed and expanding with the help of credit.

Today? Our business bankers are talking with companies in nearly every sector of the economy that are interested in borrowing to invest in their businesses. The conversations we are having may be indicative of an economy that is healthy and growing.

Pushing on the gas pedal

Every business owner in America — whether they are looking to borrow money or not — should be asking one question: “Am I ready for growth?”

Our Chief Economist Scott Anderson says the data points to an acceleration in economic activity.

Look around, and chances are you’ll see that your competitors are already in growth mode — looking for ways to expand, gain market share, reach new customers, or add locations. Indeed, the National Federation of Independent Businesses’ Optimism Index rose in May to its highest level since September 2007, indicating small businesses are increasingly confident about sales and business conditions.

Is your business ready for growth?

One approach to thinking strategically about growth is to do a SWOT analysis — a popular tool to assess your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. You can apply a SWOT analysis to your whole business, to a project, or to the launch of a new product or service.

Look critically at your company’s strengths (Do you have deep expertise, for example?) and opportunities (Is there a new geography you can expand into or a new product to offer?). Look at your weaknesses (Do you need capital? Are you capacity-constrained?) and threats (Is a competitor cutting prices? Is your industry facing new regulatory constraints?). The time you invest in a SWOT analysis will help you determine a game plan for growing your business.

One of the big benefits in conducting a strategic assessment, I find, is it can renew your focus on customers: Who are they, what do they want, how do you reach them, how do they want to do business with you, and do you want to reach a different kind of customer?

Next time I’ll talk about an approach I’ve used that I call a SMART plan. Until then, I’d love to hear from you in our comments section: How is your business positioning itself for growth? Do you have questions about growth strategies?

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