Look back before the invention of the internet and you’ll find that most small businesses started locally. They’d setup shop or office and provide products or services to those in the local area – it was just the said thing to do and there was no real alternative.
As soon as the internet was developed, it essentially opened up the world to everyone. Someone in New York could sell to someone in Japan just as easy as someone living in Greenwich Village could walk down to a nearby boutique and buy what they wanted.
And generally speaking, this is great. It’s meant setting up in business, in many respects, is quicker and easier than it ever has been – develop a website and you’ve instantly opened your shop doors to millions globally (OK, I realise I’ve really dumbed that down, but to all intents and purposes, that’s the basic principle).
The problem is, as this is the case, people are forgetting that there’s a need to establish your business locally. If you don’t, it’s not to say you’ll fail, but you could find your journey is considerably smoother if you do.
One of the ways I like to think about it is if you imagined your small business was a teenager leaving school. At the time, most teenagers would love to be picked up and placed in their favourite job, where although they’re working their behind off, they’re getting rewarded handsomely for doing so. There aren’t many who’d prefer to start at the bottom and work their way up the ladder over the course of 10 years or more.
But as most people will tell you, that’s in fact the best approach to take. You grow naturally and organically and as such, you learn more; you understand the finer details and don’t just see the broader picture. Doing so builds your confidence, your reputation and in many ways, gives you something to fall back on.
And this is exactly the approach that needs to be taken as a small business owner.
If you go into it and try to be at the top instantly, reaching out to a huge audience, there’s every possibility you might succeed – but it’s very likely it will all be rushed. You’ll find you’re just about keeping the plates spinning, but you won’t fully understand how you got all the plates up there to start with. What’s more, should they all come crashing down, you won’t truly know how to start them spinning again and there’ll be no one around to help you.
Start at the bottom, pleasing your local audience first and foremost and although it will take you longer to get to the top, your growth will be completely natural and there’s little chance of you having to take risks that don’t pay off – everything can be calculated better as you’ll understand your business and your customers perfectly.
When you start off locally, you get an awareness of your customer base that others don’t get. You can spend time talking to your customers, understanding exactly what it is they want and reacting to their needs. This may only sound like a small aspect to some, but the reality is, it’s developing this awareness of your audience that can ensure your business’s growth is as steady and continuous as it can possibly be.
This post was originally featured on October 30, 2013.