Growth is natural and generally considered positive; almost everything, in its own time, grows and develops. So it’s expected that your small business will reach a point at which you can make the decision to grow (i.e., expand). But how do you know that you and/or your business is ready and what will it look like?

Obviously you can persevere or you wouldn’t have started your business and seen it to a point where you are now considering expanding, but as you stand at the precipice of a new challenge are you ready for the new obstacles that may come your way? Before you embark on a new course, take a moment to look at you. After all, you are the Commander and Chief of your enterprise and if you’re not ready to sail your ship into uncharted waters, no amount of advice, effort and luck will help you. Be honest about where you’re at as a person and ask yourself the following questions.

Have you found the balance between life and career? If not, you’ll want to address this before you take on more of one or the other. It’s not easy but then again nothing worthwhile ever is.

How do you handle it when the you-know-what when it hits the fan in your business or personal life? Do you asses the situation or stress out? Blame others or accept what is, problem solve and act, then learn from the mistakes.

What kind of leader are you? Is this the kind of leader do you want to be? If not, find a leader you truly admire and let him/her be your mentor. Learn about that person and maybe print a quote by him/her to rem yourself the path you want to be on. For example, “The true measure of a man is not how he behaves in moments of comfort and convenience but how he stands at times of controversy and challenges.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Now it’s time to get to the brass tacks of your business. So how do you know if this is the time and what do you do to make it happen? Excellent questions…and the answer is more – questions, that is.

What’s the black and white of it?

You need to be in a place where your profits are holding steady, or steadily increasing, over the last few years. You’ll also need cash flow that you can earmark into investing back into the business. What about your target market and customers? If you’ve found your niche and have reached your goal for repeat customers this is the time to consider growing your business. Especially if your industry is holding or gaining consumer interest.

Who makes it happen?

Now that you’re done with the number crunching, the next step is to take stock on a more physical level. On the human level, look at your team of employees. They need to possess the skills, reliability and drive to take it to the next level. You will likely need to recruit to expand. Don’t forget to bring in new leadership (carefully) and not rely solely on the employees who have been with the company as this may create burn out. It would be a good idea to dedicate a senior employee or two to your existing customers who need someone they already know and rely to make the transition. You want more customers, not to lose the ones you have.

Am I really ready?

Next is perhaps the hardest part; take a look at yourself. Are you just as excited now as you were when you opened the business? Because you will need that energy. If you haven’t up until now, are you ready to play a more strategic role? If the answer is yes, then you need to be the (wo)man with the plan – the business extension plan, that is, rife with everything you need including best and worst case scenarios.

What’s the plan?

Jim Alles, the New York City chapter chairman of SCORE, a resource partner of the Small Business Administration (SBA), says, “All good plans will contain separate marketing and sales plans that deal with competitors and customers, as well as a product plan and an operation plan.” So while you’re not creating a new business plan, you definitely need to map out what you want to do and how you’re going to get there. There are a lot of ways to grow your business. These include:

  • Opening another location – such as a second office or store.
  • Franchising – someone else buys into your business and runs their location.
  • License your product – other companies that would use your product or service can buy a license to do so.
  • Merge or Acquire – buy a similar business or merge a struggling business into yours.
  • Diversify – sell similar products or services, etc.
  • Globalization & the Internet – import/export your products or services; if you’re not selling on the internet, start.