What's next? Small businesses talk about what comes after initial success
"# Developing your business - ideas and insights on next steps
Most Bookwhen subscribers have found some early success with their events, and perhaps even feel themselves to be well established in their area. Now that you’ve suffered through those first few classes, when only 2 people showed up (and one of those forgot her purse!) you already have, or at least are on the way to, a loyal customer base, regularly attended classes, and a steady stream of income funnelling into your bank account.
Whenever you find yourself in an established position, it can be a useful exercise to look further down the road and start to think about what might come next for you.
If you aren’t quite there yet, we would love to hear about the challenges that your business is facing so drop us a line small business growth is our bread and butter so maybe we can help! If you haven’t already, you can try a free 2-week trial of Bookwhen and learn how a class booking system can help you to automate your payments and administration, freeing up valuable time to invest elsewhere in your development.
After speaking with several Bookwhen customers we identified 6 different ideas for where those next steps forward might lead you -
Businesses have sought to expand ever since the concept of business was created. It’s no coincidence that the noun of choice in business circles is ‘growth’, this natural progression for all life is, likewise, often considered essential by entrepreneurs around the globe when it comes to their business endeavours.
Grow your audience
When finding more attendees, the emphasis is often placed on filling the events you already have this is something we hope to provide more guidance on in the future. However, there is another angle to finding a greater audience. Chances are that word of mouth was one of the main factors that helped your event spread around your local network so, if you want more attendees you might need to spread into new networks and this can be achieved by putting yourself, and your events, out there more.
Try thinking outside of the box for untapped potential in your community, for instance, a yoga teacher might consider visiting local offices to bring some mindfulness to employee’s lunchtimes or, if you work with children’s activities, you might try reaching out to local schools to see if you can assist with after-school clubs.
You could consider setting up ‘pop-up’ events in new locations, at festivals, fetes, or any gathering which might be attended by people who are interested in your class. Free classes or shortened taster sessions don’t generate any income on their own but if they result in finding one more loyal customer then they will soon pay you back for any time you invest.
“I’ve had some great success with things like men on mats …” says Laura from Zenergy “… Just doing free sessions for guys that are coming to Pilates a bit late, they are a bit sniffy about it at first and think it’s just for girls, then they try it and they say ‘why didn’t I do this from when I was much younger!’”
Grow your staff
If you feel that there is more potential in the market for the events you offer you could consider bringing on another person to double your effectiveness.
There are important factors to bear in mind before you introduce a new element into your formula for success “It’s really my personality that people are getting tied into …” says Craig from Seattle Cycling Tours “… so what happens when you have someone else? Do they know the history of the city? Can they be flexible about providing the information or do they just become an actor with a script? I think people see through that and it’s not the kind of travel experience that I would want.”
It’s likely that a lot of the success of your business is based on the strength of your own personality, so think first about why your approach has worked so well for your attendees. Then, if you decide to bring in another person, look for someone who possesses some of those qualities!
When Walt Disney Company started in 1923, they only produced short, silent animated films. Few could have envisaged a global empire spanning entertainment, theme parks, merchandise and more. You might not be quite on the level of the House of Mouse (yet!) but the principle of diversification is still worth some thought. We’re not suggesting that you develop a rollercoaster themed around your events (though we would never discourage this either!) but you could consider whether you and your audience would benefit from increasing the scope of your events.
Starting something new usually generates new enthusiasm, and this advantage can affect you just as much as your audience.
Bookwhen customer Lydia Wellness actually started life as ‘Lydia Pilates’ before the eponymous Lydia realised that she had more to offer her attendees, expanding into “different types of wellness sessions and not just exercise sessions,” she now teaches Yoga, nutrition, and more. For Seamus from Total Training, new premises meant more space and the opportunity to introduce MMA classes into his schedule. Elizabeth from Elizabeth Anne Norris Jewellery is committed to continual innovation in the structure and content of her jewellery classes, after noting that many attendees were asking for help in making wedding rings, she found great success offering a dedicated wedding ring making workshop for betrothed couples.
It’s probably wise to stay in areas connected, or adjacent, to what you know already. “It’s expanded into a variety of different craft-based areas, but all related to jewellery,” says Elizabeth, of her expanding roster of classes.
Take up roots
One of the main ongoing headaches for many Bookwhen customers is finding the right space in which to hold events, and this problem is often solved by investing in a permanent premise.
Avoiding recurring hire costs is tempting, as is designing and outfitting a space to exactly match your needs and clearing the car boot of equipment! A location can also open up new possibilities “Being able to buy land and run things on our own would mean we can have a constant firepit and a veg patch …” says Carol from Love Outdoor Learning “… because in a park you are limited in what you can do in the long term.”
Your own place can also project professionalism and legitimacy, but the drawbacks include the upfront cost, further complications like liability insurance, and ongoing costs such as utilities and maintenance bills.
It’s a big step, which usually entails a long-term commitment, so you must be confident of the future viability of the business before proceeding. Risks can be mitigated by partnering up with one or more locals who are in a similar situation, for instance, a dawn exercise class operator could share a space with an afternoon knitting club and an evening Yoga group without too much difficulty.
Becca from the Natural Cooking Company partnered with a local kitchen supplier “they were creating a showroom and they also had another space where they wanted to put in a cookery school and get people who are interested in food and kitchens coming through the door … that was a massive step up, we went from doing the occasional kids courses to running 3 or 4 sessions a week with adults as well.”
If you’ve struck upon a winning formula that you think would work well in other places, but you don’t want the extra administration of managing another full-time operation, you might consider franchising your business to others. Essentially this would involve licensing the privilege to operate under your company name and aiding the production of similar events in exchange for a percentage of the profits.
In fact, if you are a Bookwhen subscriber then you can use our franchise model to automate the profit sharing side of this relationship.
“We are looking at the long-term aim of potentially a franchise …” says Matt from South West Dog Skills “… but we are only a year old so that is probably 3 or 4 years down the line.”
A unique selling point and/or an established successful brand will make this option attractive to potential franchisees, if you are in that position then this is a fantastic opportunity to make some money with relatively little effort or outgoings.
Give something back
The noblest option, finding a way to use your business to help make your community a better place for everyone. Many Bookwhen customers started out because they saw something that they felt was unhealthy or unhelpful and strived to balance out the scales by adding the weight of their efforts to the other side.
‘First do no harm’ is a good starting point (even if you aren’t a doctor!) and you could start by making sure that your business is environmentally sound.
Why not also think about ways to bring your events to vulnerable and disadvantaged members of your community?
For instance, Jo from Out There Forest school is investigating ways to bring their activities to children who would usually miss out “it’s very difficult to access us by public transport so that excludes certain groups of children from the woods …” she explains “… we are thinking about extending out into the community to access those types of children and support them, things like possibly getting a minibus so that we can provide transport for the children or going out and doing outreach in public woodlands.”
There are formal ways to provide this kind of help too, such as setting up as a Community Interest Company (in the UK), something Becca from the Natural Cook Company is considering, “we can start to apply for more funding …” she says “… and, for instance, our corporate team days, every place that they book can help fund a free place to someone in the community that otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to afford to learn how to eat healthily.”
Nothing at all
Or, maybe you do nothing?
Well not really nothing! But, before leaping into action, it is worth first considering your position. After all, a great proportion of our customers decided to leave the rat race in order to get away from endless quests for growth in more conventional day jobs. So, if your level of success gives you a lifestyle that makes you happy, provides the income that you need, and doesn’t leave you with a spare moment to invest, perhaps you don’t need to develop any further. You might consider simply consolidating your position and making sure that you keep the attendees you have happy and well-tended, see our blog post on using the customer list.
We would love to hear from you about your own plans, are you considering any of the steps outlined above? What do you need to know more about before you can act? Or perhaps there are other ways you have progressed that we haven’t mentioned? We’re committed to helping people to achieve all different kinds of success through our innovative class booking system, so we would love to hear from you.