There will come a time when your company is no longer a startup or small business.
I’ve been there. Back in 2011, I started Pixloo, a virtual platform for selling your home, with my mentor and fellow entrepreneur, John Rampton. We slaved away for eight months before launching the business. When we finally went live, it was incredible. We had thousands of customers every day. We sold the company to a large real estate firm only 42 days later.
Despite all the problems we had along the way, I learned what it takes to bring your startup to the next level. Here are some of those lessons:
1. Revisit Your Business Plan Often
Your business plan isn’t set in stone, and it will change as your business evolves. Revisit it to reassess your goals once you’ve see what works and what does not. Make adjustments as necessary. Your business plan should be a work in progress.
Our business plan changed three times before we officially launched. This will happen as you innovate and pivot. That’s just part of founding a startup.
2. Up Your Social Media Game
Many businesses benefit from social media presences and social media managers. If your social media analytics aren’t where you want them to be, consider hiring a professional to build your online reputation and engage with customers.
We used social media to communicate with people signing up, and they loved it. Because we connected with customers on Twitter and Facebook, we always had a way to communicate with them.
3. Start a Blog
Only do this if you have the time to post at least three articles per week or can hire someone to do it for you. A blog takes time to build traction, so keep an eye on your analytics, practice good link building, and reach out to other bloggers to build your following.
We outsourced most of our blog to a top-tier writer who wrote for us daily. If you take the same route, don’t skimp on paying for this.
4. Get a Mentor
You can always benefit from having a mentor. Someone who has learned lessons the hard way is indispensable. Maybe you already know someone you want to approach, or maybe you want to tap into an organization that connects people.
My personal mentor is my business partner. He follows up with me until I do something and helps out when I’m having trouble. Every great entrepreneur should have a friend who is also a mentor – someone who helps you entirely for free.
5. Trim the Fat
This could mean downsizing your commercial space or ditching it for a virtual office, moving from permanent employees to freelancers, or just doing some better budgeting. Most businesses can be more frugal. The more you save, the more you can tackle your debt.
We originally started with a large office, and it was eating our cash. We had to trim the fat. Most businesses will have to trim in some way. If you don’t absolutely need something, don’t have it.
6. Hire Right
Everyone will make mistakes when hiring, even pros – which is why you shouldn’t do this on your own. Your employees need regular training, but keeping someone because you don’t want to hurt their feelings is not beneficial to your business or the employee. Let an HR agency take care of employment so you can get the most out of your employees.
7. Reconsider Your Location
Did you incorporate in a state with high income taxes, high corporation taxes, a high cost of living, and staggering property taxes just because it was convenient? Consider moving abroad for foreign income exemption or to another state with no income tax if it makes sense for your business.
8. Practice Good SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is what moves your website up the rankings when people search your keywords. Without SEO, you might as well not be online. We focused on SEO in every aspect of our business, using Searchmetrics to figure out what our competition was doing and then doing it better.
If you don’t know what you’re doing with SEO, you need to figure it out. It took us seven months of work to get on the front page of Google for our keywords, but it made our business. It doesn’t happen overnight, but great tools are key for making your company shine online.
9. Reel in Good Reviews
Digital word of mouth via reviews is the best form of marketing. Provide (ethical!) incentives for existing customers to share honest, thoughtful reviews that will boost your reach and credibility.
We focused on getting good reviews from all of our customers. When the customer logged in, we asked them to review our product. We had a 45 percent conversion rate when we attached reviews to the login. This got us more than 30,000 reviews in just 40 days.
10. Keep Wooing Investors
A great investor doesn’t just have cash – they also have expertise and leadership to share. Consider different platforms to connect with investors, but make sure to correctly value your company and create a game plan for funds.
We were always pitching investors – it’s always a good time to take money. Plus, investors aren’t just good for your bank account: They are also great for getting returns. In our case, they helped with a deal that got them their money back within six months.
How are you planning to grow your startup this year? You may want to consider taking some or all of the steps described above.
A version of this article originally appeared on BusinessCollective.
Peter Daisyme is the cofounder of Palo Alto, California-based Hosting Inc, a hosting company that specializes in helping businesses with hosting their websites for free, for life.