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Growing Your Business in 2020

From expanding beyond Central New York to beefing up marketing strategies, experts share tips on how to grow your business

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

You’ve likely heard of plenty of businesses or municipalities that launched a “2020 plan” of some sort, anticipating that their “vision” of the future should be sharp in a new decade. Area experts offered these tips for helping make the growth of your business a reality this year.

• “Marketing is only one piece of the pie in business. People have to start looking at their business in a holistic way. Businesses don’t consider the details: company culture that makes people want to stay, revenue control and information technology. It all needs to be integrated.”

Gail Cowley,
Owner and executive vice-president, Cowley Associates in Syracuse.

• “Stretching outside the Central New York area into different markets.
• “Be visible and active in the community. Give back so people will know what your company does and what it’s about. It keeps you in front of people.
• “Companies that are growing are investing in their own employees with certifications and further training. Employees are your biggest asset ever. You have to train them and keep them in the business. It can make or break a company.”

Carol Fletcher,
President of C.R. Fletcher Associates, Inc. in Syracuse.

• “Set objectives at the end of the previous year or at the beginning of the year by getting input from all the team members coming together. Then, they can unite to make it happen. Have a plan A and plan B so you don’t get off track from your goals.
• “To continue growing, we rely more and more on networking. It becomes more social media involved as we go on.
• “We put a lot of effort into getting and keeping our employees. All employees are involved in management. We have a Recognition Squad: all employees and no management. They have outings and parties for the whole organization. They give out awards to people feel connected.

Jeanne Morelli,
Vice-president of operations and senior business technology consultant at iV4 in Syracuse, Buffalo and Rochester.

• “A business board shouldn’t be a mirror of you but people you trust who have different perspectives and skill sets. Whatever it is, find a group of outsiders who can help you wade through the particulars of growing your business.
• “Set aside time per week to read and think. It’s huge. We get so caught up in ‘doing’ we don’t take time to step back, digest and think. We see that all the time, especially with women business owners I work with.
• “Have a plan and always, always be ready to flex it. It’s difficult. It’s a hard line to walk but you’ve got to do it, especially today when things move so fast. Focus.
• “Hire well. This is critical. It’s painful. One has to be patient. But if you hire well, you’re golden. Be enormously aware of the importance of diversity and inclusion.
• Once you’ve got the right people, develop them. Train them well and then get out of their way.
• “Close your mouth and actually listen. Business owners think they have all the answers. It’s so hard for so many to listen. Astonishingly, we don’t have all the answers. If we do hire well and develop our people and listen, others have better answers than we do.
• “Mark milestones and celebrate success. Don’t celebrate by yourself. Pop a cork. Say, ‘It’s so cool we did this’ or ‘Jessica made this great discovery and put it to work.’ Small things and big things. It gives people a chance to sit back, breathe and say, ‘We pulled this off.’”

Anne Messenger,
Principal at Messenger Associates in Manlius.

• “The simplest way to grow your small business is to have an opinion. What I mean by that is social media is a platform, particularly LinkedIn for business-to-business or Facebook for business-to-consumer. That’s a great way to start a conversation in the community that’s looking for expert level education. The biggest impact you can make is to bring topics, challenges to the forefront and have an opinion on why it’s important, how to evaluate it how to address this.
• What most people don’t recognize is there’s a huge shift in digital marketing. Most people look online for answers to their questions. The way you get found these days is to be the company that is providing the answer. Give people value before you ask for something.”

Kara Rudy,
President of Market Design Consulting in Syracuse.

• “I’ve always made a practice to read voraciously a variety of things. In my industry, it’s challenging to stay ahead of what the trends will be. Use of PDF files vs. hard reflective art for ads was in its infancy when I started this business over 20 years ago, but I knew that this would be the future. You see trends for your clients. Five to six years ago, I noticed that a nice way for a bank or credit union to interest younger members was to set up credit unions in high schools. I recognized it as a way a credit union could influence and gain new members.
• “Your best source of new business is your existing client. There are new ways you can help existing clients. I’m always looking for those to provide value to clients and help grow my business. We tend to be myopic and stay consumed with what we’ve always done. We have to make extra effort to go beyond that.”

Steve Chirello,
Owner of Chirello Advertising in Fulton.