What do you think of when the topic of business growth arises? Perhaps you imagine new business locations. Or your mind might instantly go to the need for more employees. While they can indeed be components of growth, it can take many other forms. Whether it’s the physical expansion of your business or the more subtle refinement of your strategies, there are countless ways you can strengthen your business and maintain an upward trajectory. The most important thing to remember is that all of your efforts should be guided by strategy, not just effort. It’s true, as the old saying goes, that “even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.” But if you’re looking for effective and sustainable improvements, you need to do your due diligence. After all, knowing the landscape is the only way to chart a course. “Before you even start growing your business, you need to do some research,” advises a business growth article from Forbes. “You need to know what your business is capable of doing with its money and other resources available. Assess your business. Look at all the analytics, stats, and accounting records that are available to you. Analyze how your business has done in the past. And when possible, make projections of how you think your business will do in the future, such as sales projections.” This approach is advisable for all small businesses, whether they’re in their infancy or have been around for decades. And even if you’re content with where your business is today, it’s impossible for it to remain the same forever. There is no status quo in small business due to so many dynamic factors that are constantly changing. While you won’t be able to control many of these external forces impacting your business, you have a substantial influence on how your business reacts to them. With the right strategies in place, you’ll be able to ride positive waves and also respond to negative situations. Most forms of business growth require capital. On the small side, it might be paying $40 a week in Facebook advertising. More significant examples include building new offices or acquiring a larger fleet of vehicles. Small business owners often use loans to fund their growth. There are loans of all shapes and sizes, but here are 6 of the most sought after products: SBA Loans: The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a federal agency dedicated to helping entrepreneurs, especially those who are disadvantaged, get the funding and resources they require. These loans range in size from $50,000 up to $5,000,000, with low interest rates and terms between 10 and 25 years.While these loans are sought after due to their borrower-friendly benefits, they’re also known for moving extremely slowly. In some cases, you won’t receive money until 3 months after the application. If you can wait that long to receive funding, you’ll likely love what the SBA offers.The most popular types of SBA financing options include SBA 7(a) Loans, SBA 504 Loans, and SBA Express Loans. Term Loans: These all-purpose loans are great for business growth because they can be used in such diverse ways. From equipment to staffing to marketing, you can use a term loan for just about anything related to your business operations.With a term loan, you can borrow amounts as small as $5,000. At the larger end of the spectrum, you can expect amounts up to $2,000,000. Once approved, the money moves extremely fast, arriving in just 2 or 3 days.Interest rates on these loans can be as low as 6%, with the repayment terms typically lasting 1–5 years. Short Term Loans: There are times when your business growth initiatives require rapid action. In these situations, expedited funding from a short term loan can be advantageous. How fast are they? After you’ve received the green light from a lender, you can often expect the money by the next business day.It should be noted that you usually pay a premium for this convenience. Interest rates on short term loans start at 8% and can go much higher. Because they’re designed for speed, the repayment terms will also be expedited. Most last 1–3 years.It isn’t too difficult to qualify for a short term loan. If you have solid credit and your business has been running for at least 2 years, you will stand a good chance of getting approved. Equipment Financing: Bigger businesses require bigger infrastructure. That’s where equipment financing comes into play. These loans provide as much as $5,000,000 to help you purchase equipment for your business. While this definitely relates to items like refrigerators and forklifts, the word “equipment” can also apply to less expected expenses such as software programs, solar panels, or office chairs.If your equipment needs are urgent, rest assured. These loans are known to fund in just 24 hours. Plus, they have relatively low interest rates that begin at 7.5%.To qualify for equipment financing, your business needs to bring in $50,000 or more a year, have a credit score above 650, and financial history of more than 12 months. One factor that speeds up the whole process is that the equipment you’re purchasing will serve as collateral on the loan. Business Line of Credit: Here’s a flexible form of revolving financing that operates much like a credit card. You get approved for a set amount of money, usually between $1,000 and $500,000, then have continual access to those funds. Anytime you make purchases from the account, you simply repay the specific amount you spent.Interest rates for a business line of credit start at 8% and go all the way up to 24%. And it can take up to 2 weeks for the money to become available.To qualify for a business line of credit, your business needs to have been running for at least 6 months. Additionally, you’ll need to bring in at least $50,000 a year and have a credit score above 560. Merchant Cash Advance: This type of business financing lets you borrow against future earnings. When the funds arrive in your account, you’ll then begin making payments by having an agreed-upon percentage of daily credit card deposits withheld.Merchant cash advances are versatile, so you can use the money for all sorts of business-related expenses. They range in size from $5,000 to $200,000, with the funds becoming available in as little as 24 hours.The downside of merchant cash advances is that the interest rates start as high as 18%. But if your situation demands easily accessible money in a short time, it may be worth it. Getting the Best Results for Your Money Once you’ve done your research and identified areas for growth, it’s time to put your ideas into action. There is a wide spectrum of ways to expand your operations. The following list provides 17 ideas for making that happen. Some are minor upgrades, while others require larger investments of money and time. Get a scalable sales funnel: Your business is driven by sales and it takes leads to stoke that fire. Make sure you’ve got a healthy email list, then employ a lead magnet to generate more signups. Keep your contacts happy with special deals and early looks at new products. By cultivating a strong list, you’ll set yourself up for future growth. Listen to your customers: Your connection to customers shouldn’t be limited to you speaking to them via email and other channels. Use research and surveys to understand what they want and how you can deliver it. Carefully review your reviews: While it’s important to ask questions of your customers and listen to their responses, some of the most important feedback you’ll get is unsolicited. Each customer review should be looked at as a miniature focus group. If the customer had a positive experience with your brand, respond warmly and celebrate the win. For the inevitable negative experiences, respond as quickly as possible so they don’t rot on the vine. Let your customer service shine: The best way to prove that you have heard your customers is through your actions. Resolve issues quickly and never let a negative review linger without a thoughtful response. As a rule of thumb, do what’s expected by your customers, then take it one step further. This “finessing the finish” approach is a proven way to grow your business. Foster brand loyalty: Don’t think of growth only in terms of attracting new business. It’s even more important to retain your core customers. By rewarding them for their continued business, you’ll build devotion that makes a huge impact on your bottom line. Be a social media presence: Successful businesses go where their customers go. And it’s a safe bet that your customers are on social media. By investing in a social media presence, you’ll be able to join the conversation. It’s a powerful way to learn more about your customer’s behavior and discover new ways to meet their needs. Know your competitors: Understanding your industry is essential to thriving within it. Research how your competitors are positioning themselves so that you can learn from their strategies and stand out clearer than ever. Form strategic partnerships: It’s always wise to forge connections within your industry. Look first for like-minded companies that can add to your strategic initiatives and enable you to find new customers. Then look outside your industry for other potential partnerships that will help you spread the word. Go to networking events: One of the best ways to meet people is to go where large groups of people are meeting. This approach sounds obvious, but many small businesses fail to leverage networking events to meet new partners, employees, customers, or investors. Go to trade shows: While all manner of networking events can be valuable, trade shows are particularly important for niche businesses. Think about it. A large group of individuals will travel from around the nation to celebrate, discuss, and promote the very thing you do. Deliberately choose the trade shows that most relate to your growth goals, then make sure you have a solid presence there. Think about the blockchain: Regardless of your industry, it’s likely that blockchain technology will become a factor sooner than later. Take the time now to learn about it so you can find ways to incorporate it into your operations. If this new technology seems a bit overwhelming, don’t worry. Simply knowing what it is will put you ahead of most competitors. Learning how to effectively implement it can happen later. Focus your advertising: It’s no coincidence that the companies that grow are also the companies that connect with their customers. Don’t waste another minute on generic banner ads or shotgun style emails. Use the insights you’ve gained through customer research to speak to them how, when, and where they most want it. Track the results: Your best advertising efforts are partially wasted if you’re not tracking their effectiveness and learning from the results. Data is always treasured by growing companies. And why wouldn’t it be? By tracking your ads, you’ll find the best messages, calls-to-action, and other elements. If you’re not sure where to start your tracking efforts, try Facebook’s user-friendly Creative Compass tool. Keep your people happy: There’s wisdom in always making sure you keep your house in order. If you put too much focus on those outside your walls, you may find that engagement and productivity decline. By treating your people as priorities, you can keep the home fires burning. One of the most powerful ways to help your people feel valued is to consult with them on major initiatives. By getting their feedback and improving things where possible, you’ll establish a culture where your people feel heard and respected. Make remote a possibility: Lots of employees these days prefer the ability to work remotely. Perhaps that’s not conducive to your business operations, but it should at least be discussed. Showing your people that you care about their needs will boost engagement and retention. And when those 2 factors rise, your bottom line always follows suit. Embrace your corporate social responsibility: Modern consumers want to do more than just consume. They want to support businesses that are making a positive impact in their communities, nations, or the world at large. Let your company culture be your guide as you find worthy causes to support. Not only will this endear your brand to current and future customers, but it’ll stoke pride within the ranks. Improve your products or services: If you want to expand your business, pledge right now never to let yourself rest on your laurels. If you have a superior product or service, that’s great. The problem is that you’ve created a standard with that product or service, and your competitors are racing to beat it. You can maintain your customer loyalty and attract new buyers by looking for ways to innovate on what is already working for your company. Putting Your Plans into Action If the list above feels a little overwhelming, don’t worry about tackling them all at once. In fact, don’t worry about ever tackling them all. Rather, choose 1 or 2 things you can do now to strengthen your business. Once you’ve seen success with those initiatives, add another to the mix. This piece-by-piece approach is how the legendary Michel Lotito once ate an entire airplane. It took 2 years, but he ate small pieces every day until the Cessna 150 was gone. Another thing to remember is that no business owner is an island. Entrust those around you to help you make your dreams a reality. “When you’re growing your business, you might become protective,” says entrepreneurial expert Mike Kappel. “You might want to do everything yourself to protect your business from outsiders and big changes. But, this protection could hurt your business. If you try to do everything yourself, you can become burnt out. And without outside input, you might not have the necessary creativity to grow your business. You have people you can rely on to help you get things done. Your employees can do many of the tasks in your business. You can hire independent contractors to help. You might also seek help from business experts and local business owners who already have experience with what you’re trying to do.” By strategically selecting new initiatives and then tackling them as a team, you’ll put your small business on a trajectory to become a bigger business. Each success will pave the way for more. Call it entrepreneurial inertia, if you like. The point is that you need to be pushing upward, not simply forward, to grow.