Chicago Business Growth Guide

Congratulations on your business becoming a going concern, which means that your organization survived the “startup” stage of the organizational life cycle, and has the intent and capacity to grow. Your “growth” stage will present different challenges, and the following is a guide for business owners looking to grow their business in Chicago.

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Chicago Sunset
Chicago Sunset from Hancock Observatory by Chris Smith

Step 1: Audit

Before looking to future growth, business owners should audit their organization’s resources and capabilities.

Conduct a SWOT analysis to identify organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
Discover where your business has room for growth or improvement; then formulate a new set of goals

Step 2: Prepare

While assessing your organization, do not lose sight of your current goals and responsibilities.

Your people are your organization’s most valuable asset; be thoughtful in how you retain and attract the right employees to support your growth.
Maintain your federal and state registrations, and City of Chicago business licenses and permits to keep them current; as organizations grow, and add business activities, their licensing requirements may change.
As businesses grow, the role of Boards and Advisors become more important as they provide outside oversight and a diversity of opinions

Step 3: Plan

Writing a growth plan is very similar to writing a business plan, however, a business growth plan focuses specifically on expansion and how you’re going to achieve it; a well-crafted business plan, is key to taking your business to the next level.

Create a five-year plan, which includes expansion opportunities, marketing plan, demographics of your market area
Know your options, which may include franchising, expanding into new markets, opening a second location, licensing agreements, merging with or acquiring another business, certification, diversifying product lines, forming strategic alliances with other businesses, expanding your web presence.
Ideally, you should already have Exit Strategies in your initial business plan before actually going into business; if not, including it in your growth plan is your second chance.

Step 4: Marketing

Having a better understanding about your market will allow you to run your business more efficiently; having a powerful network can provide you, and your business, with opportunities for growth.

Market Research and Planning is all about customers: knowing their needs and wants, and creating the ideal customer experience.
Networking for Growth benefits both the business and the business owner.

Step 5: Financing

Be strategic and borrow with purpose; explore the various options for enabling your business’ growth.

Thoroughly evaluate the need for financing, and know your choices from bank loans and factoring services, to crowdfunding and venture capital.