You're a small business owner. Things are going well, but you're ready to take the next step in growing your business. Easier said than done, right? Rest assured, there are active, tangible measures any business owner can take to diversify and strengthen their revenue streams, regardless of industry or scale.
I started Brooklyn Outdoor, Detroit's only national outdoor advertising company, in 2013 and grew initial revenue from $600K to $6M last year. It hasn't always been easy and there's still much more work to be done, but let's take a look at some of the ways you too can grow your business.
Assessing Your Business
From the start, it's important to continuously review and assess your strengths and weaknesses as a company. To do so, you'll want to keep a strong pulse on your profit and loss statements by quarter to see where costs can be tightened as your business and industry changes. Take the time at year-end to evaluate where you have financial gaps, and where your business needs to grow to serve your clients better.
Additionally, staying in tune with your team's morale will allow you to address in-office issues quickly, which will help foster an environment that creates happier, more empowered employees who have the confidence to produce better results. This can be difficult when you are “in the thick of it" as the CEO or founder, but well worth it in your bottom line and workplace culture. You'll also want to identify what brings you the highest percentage of business, whether that be a specific client-type or sector. Zeroing in on the right kind of client for your business helps you build a stronger, more targeted business plan, as opposed to going after everyone. You may be forced to walk away from some potential clients, but the motto “quality over quantity" will be your best friend in this case.
Inbound Marketing How-To's
According to Marketo, a marketing software developer, inbound marketing is a strategy that utilizes many forms of pull marketing – content marketing, blogs, events, SEO, social media and more – to create brand awareness and attract new business. Using these tools correctly can be critical to growing your business. Just as brands try to find customers, we live in an age where brands are “being found" by customers, making inbound marketing an important aspect in developing that relationship.
When you have owned channels like blogs and social media, or events that are tailored to your business, your reputation grows authentically and naturally as more people encounter you and your brand. This system of touchpoints helps your business connect with clients and prospective customers on an interpersonal level, and goes beyond the typical business transaction mindset, allowing you to establish a more valuable and memorable connection with people. As they continue to interact with your business and become more familiar what motivates you and what your brand represents, they may just be your next partner or loyal customer.
How We Did It: To illustrate who we are as a company, we've established an office space that emphasizes our focus on authenticity and Detroit roots. It maintains an industrial-chic style and features many unique art pieces from local artists, so when it is time for a potential client to visit, they understand our brand and perspective. As we have had more people from our community in our workspace, they have often inquired about if it was available for parties or meetings. That got us thinking, and we realized our office had untapped potential as a rentable venue. We have since begun renting the space to corporate and individual customers, helping us generate additional revenue and opportunities to connect with more potential clients. This was a great lesson in identifying what's unique about our business and how we can use it to boost our bottom line.
Your social presence is also helpful in providing a portfolio of information readily available for that right kind of client to find and get a glimpse of the real you. Social tools like boosting posts will also help reach your target audience quicker for a few dollars at a time. Also, using search engine optimization (SEO) keywords in your social posts are extremely helpful in boosting brand awareness, ranking higher in web searches, and leveraging your locality to attract customers in your area. Recognizing and understanding needs and niches in your market that have not been filled can be helpful when trying to broaden your business plan as well. This could mean creating an extension of your business that might not directly relate to your current industry, but adds another layer to your services, expand your network and expose you to additional resources that further your entrepreneurial goals.
How We Did It: Relying on our team's strengths and expertise, we have developed various business units that fit under the broader Brooklyn Outdoor umbrella: Experiential, Hand-Painted, Events, and more. Brooklyn Events – our most successful new division - started with our in-depth knowledge of Detroit's food, art, and entertainment scenes, and our Detroit-themed lifestyle blog – J'adore Detroit – focused on highlighting our great city and its revitalization. The blog has helped us boost our online presence, and because of its locally-sourced content, we have become more ingrained in our community. This has helped introduce us to the local businesses that are highlighted on the blog – who potentially need event space through our Events division – and locals who enjoy our content.
We also established Brooklyn Experiential, which stemmed from working on an outdoor project with the use of outdoor advertising on one of our buildings and led to a partnership where we now create large-scale experiential activations for our clients in Detroit and beyond. It's all about rolling with the punches and diversifying as you grow.
Also, as supporters of our local arts community, we know many artists throughout the city. This has helped us develop a division strictly revolving around art and murals, called Brooklyn Hand-Painted. It allows our clients to collaborate with local artists to tell their story in artful, unique ways in mural form.
To reiterate, in each example above, we leverage connections into more connections, which leads to more opportunity for us and our partners.
Keeping up with trends is essential in evolving your business as well. You should keep track of all the asks that clients make, even ones that you can't fulfill. This allows you to evaluate how you could accomplish these tasks in the future or look to see if other clients might benefit from similar types of services. This presents an opportunity to tap your network to see how they approach similar requests and compare how you can improve.
It is also important to track year-over-year data on businesses that relate to or impact your industry to see how things are changing in those sectors and have a better idea of how they might impact your business. This will allow you to make more informed decisions in the future when you start to see similar changes or effects. Tracking these types of industry trends are vital.
Many strategies can help strengthen and diversify your business. Just remember to stay true to who you are while remaining flexible to the changes in clients and industry.
As you continue trying to find new customers, remember that there are people out there trying to find you. Make it easier for them to connect.
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.