Do you remember the story about the little train that could: “I know I Can, I know I Can.” Well, many entrepreneurs think that positive attitude is what will fuel the growth of their small business. Unfortunately, it is not not a lack of positive thinking that stalls business growth; it is not having the right business mindset to look within to change things for the better.

The first step to continuing growth is to see and admit that your small business has reached a growth plateau – and the earlier the better. The second step is not to make uninformed decisions – such as throwing more money behind advertising, aggressive marketing and promotions. Also, avoid trying to pour more cash or investments into your business until you know what is really causing your plateau. You might not need to make a big spend or to invest more money. You might just need to change a few things to get your small business back on the road to growth.

Do you remember when you were trying to start your business? You came up with a business plan. If you did not have a business plan and a growth strategy, that might be the reason why your small business has plateaued. If you did create a business plan, you have to go back and examine it. First, you need to know if you have stuck with the business plan and growth plan, or if you have deviated from it. Then you need to determine if the plan was flawed or is now outdated. If your plan is flawed or out dated, you need to re-write parts of your plan to take into consideration economic, financial, technological and even political changes that have occurred since creating your initial plan. You also have to look at what changes have occurred to your target customers, your products or services and other things that are within your control. But don’t stop there. You need to look at your financial plan to ensure your costs and pricing are relevant.

Are you standing out from your competition or are you just in their shadows? You may need to re-asses how your customers see you as compared to your competition or other companies in your industry. You need to find out if your offering is unique. Your business may not have the resources that could make you out-perform your competitors. But you should at least have a niche strategy to help you stand out while offering something different from your larger competitors. Don’t try to use marketing trends as a unique selling point, because your competitors are either there already or will join that trend. Once your competitors join the trend, you will probably find yourself back in the shadows, fighting to obtain more market share.

Before we go further, we should also tell you to avoid making big technology spends. Some sales experts will tell you that doing this will not keep you ahead of the game. Some of the best evolving technologies that are helping small business growth are either low-cost or even free! Yes, we are talking about the power of social media and how it has begun to level the playing field for small businesses to compete with larger businesses. Big biz may have the money and resources to pour into social media advertising, but they do not have the ability to grow an organic following of “real” potential customers. They stage promotions and giveaways, but they do not always earn the passion from loyal customers that a smaller, unique business can. On a side note, do not pay for customer testimonials. Your current and prospective customers can read through the deception of having 100% positive reviews. Many companies will hire advertising and marketing agencies to generate perfect reviews on social media. But savvy customers know that no business or product is really that perfect.

The other mistake that some small businesses make on the road to growth is thinking that if they capture that big whale of a customer, they will achieve growth. However, chasing that big whale only takes away focus, energy and resources on attracting and servicing the needs of of their smaller and more loyal customer base. In some cases, chasing the whale can be the reason for the boat sinking!

That “can do” approach of doing it yourself may also be holding back your growth. Once you have identified the problems between your plan and your reality, do not be afraid to reach out for help. On a personal note, I remember one of the best lessons that I learned in college: “If in parts of your business you are not an expert, surround yourself with experts.” By bringing in the experts on things you are not an expert on yourself – such as perhaps marketing, sales, web development, social media and other emerging business strategies – you can focus on the key factors of your business that you are an expert on.

One other area that you may be spending time on that takes away from your core business and the growth of your small business, is the management and running of a physical office. Renting a serviced office space at a office business centre can help to free up your administrative responsibilities and functions, allowing you to keep your focus on your business and its growth.