If there’s one thing that all small businesses have in common, it’s the search to stay relevant. Growth into new markets, expanding current offerings, garnering new clients; these actions are familiar to most business owners. Finding these ways to stay current though are difficult, especially because most of use are trained to think in the verticals of our industry (or that’s what we’re used to at least). How can you shake up your thinking to discover new territories?
Vertical Vs Horizontal
Vertical slices of expansion are those that fall within the same industry. You’ve likely already thought about growing your business in this way, by taking market share from companies that are already involved in your daily operation. For retail stores, this might mean looking at becoming a distributor of products. For restaurants, this could be opening a food truck to hit a different market.
The standard thinking of vertical integration limits your possibilities. It forces you to think in terms of “This is what I am” instead of “These are the things we can do”.
Horizontals work in the other direction, putting sights on using your skills in an entirely different industry. Web development studios do this by creating software for other business types. A radio station might do this through the purchase of a radio station.
Abilities Over Definition
To define new horizontals, first take inventory of your own business. What abilities does your business have? Don’t think in terms of “we can repair cars”, instead think “we can repair engines of this type”. What other vehicles use that type of engine? Is there a common issue that you run into when doing the repairs that could be solved?
It may sound simple, but this mode of thinking can help you expand your business greatly. Have an interesting instance of when you expanded your business (horizontal or vertical)? Share it with us below!