How a Lean Business Model Can Help Your Business Grow

It’s easier than ever to scale your business by embracing what’s known as a “lean business model.”

A lean business model is an approach to running a business that cuts out all but the most essential tasks and expenses. Basically, it means you can grow without hiring several employees or even having a physical location. In fact, many successful lean business ventures are one-person teams.

Take Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, for example. Her blog, Making Sense of Cents, earned more than $1 million in 2017 alone. While Gardner hired her sister as a virtual assistant (VA), she does most of the work herself.

Speaking of VAs, Kayla Sloan earns a reported six-figure income by helping bloggers build their businesses — and her public income statements prove that she knows how to keep things lean.

The barriers to entry are lower than ever for solo business owners. As long as you figure out how to stay small while enabling your growth, you too can take part in the success that lean business owners are finding.

Being online is key

Whether you have a virtual or brick-and-mortar business, leveraging the online world is crucial. It can save you time, which in turn helps you cut costs and keeps staff numbers down.

For example, imagine that you want to source products for your online store. Looking at online marketplaces like Alibaba will save time that you would have otherwise spent looking for vendors.

Even marketing your business can be easier online, as social media and email marketing plans can help you reach tens of thousands of people. If you create a great brand, your fans might spread the word by retweeting your latest posts, or writing stellar reviews on Yelp. You can also cut down on marketing efforts by building a website that encourages people to become customers.

All this to say, the internet is a wonderful place. Using it can help keep your business lean in various ways.

Automation is your friend

Love it or hate it, technology isn’t going away. If used correctly, it can be the difference between wasting time or expediting your work.

Conduct an online search and you’ll find hundreds — if not thousands — of digital tools for almost every aspect of your business. Often, these tools (many of which are free) could automate a lot of tasks that you would normally complete by hand.

These tasks might include:

Be prepared to change often

A lean business model requires the ability to change quickly based on market demand.

Sometimes a good idea fizzles out during execution. Instead of beginning a completely new business, lean business owners figure out what their ideal customers would pay for, and pivot to deliver on their demands.

For example, you’re an author who wants to sell copies of your book online. While there’s some initial interest, you soon find out that most people actually visit your site to read about the budgeting practices that you included in a few of your blog posts.

To earn money from this audience segment, you can sign up for an affiliate marketing program that lets you earn a commission whenever a visitor sees your blog posts. You’re still selling books, but you’ve changed your initial business model to capture income from an alternative source, as well.

If anything, understand that a lean business model means that you’re continually learning, testing, and implementing. New tools and strategies for becoming leaner are cropping up daily, and it literally pays to use them.

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Sarah Li Cain

A B2B and personal finance writer who has appeared in publications such as Credit Karma, Magnify Money and Lending Tree.

More by Sarah Li Cain