by Lori Prosio 

As the third anniversary of my business approaches, I’m alternating between being unable to believe it’s already been three years, and wondering how it’s only been three years. I’ve gone from an office of one (me) to a full-time staff of 13. This seems like a good time to share a few tips that have helped me get here.

Don’t limit yourself

A small business must identify and exploit its strengths, but not taking any risks can inhibit business growth. When I first opened my business, I was asked by a soon-to-be client what I specialized in. Because I’d had such a wide breadth of marketing and communication experience on many different issues and types of clients, it was hard to figure out the “one thing” I should be, or do.

Then I realized as long as I had the core skills and hired the right team and put the right tools in place, I could leverage all of our collective strengths and grow a business that offered various capabilities to varying clients. Don’t pigeonhole yourself. Know and build on your core strengths, but don’t be afraid to hire staff with skills different than your own, or expand your services to help you gain greater success.

Network, network, network

As a small business, networking is essential to business growth and success. As a business owner, it’s important to have a deep roster of relevant business resources. Soon after opening my business, I joined the local chamber and its business leadership program. Doing so helped me invest in the Roseville business community and learn more about ways to run a successful business in this market. It also allowed me to increase the profile of my business and access new helpful resources.

Get out there and make new business associates, and encourage your team to do the same. Join a chamber, a networking group, an industry/trade association or get on a board for a local charity. Inevitably, you’re helping other businesses while helping market your own. Then, next time you need a contact in the business community to help you with something, your resource list will be even more robust.

Anticipate growth, and plan for it

As a small business, it’s hard to see past what’s right in front of you: the current challenges you face, and the immediate needs you have. But to have long-term sustainable success, you must plan for what’s down the road. When I opened my business, I had a plan for growth, including the kinds of clients I wanted, the number of staff I needed, and the size I wanted the business to be. Every hire was carefully planned to manage current needs, while still planning for future business pursuits.

When I leased my office, I asked to be allowed to move into a new larger space with no penalty or costs, should I outgrow my current “starter” space. When I purchased furniture and equipment, I did so anticipating longer-term needs and space requirements. The lesson here is to think about the future needs of your business, not just what you think you’ll do today, or next month.

Evaluate regularly

One of the things I’ve found essential in building my business has been to practice what I preach. I try to apply all of the tools that I encourage my clients to implement. Frequently I step back to make sure that I am doing everything to build and market my business the way I would guide a client to do. This means having a strong brand and business package. If your brand is going to be solid and recognizable, you need to be able to zero in on what makes you stand out from your competition. The ability to show yourself through your brand is a great starting point.

A version of this article originally appeared in the July 24, 2015 edition of the Sacramento Business Journal.