This post is not about logos, business cards or dedicated email addresses. It won’t tell you to get a landline, printer or virtual assistant. It is about something much more fundamental than that; something often overlooked.

These are the true essentials – the real bare necessities – every business owner needs before they can really grow.

While we often get lots of advice about the beautiful, branded things and lots of information about free seminars and government support schemes, that advice is no good if you’ve not considered the fundamentals first.

Here are a handful of incredibly simple concepts that have nothing to do with branding, finance or social media expertise, but have everything to do with enabling a business or entrepreneur to work effectively with others – because as soon as you figure out how to do that, your business will begin to grow.

The four bare necessities of small business growth

1) In-depth knowledge of your product or service

Deep, intuitive understanding of what benefits your product or service delivers. Know this, and you can easily articulate why someone should work with you above all others. Whether you’re faster, smarter, nicer, cleaner or cheaper bottling that stuff is essential. Why are you different and why should we care?

Tell a potential customer, and they’ll know if you’re the right solution for them. Tell a branding or marketing agency and they’ll know how you should look and feel. Tell a investor and they’ll see the potential and vision for your brand.

Without it, we tend to leave people feeling confused. Your brand will be misinterpreted and misrepresented and it’s harder for people to share your story. Make it easy for people to tell your story.

2) Know your customers like you know your family

Figuring out what your ideal customer’s day looks like and how you fit into it, powers your business because it helps you tell your story in the right way, to the right people.

If your story is about a first class plumbing service and you tell it to someone in rented accommodation you are wasting your breath. Sure, they might pass on your story to the right person (their landlord), but you’ve a much stronger chance of a sale when you talk to someone who needs your story.

The sooner you can figure out what those people look like, what successes and challenges they face every day, the less time you waste telling your story to the wrong people.

3) Professional preparedness

This is about registering as a limited company, being VAT registered, a member of the right trade bodies and having a suitable level of insurance. In many cases, to get going in business you need to be registered as a sole trader. But to do well in business, this professional preparedness is essential.

Some companies won’t work with sole traders – their radar focuses on limited companies only. VAT can swing both ways as many small companies would rather not pay it when they purchase your services, but it can be a signal to a larger company that you’re on their playing field.

Insurance is essential in some industries and also in order to register as a supplier on government portals, with trade bodies and so on. Additionally, the right insurance and professional indemnity cover may demonstrate you’re a business that takes the protection of itself, its staff and clients seriously.

4) Clear direction, vision and purpose

An article from inc.com summarises this well with the idea that we need to “consistently speak to the ideal outcome”. You might be “swirling 25 scenarios” in your head about how something will progress, but show and speak the direction – it’s gives everyone around you a sense of certainty. It makes you a leader and instills confidence, belief and wins people to your cause.

Team morale will always be boosted by a leader who holds clear in their minds the direction of the company. But suppliers, clients, investors and associates will be bolstered by this too.

Growing a business is tough;  it’s a roller coaster that demands resilience. Clear direction helps build resilience: when you go of course, clear direction helps you recalibrate you plans quickly, ensuring you end up on the right track.

Are you a small, growing business? What essentials would you recommend to entrepreneurs? Tweet us at @theinsuranceoct and let us know!