Business growth is one of the most pressing of topics for SMEs wishing to take their business to the next level. But how do you decide on the best course of action - and implement your strategy to best effect in a challenging economic environment?
Firstly, growing your business should only be pursued as a strategy if your decision makers have analysed the market, your offer and the resources at their disposal carefully and rigorously. Many businesses have made the mistake of aggressively pursuing growth without having carried out the necessary market or competitor research first, failing to adequately define and market their product or service, or without securing adequate resources to run a larger operation.
There are various points to consider. Firstly, what are the drivers behind growth? Is there a genuine opportunity for you to pursue, or do you simply feel that you 'should' be looking to grow? Many niche businesses do very well by operating as a 'lifestyle' business and servicing a smaller customer base with a quality product - if your focus is on luxury, personalisation, excellent service or similar 'high end' offerings, consider the impact that higher volumes might have on your core competencies.
If there are clear and genuine drivers behind growth, look at your time-scales. Rushed growth often happens at the expense of quality. Good staff leave under pressure, new processes are implemented without adequate communication, organisational structures aren't flexible enough to respond to growth, operations are stretched and can rupture under increased pressure without adequate additional resourcing and customers may notice a decline in service provision or product quality.
For these reasons, it's worth pursuing growth in a sustainable and planned way. Look at how you can sensibly scale up your operations. Consider what is driving your growth. If you wish to capture a new segment of the market, understand your marketing strategy. If you're simply responding to lower profits and margins within your business model, consider looking at ways to reduce costs, rather than needing to boost sales. Make sure you spend time developing the financial plan, as this will underpin your decision making. Consider how you will fund growth - will you seek additional borrowing, or look to use cash reserves? Will you seek to reduce costs through an internal efficiency programme? To retain quality, consider embedding a recognised quality framework such as ISO standards and IIP to signal to customers that your organisation values quality at all levels of delivery - this is a great marketing tool for many companies.
Consider getting in expert consultancy help to guide your leadership team through this strategy planning. There are many consultants available - some commercial and others offered through partnership schemes, often sponsored with government, EU, or commercial private funding. Mentors and coaches are also great for learning the tips to growing your business sustainably and successfully, passing on their knowledge and stretching the capabilities and skills of the leadership team to take the business forward in the right direction.
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