Knowing how, and when, to grow your business can make or break the long-term success of your organisation.
But what can you do to try to ensure a bright financial future? We have 12 tips on how to grow your business, from attracting new customers to rethinking your business plan.
When is it time to grow your business?
Before you start looking into the ‘how’ of growing your business, it is important to look into the ‘when’. Below are some signs that your business is ready to take the next step in its development:
- You have a consistent customer base.A consistent customer base, regularly bringing in revenue, can be a sign that your business now has a foundation it can rely on. From there, you can expand and target a new, or wider, audience.
- Demand is outstripping supply.If you have too much business to handle and find yourself struggling to fulfil orders, or if you are turning jobs down because you have too much on, it might be an indication that you could hire more staff and grow your team to scale up operations.
- Your cash flow is steady and you have money in the bank.If you have been able to establish a steady stream of income and set aside money in the bank, you could be in the position to accelerate your growth using those funds.
- Your industry or sector is undergoing growth.Keeping on top of your industry and your competitors can give you an idea of whether your specific sector is growing, and provide you an opportunity to structure your business to benefit from that growth.
- Your customers are asking for more.Your customers may have begun to enquire about new services or products, new locations, or longer opening hours. This could suggest there is untapped demand you could take advantage of by growing your business.
» MORE: How to start a business
How to approach business growth
First of all, you need to ask yourself what ‘growing’ means for your business. Is it profit that’s driving you? Do you want to reach a set number of new customers or increase your business’s visibility? Simply ‘making more money’ is too vague, and will not give you a clear path to follow.
Setting specific targets for your growth will mean you have something tangible to aim for, and metrics with which you can measure your success.
Once you know what you want to achieve, it can be useful to approach the question of business growth through an ‘expand, refine and rethink’ mindset.
- Expand:In what ways can your business grow in size and scope? This could mean more locations, more staff, more customers, or more products and services.
- Refine:How can you improve what you already have? That might mean doubling down on successful revenue streams, building long-term relationships with existing customers or enhancing the skills of yourself and your employees.
- Rethink:What isn’t working so well business-wise? This involves assessing and learning from your mistakes, making changes where needed, and being honest about your progress so far.
It is likely that effectively and sustainably growing your business will involve a combination of all three approaches.
Expand your business
While expanding your business and growing your business are not always synonymous, expansion – i.e. making your business larger in certain areas – can provide you with one of the most direct routes for growth.
Attract new customers
Once you have established a consistent client base, it might be time to expand the scope of who you look to attract as customers. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including:
- promoting your business
- adding a new business premises
- finding new channels of distribution
- selling your products or services online
- exporting your products or services internationally
Promoting your business
One way to reach a bigger audience and attract new customers is by spending more time and money promoting your business.
This could include utilising social media, making a PR push, or engaging in a marketing campaign, whether that’s through traditional means, such as television, radio, newspaper ads and billboards, or digitally via online advertising and affiliate websites.
» MORE: How to promote your business
New business premises
If your business has physical premises, then you may consider opening up in a new location, in order to capture a larger market.
Before taking this step, you will need to be confident you can afford the extra rent or commercial mortgage payments, as well as the increase in your business rates, and an additional set of business energy bills.
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New channels of distribution
Whether you sell a physical product or an online service, you could explore new channels of distribution in order to reach a larger audience.
For example, you could see if wholesalers, distributors or other retailers will stock your product, online and in store.
If you have so far only sold your products or services in person, the next step might be setting up an online store.
This approach can encompass everything from creating profiles on eBay and Etsy to setting up a bespoke store function on a business website.
Exporting your products or services
If you feel you have captured as much of the UK market as possible, you may consider exporting your products or services internationally.
Before exporting internationally, you will need to make sure, among other things, that you check which processes you need to follow, which licences you need to apply for, and how you will transport your goods.
You can find out more information on the rules around exporting internationally through the UK government checklist.
If you find yourself struggling to manage your workload, or lacking time to focus on the bigger picture, you could hire staff in order to increase your people power.
The cost of hiring someone in the UK can be high, so you need to put the proper processes in place to make sure you find the perfect candidate. This involves everything from correctly constructing your job description to learning how to interview someone.
It is also important to note that the moment you hire staff, you will have a number of new responsibilities, from paying National Insurance to taking out employers’ liability insurance.
» MORE: Questions to ask in an interview
Diversify your product or service line
Another way to grow your business is by expanding the number of products or services that your business offers. If this is the path you want to take, it is worth considering:
- What your existing customers want:Talk to your client base and find out what kinds of products or services they would like to see from your business.
- What your competitors are doing:By carrying out industry research, you can gauge whether there are products or services you can improve on, or gaps in the market you can fill.
- Whether you can build a prototype:Whether it’s a physical product or online service, if you can create a prototype it will be easier to gather feedback.
- What people think of your new product:Once you have a prototype, you can use it to test out prices, marketing, and customer responses, before refining it for a larger launch.
If you do not have the funds to hand, you could look into taking out a business loan or securing another source of business finance, to pay for your expansion.
There may also be small business grants specifically available for product development or innovation.
Acquire another business
If you think you can get where you want to go faster by marrying your organisation with another, then you could look into acquiring a pre-existing business.
This is a big step and shouldn’t be rushed into. You will need to:
- consider what funding you require to buy the business
- decide what you want to get out of the business you buy
- accurately value the business you wish to purchase
- carry out due diligence when looking into the company
- take care of any employees that business may have
If you are considering an acquisition, then you may want to hire an accountant to help you with the process.
Refine your business
Growing your business isn’t just about becoming bigger or doing more. It can also include doing what you already do, but better.
Focus on your business strengths
What shouldn’t get lost in the pursuit of growth is what you do well, and how you can get more out of what you already have.
Assessing where most of your revenue is coming from, and what areas of growth you have seen already, will give you an idea as to what you can double down on to maximise results.
Build long-term relationships with existing customers
Losing sight of the loyal customers you have already gained can be a sure fire way to undermine any growth you wish to achieve.
If your existing customers are happy with how they are treated, especially when they have a problem, they are more likely to stick with you in the long term.
Investing in your customer service is an important step in preserving customer relationships. You can also use review sites, such as TrustPilot and Feefo, in order to gain feedback on what you could be doing better.
Rewarding your customers for sticking with you can help make sure they don’t look elsewhere.
Examples include discounts for signing up to your service for a longer period of time, or a free item after a certain number of product purchases.
Sending emails to your customers can be a way to engage them with your business, while alerting them to deals, promotions and new products.
It is important, however, to not bombard your customers with unwanted emails and make sure you are adhering to the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
Build your own expertise
As your business grows, you will need to grow alongside it. A bigger organisation will require a different set of skills and resources to when you were starting out. So it is a good idea to be intentional about filling in those gaps, whether through your own development or the onboarding of skilled employees or partners.
Attending training courses can help you keep pace with your business’s growth. For example, the Small Business Charter currently has a Help to Grow: Management Course, funded by the government, for £750 per person.
Building your own expertise can involve learning from others, and one way to do this is by finding a support system of fellow business owners.
By networking at business conferences and other functions, you can get a greater handle on the industry landscape and marketplace, while building connections that may prove useful in the future.
Finding a mentor
A more direct way to learn from others is by finding a business mentor. You can use mentor-search sites, such as mentorsme, which covers the whole of the UK, or Business Mentoring if your business is in Wales, in order to find a free or paid-for mentor.
Invest in staff training
It is not just you as a business owner that will need to level up your expertise as your business grows. Your staff can also benefit from training, helping build their skills while giving the business access to a deeper pool of knowledge and resources.
Rethink your business
It is unlikely that, even in the most successful start up, everything is perfect. Achieving growth involves honestly assessing your business and working out what needs to change.
Re-evaluate your original business plan
As you prepare your organisation for the next stage of its development, it is a good time to revisit your original business plan, and see what lessons can be learned. What had you initially overlooked? What targets did you meet, which did you exceed, and which did you fall short of?
It might even be worth writing a new business plan, in order to better reflect where your organisation is now. You may also be required to submit one if you need to secure financing to fund your business growth.
» MORE: How to write a business plan
Identify what isn’t working
Now you are more established as a business, it is time to assess what isn’t working. This is a vital part of the growth process, as trying to grow while foundational issues remain in place will only make it harder to untangle those problems down the line.
Just as important as identifying what isn’t working is asking why something isn’t working. This isn’t about apportioning blame, or overly self-criticising, but assessing what needs to change so your business can move in the right direction.
Learn from your mistakes
Once you have identified what isn’t working and why, you can start learning from those mistakes.
How seriously you go about this process could be the difference between spikes in trading and sustainable, dependable growth. Making a mistake is part and parcel of growing, not only as a business owner, but as a person. Failing to learn from that mistake is where the real problem lies.
As was the case when you were running a start up, you will need to be adaptable when trying to grow your business.
Things will not always go to plan, or the way you intend. Being nimble, proactive, and willing to rethink and reassess will best position your business to navigate any challenges that lie ahead.
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