Once upon a time you had an idea. You worked hard to turn that idea into a successful business. People said it couldn’t be done but you proved them wrong. You should be proud of what you’ve achieved. Now you want to take the next step up but how do you do it?
At the start of 2014 small or medium-sized businesses accounted for a whopping 99.9% of all private sector businesses. Their combined annual turnover was £1.8 trillion, 47% of all private sector turnover in the UK (Government department statistics).
These remarkable figures show the pervasiveness and awesome power of SMEs. Yet once you’ve established your business and are making a profit from your services or product, it’s natural to want to scale up and aim for growth. It’s not simply about increased sales; you also need to focus on profitability. Here are our tips on growing your business:
Sell, sell, sell!
Look into ways of increasing your sales, both to existing customers and new customers. Anticipate the needs of your market and your customers eg. try packaging up bundles of services or products. Explore new markets – post-Brexit some businesses are looking beyond the domestic and EU market (Guardian, Oct 2016). Smaller businesses have an advantage over large corporates of being able to make choices and implement them more quickly.
Make it better
Improve your products and services by researching and testing changes with your customers. It’s a cliché but the old adage is still true – keep customer satisfaction at the heart of your business.
Develop new products and services, and sell them to new or existing markets. Remember SMEs are an important driver of innovation and competition in many economic sectors – so if you have a hunch, go for it.
Appoint and retain good staff
No team is perfect – assess your strengths and weaknesses. You may need to take on staff or train your current staff. Look at how apprentices might help – maximise the new government apprenticeship levy scheme which kicks in in April 2017. It’s important too to hang on to good staff – have a good induction programme and consider having a mentoring scheme.
Make sure you are familiar with all aspects of your business. Do you know what your payroll is? Do you know what your staff are working on? How much time particular projects take to complete? It goes without saying that you also need to stay on top of your accounting – it’s important to be able to estimate your future income realistically. Make use of new technology to gather data. You will then have the information to review your business and decide on an effective growth strategy.
Small and medium-sized businesses tend to rely on local banks and government bodies for loans. Try looking for additional sources of funding, such as bringing in new investors. Though relatively new ideas, a number of companies are finding success with crowd-funding and peer-to-peer funding.
Consider how you are marketing yourself – is it in the right places and at the right times? Do you have a consistent and positive brand image? If you’re not already doing it, it’s vital in the today’s business world to sell your products or services online. A well-designed, properly-functioning website is essential. The good news is that can be set up relatively inexpensively. If you’re using digital media, remember to engage with your followers rather than just broadcasting sales messages to them.
Get a business mentor
Seek out and work with a business mentor who can help you think about how to do all of these things. You might want to join your industry association and seek a mentor through that source. A trusted adviser can help you see the everyday aspects of your business in new ways and have ideas which you may not have thought of.
While it’s important to be realistic and address any problems head-on – don’t put your head in the sand! It’s also vital to stay positive because that has a real effect on staff morale and the company culture. Stay focused but always aspirational. If you’re passionate about your business ultimately that will shine through to your customers.
As your team expands, you may want to explore time and attendance solutions to keep track of hours worked and your wage bill. uAttend is a scalable cloud-based time and attendance solution which can grow as your business does.