Do you want to grow your business? This practical guide covers the key things you’ll need to consider, with tools and downloads to help you turn those plans into action. You’ll also find information about advice and funding available from the Growth Vouchers scheme at the end of the article.
Today, there is a strong focus on business growth as many entrepreneurs believe that fast growth companies show higher levels of productivity than average companies. These types of businesses are more likely to create jobs and generate wealth, which, in turn, will help to reinvigorate the economy.
The concept of ‘high growth’ is fairly straightforward – according to the OECD, a high growth firm is one that grows at a rate which is deemed to be high in comparison to the majority of other businesses and, as such, can achieve annual growth rates in turnover, or number of employees of over 20% for three consecutive years.
The Growth Accelerator programme seeks to support growing companies by helping them develop a focused growth strategy, develop new ideas and approaches, and provide access to sources of finance.
If you compare a high growth business with any type of small business that is profitable and sustainable, there are a number of factors that are prevalent in high growth businesses:
There is the existence of long-term goals and strategy for the business, which have been communicated to the employees.
Tool – The One Page business plan is an easy way to help you formulate this
Roles and reporting relationships are defined, along with clear lines of accountability. Also, structured systems for communications are in place throughout the business.
Tool – this is a useful document to help you think through different organisational structures
Identifying values and attitudes for business so there is clarity about “how we do business around here”, along with the kind of behaviour and attitude of staff that is to be encouraged. For example, making sure that the customer comes first in every action.
Systems and Procedures
Documented systems are in place that clarify work processes. This gives a business the ability to scale their operations whilst providing a level of consistency.
The business owner is more focused on strategy than day-to-day management. For many leaders this is a difficult one to achieve, particularly if they founded the business based on a passion for a product or service. For example, a technical specialist can find it hard to step away from the area of expertise that they have, such as training or scientist, and take on a leadership role which is more about managing and inspiring others.
Employment and HR Practices
There should be good human resource practices that support business performance. Many small businesses don’t take this area seriously and don’t have agreements in place to provide clarity for both the company and its employees. The importance of this is only recognised when something goes wrong.
Resource – Prowess contributor Helen Jamieson’s company provides a cost effective way of having HR support in a small business
Product or Service Development
There is continuous improvement of the product or service using feedback from customers. In growth companies they use this feedback loop to seek opportunities to add on new features or move into other markets by paying close attention to what their customers are saying. For example, a simple but effective approach that was used by the sales director of a technology company was to go into an electronics store at the weekend and observe what customers actually did in terms of buying behaviour, and then ask them why they chose a different product.
Customer Relationship Management
There is a formal system for managing customer data. A simple customer relationship management (CRM) system can transform a pile of business cards into a potential asset for a company in the long term.
A growth company recognises that their marketplace is now global and ensures that they maintain knowledge of trends affecting their business, from an international perspective.
Tool – read about how to build a global business by being a global citizen
How to apply these characteristics to help your business
Use the characteristics above to assess where your business is at, and take steps to address the areas that are not yet in place or not operating effectively by working with a business coach. Don’t be put off by thinking these things don’t apply to your small business. If you think BIG from the outset, then you are able to build a business that has the potential to be scalable and it will save you time later on.
Another benefit is that it forces you, as the business owner, to take a more hands-off approach and begin delegating to other people. It does not matter if these people are outsourced or even part-time, the important factor is that by becoming more objective about your business, you are able to make better decisions.
The Growth Vouchers programme is a government funded scheme to help small businesses grow. It will distribute vouchers to around 20,000 small businesses in England, focussing on small businesses who have never sought business advice before. Businesses looking for advice can apply to the programme online and they will be randomly assigned to an online questionnaire or face-to-face business advice assessment.
Some businesses will be randomly chosen to get a voucher for up to £2,000 to help pay for business support in one of the specialist areas. You’ll have to match the amount with your own funds. The Growth Vouchers programme is available to small businesses in England who have been trading for at least one year, have 49 employees or fewer and have not sought strategic business advice before, in the last three years. Find out more here.