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Indispensable Tips for Growing Businesses


Why congratulations?

Because you’ve already got past the stage at which perhaps 95% plus of startups fail and you’re well on the road to success.

But despite the success you’ve perhaps forgotten you’ve enjoyes in getting to this stage, further growth doesn’t come without doing the right things and starting to learn how the ‘big boys’ – successful corporates – have done it.
Here’s a few things for you to think about.  Be honest!
  • What’s your vision for your business?
  • What business are you REALLY in? In other words, what do you really do for your customers?
  • Why did you start the business in the first place? Can you even remember?
  • When and how will you know that you’ve reached your ultimate goal?
Business Doctors often find – and as business owners ourselves are constantly reminded to remember – that in the day-to-day grind of getting the stuff out of the door and making sure the staff get paid, the last person that gets a look-in is you: the owner!
It’s an all-too-familiar story, but one which, happily, there is a well-trodden path to overcoming.  We would like to offer you a few simple tips to help you do this.
Your Vision
Do you remember – or do you even know – what you are aiming to achieve in your business?  It could be to do with exit, sale or succession (e.g. to the next generation of family members – or not!), or you might be looking for a comfortable lifestyle or cash to reinvest in your next venture.  Being clear about this is the starting point. Just like going on a long journey by car, you will start by clarifying your destination. Your journey in business is no different.
Your Mission
To understand your mission, you have to be clear about your purpose (i.e. what you do for your customers) and your goals (i.e. what’s your long-term objective for the business?).  Your mission is a description of the long-term journey you’re on – a fact which weak marketers who will come up with a promotional ‘strapline’ in response to your request for a ‘mission statement’ often don’t tell you.  Let’s think about our own purpose as Business Doctors as an example.  We can be described as many things (thank you!), such as managers, coaches, mentors, facilitators and trainers, but our purpose is what we do for our customers: we help owners of small and medium sized businesses to get to the next level of business growth by helping them gain and retain competitive advantage.  This involves organising and co-ordinating the staff, technical and financial resources business owners have at their disposal to maximum advantage.  Now think about your own business in the same way by putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and what do you learn?
Capability and Opportunity
These are two sides of the same coin and to successfully grow your business they go hand-in-hand.  I’m often approached by startup businesses with great ideas,  These may or may not have fantastic commercial opportunity, but what these businesses usually lack at such an early stage is capability.  They haven’t yet been in business long enough to get some of the basic capability in place to tap into the potential, such as the inventor who approached me about a free-standing hanging-basket bracket.  Great idea – maybe – but did you think to get your marketing department on the case: in other words, did you think to go and ask a couple of garden centres whether they would be prepared to buy it and if so what they would pay? (Don’t worry if you’re reading this as the owner of a startup business, by the way – the same advice applies to you as it does to businesses at a more advanced stage, you still need to think big if you want to grow).
Even where you have been in business for a while – such as our manufacturing client with great products, fantastic premises, modern capital equipment and a good handful of well-paid managers with company cars – you may be lacking in resources in one key area (in this case, management systems and control processes to make the resources at your disposal work in the most efficient way to deliver you value) and so your job becomes one of identifying and addressing this deficit.
Opportunity describes the potential for your goods and services in different markets.  In other words, you can think of it as ‘who appreciates most what I do?’ and it’s likely to be made up of a mixture of customers from different sectors (e.g. industrial or geographical) or demographics (e.g. age or profession).  Here, cheap is rarely best.  Overheard on the train journey to work, for example, was one chap describing how he could buy beer at £2 per pint in the local bowling club – but that he would rather pay £4 and have better beer.  Alternatively, different types of customer pay much more for business class airline travel than holiday makers looking for the cheapest ticket.
Sizing up the opportunity is therefore a process of working systematically through he potential markets and purchasers of each one of your products and services (assuming you have correctly identified what all of these are!) to work out what the optimum mix for your business is, when matched to your long-term aims.  You often can’t do this effectively on your own, because your own preconceptions get in the way from being too close to the detail. Think about getting yourself a ‘critical friend’: one who’s not afraid to ask you tough questions to get you REALLY thinking.
In military terms, strategy might be described as how you achieve an objective in the most efficient way possible.  It’s no different in business (doesn’t running a business often feel like being at war, anyway?).  Simply put, your strategy is the ‘how’ of achieving your objective.  It applies the products, services and resources you have at your disposal to the market opportunities available in order to get you further towards your objective.  It takes the output of the capability and opportunity analysis and documents a series of high level steps that you need to take in order to get you towards your long-term goal.  These steps become the basis of your operational and development plans.
Making it Happen
Believe it or not, you’ve just done the easy bit!  Making it happen is all about approaching your task in a consistently disciplined and focussed way: an exercise which entrepreneurs, often naturally people of ideas, find doesn’t come naturally to them.  To make your vision a reality, you have to translate your marketing focus, your sales efforts and your production, people and business management into a sustained and focussed effort that will chip away at progress towards your long-term goal over time.
As an entrepreneur, you’re very much to be congratulated on getting anywhere near this point!  Most of us don’t!  But remember, achieving your vision is possible, even though it may not seem that way during the dark, cold winter nights when you’re worrying about when the cheque in the post will arrive.
If you would like to talk to a Business Doctor about relating what we’ve written here to your business, contact us without obligation for a free strategic health check.
Alternatively, if you’d like to learn a little more about all aspects of growing your business, why not sign up for our, fully-funded  Business Growth Programme in 2013?

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