5 Steps To Growth
FIND NEW CUSTOMERS AT HOME
Relying on too few clients can leave your business vulnerable during uncertain times. Construct a clear, precise picture of your ideal customer: it’s easier to find them when you know who you are looking for. Consider running a focus group to discover how you could improve, or what it would take to persuade potential customers to switch to your goods or services. Ask your customers to make referrals. They have friends and colleagues who are like them. Make headlines to increase awareness:
- Improve your profile by putting yourself forward in the media as an industry expert.
- Alternatively, invest in advertising or direct marketing and always follow up new leads.
SEEK NEW MARKETS ABROAD
With sterling relatively weak, now is a good time to consider exporting. But generating overseas sales takes time and energy: it is important to understand customer demand, competitors, regulations, and the business culture in your target territory. Speak to other business leaders, join exporting clubs and visit trade shows to build up a picture of the market. The UK Trade & Investment Passport to Export scheme can also help. Think about whether you might want to sell via a distributor or a sales agent – or even open an office abroad. Discuss finance with your relationship manager, who can advise about financing to cover expansion costs and currency ‘hedging’ to lock into a given exchange rate.
Cash is the key to survival: it keeps your business in business. Plot income, including sales and tax rebates, against outgoings such as wages, PAYE, supplier payments and utility bills over a defined period such as a quarter. Consider how differences in the payment terms you give your customers, and those you receive from your suppliers, might affect cash-flow. Have a system for chasing late payments, and make sure you stick to it. For example, include the date when bills are due on all your invoices. Talk to your relationship manager as soon as you think that cash might be running short. They can advise on whether solutions such as invoice discounting or credit insurance might work for your business.
PLAN FOR GROWTH AND MEASURE PROGRESS
Successful businesses have a vision of what they want to achieve and a plan to get them there. Review and refine your business aims and objectives each year: some business leaders find they can be distracted by a constant stream of new ideas. Monitor key performance indicators that are relevant for your organisation’s size and sector, such as order fulfilment time or number of returning customers. Spotting and fixing potential problems can make the difference between growth and failure. Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound) performance targets to inspire and motivate staff. Finally, assess the strengths and weaknesses of your management team: in uncertain times it is important that they can make the right decisions quickly.
COLLABORATE AND COMMUNICATE
Competing for business is crucial, but sometimes collaboration can be just as effective at delivering growth. Partner with another business leader to pitch for business or take on a large contract. Team up to share office space or manufacturing premises. Promote a complementary service in return for the same favour. Just make sure expectations are clear and the agreement is in writing. Invest time in relationships with your key stakeholders. Technology – from Facetime and Skype to Twitter and Facebook – has made communicating with staff and clients both easier and more affordable. Tell them your ideas for growth and ask for suggestions and feedback. Give your relationship manager regular business updates: they can support your growth plans and help when things go wrong.
How are you planning to grow your business in 2017 and beyond?
And read the full Steps to Growth: Breaking Barriers report at https://aibgb.co.uk/breaking-barriers