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Debtor Finance Blog

Business growth – blessing, curse or balancing act?

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Ah, Business growth. It’s what every small business owner dreams of and plans for, surely?

And just to prove how thorny a topic growth can really be, here we are just a handful of words into my blog and already we’ve hit on something a bit controversial. Because while many small businesses aspire to grow, some fail to grow and others almost accidentally grow due to what seems to be plain old good luck…very few small businesses plan to grow.

Of course you could dispute that statement and suggest that many businesses plan to grow, but I think it’s more a case of many businesses having a vague idea that growth might come some time in the future, and that growth would be a good thing. Very few small businesses in Australia have a structured plan in place that includes a strategy for achieving and managing growth.

There’s a really important word in there – ‘managing.’ Growth takes management. And if you reckon that growth is all good news and could only possibly propel a small business from strength to strength, spare a thought for those business owners in Australia who stumble upon circumstances that lead to strong growth, only to fail to effectively manage that growth, and have the whole situation go horribly wrong. For some, growth eventually stalls and they wind up right back where they started. For others, growth explodes, and the fallout as owners fumble about in uncharted territory leads quite quickly to the demise of the business. Is sudden growth a nice problem to have? Not always.

But before I run off on a negative tangent, (I’m really more a ‘glass half full’ kind of guy, after all) I’ll head back to some home turf my regular readers should be pretty familiar with by now – the Business Plan. If you are serious about your small business, you’ll have one in place. If you’re serious about growth – or even simply managing growth should it suddenly occur – then your Business Plan will have a strategy in place to cater for it.

I really hope that this financial year sees growth come your way – whether it’s something you’ve been aiming for, or whether it comes almost as a happy accident. Either way, let’s put growth under the microscope for a moment, so to speak, get a bit more familiar with the ins and outs of the beast, and list some things to watch out for.

Don’t make the three big mistakes!

While growth is a noble goal, taking your eye off the basics while you focus on growth is a sure way to land yourself neck deep in the smelly stuff. Sure, the prospect of growth is exciting, but keep your feet on the ground.

  • Don’t focus on growth at the expense of service – remember that great service is the fuel that drives growth!
  • Stay clear about why you’re in business, who your clients are and what you have to offer them that is unique.
  • Be sure that you are capable of finding and retaining the right team to help you deliver what you are promising to your clients.

What’s the time?

Is there such a thing as a ‘good time’ to actively try to grow a business? Well, growth takes planning, and planning means taking into account the prevailing conditions. And no, I don’t mean the weather. Firstly, think about the time you have and the funds you have at your disposal – growth will demand time and money. Trying to force growth ahead with too little of either will trip you up for sure.

You’ll need systems and processes in place, too – which takes us back to the Growth Planning part of your Business Plan. You’ll also need an eye on the market – is it in good shape to support your striving for growth? What’s the competition doing? And finally you’ll need to be confident that there’s enough potential income increase to cover what you’ve invested to get growth started in the first place.

Bigger isn’t always better.

One of my favourite business catchphrases is this – ‘Profit is king, size is only ego’. That one really cuts the crap and gets to the point, doesn’t it? Beware growth for the sake of growth. Anyone with their head properly screwed on realises that growth needs to also be profitable. Growth should never be more staff, a bigger office or even more offices unless you become more profitable on the way to gaining these things.

Get on it, not in it.

If you want your business to grow, stop working in your business and start working on it. If you are so focused on the day-to-day stuff that you never take the time to step back and see the big picture, you are unlikely to really get far at all. Try to devote at least half a day a week to working on your business.

Get technology working for you.

Business moves fast – plan to keep up. Be on the lookout for technologies and innovations that can save you time in dealing with your clients – in fact a Technology Plan should be a part of your Business Plan. Speak with experts and get advice on the fastest and most efficient ways to manage your email and website, handle storage and security, even minimise your downtime. You don’t have to be a geek, you just have to have an open mind. Remember, time saved is time that you can use to work on your business.

Don’t lose it in the long run.

If you think that planning to grow sounds like it’ll need plenty of time and energy, you’re right. If you think you can work hard, grow, then take your foot off the pedal…you’re very wrong. Remember that sustaining the growth you achieve will mean listening to what’s happening (that’s listening to both your customers and your team) as well as consistent action and good systems to make it happen. Serve a need in a unique way that your clients really want, and growth will usually look after itself -  provided you can look after the growth.

And that, as Forrest Gump said, is all I have to say about that.

If you are planning to grow your business, hats off to you for being brave, committed (I mean ‘committed’ in a good way…) and passionate about what you are doing. I love the fact that in Australia while many people in small business are walking around with long faces, there are still those who choose to give it a red hot go and get growing. Just remember that growth in small business is a lot like painting – winding up with the kind of result you’ll love to stand back and admire generally depends on how seriously you take the preparation.

Wishing you all the best for your week in business.