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Five steps to grow your business

'If you want to grow successfully ask yourself - why are you different? Who (which customers) will value this difference?'
Dr Greg Chapman, empowersolutions.com.au

Top tips

  • Plan - map out an action plan and set goals for your business
  • Know your point of difference - customers need to understand why they should choose you 
  • Set up good systems as they can increase your efficiency by 30%
  • Hire the right staff who would be aligned with your business vision and values
  • Hold yourself accountable with others - business growth takes discipline and feedback.

Good general management can produce organic, steady business growth. However, update and refresh your business with these five foundational steps in mind to see quantum leaps that are sustainable.

1. Have a vision and plan to get there

Understanding where your business is and where you want it to be is the first step in planning. Ask yourself 'What do you imagine your business to be in five years' time and how will this fit into your lifestyle?'

Make sure your plan:

  • is simple (even if it's just one page)
  • is not just ‘in your head’ or ‘in your bottom drawer’
  • has any vision you choose but it must have one
  • includes goals and steps to be taken to reach those goals
  • aligns your business with family and lifestyle aspirations
  • has mitigation strategies to cope with change, survive the bad times and prosper in the good

Whether you prepare it yourself or use a business professional for an objective outside view, remember the thinking that goes into a plan is as important than the document itself.

2. Be clear about your differences

Often businesses have a product or service and assume that people will love it or it’s enough to say ‘our product is great quality’. It’s not enough and if potential customers don’t understand why they should choose your business, they will judge on price alone.

If you want to grow successfully, ask yourself:

  • why are you different?
  • who (which customers) will value this difference?

When you promote a difference, identify what an outsider would see that would make this strength obvious to them. It must be something they can identify by one or more of their five senses, or else it is not real!

Include the answers in a marketing plan and don’t rely solely on organic word of mouth. Your objective is to create ‘top of mind awareness’ so that, anytime anyone in your marketplace needs or wants your product or service they call you first.

3. Build business systems to alleviate growing pains

Want to increase your efficiency by up to 30%? This is what good business systems can do for you. Without systems you just have a job with overheads. Like a brain surgeon who concentrates on just surgery and a pilot who flies by only six gauges in a cockpit, you can guide and monitor your business to produce consistent, predictable results.

Many businesses fail as they expand because their systems are inadequate. When developing systems:

  • start with an organisation chart (even as a sole trader as this may give you ideas on what you can outsource)
  • track the process from customer contact to payment to understand where you add the most value 
  • identify major business operations (such as finance, administration, operations, people, marketing and risk management) and create templates or recipes for these activities
  • teach any staff to use the systems because if the system is not followed, you don’t have one!

4. Align your staff with your business

Motivating staff so that your success is their success too is important. If your staff are aligned with your business, they will want success as much as your personal commitment to this goal. A good ‘people system’ will help attract and retain good people! Formalise roles for your staff for better understanding and accountability of the tasks for which they are responsible. Make sure your staff know what a good job looks like and reward good performance. If performance does not meet your expectations, help improve performance with options such as mentoring and training.

5. Be disciplined with your growth strategy

Working in small business can be a lonely pursuit. Imagine investing in developing your business and marketing plan, putting business systems in place, engaging your staff … then doing nothing with these things. Instead of seeing profits soar, your business stagnates or declines. Like a board does for a large company, you need to find a way of holding yourself to account if you have made a conscious effort to grow your business.

You could:

  • talk to other business owners
  • join a business peer group
  • seek the services of an independent professional advisor   
  • create your own 'board' of a couple of trusted people to check regularly on your progress.

With personal investment often at stake, growing a business can be daunting and risky. It takes courage. Start planning your growth journey by creating a Mission Statement or a New Year’s Resolution for your business.