Business Growth May Sound Simple – But It Means a Step Change

Let's discuss the steps needed to implement a successful business growth strategy and ways to avoid the pitfalls.

Growth in business can either revolve around increasing the amount of whatever you’re already doing, or it can be focused on adding new elements to your portfolio.

However, whichever way you choose to expand, growing your business isn’t as simple as just increasing your customer base and orders – there’s a lot going on behind the scenes that business owners need to work on to support a growing company in the long term.

Having the right staffing, premises and infrastructure will all come into play, as will the funding requirements to support that growth. This means there will be stages in every company’s lifecycle when they have to make a step change in their operations in order to facilitate further growth.

Taking on in-house staff

Whether you’re taking on staff for the first time or increasing your workforce, there are a number of areas to consider, such as how you will afford the extra salaries, taxes and other expenses each month, how you’ll recruit the right people, and where you’ll put them.

If you’re employing staff for the first time you can get guidance from the government on issues such as the minimum wage, employers’ liability insurance and workplace pension schemes.

When it comes to recruitment, before you start the process you should consider the kinds of roles you want to recruit into and where you might find the right people to fill those positions – whether that’s through a campaign on social media, linking with the job centre or using traditional paid for advertising in the local or trade press. Don’t just think about what you want to get from your new staff, think about what they might want from you, so you can put together an attractive package to recruit the best people for the job.

You could also consider taking on apprentices, which is a great way to support young people and local communities. Apprenticeships can also be offered to existing staff where appropriate. Again, there is government advice available.

In addition to recruiting new staff, you might consider training up some of your existing team members to take on more specialised roles, for example in your HR or finance function. By supporting career development and giving staff training opportunities you can increase their loyalty as well as your productivity and profits.

Have you got the room to spread your wings?

Additional staff will inevitably need extra workspace. Your business may have space to take new staff in under your existing roof or you may need to either expand your premises or move into a bigger building. Where none of these are possible or you’re not in the position to commit to larger premises, there’s always the option of taking on staff who work from home. Depending on the types of roles being offered it may actually be a benefit to have staff working from home, or even outsource functions so that those staff work from your external suppliers’ premises. For example, you could take on an agency to deal with your public relations, outsource a function such as call answering and customer service, or utilise external support for areas like finance and HR.

It’s not just staff who need the extra room

As well as finding the room for more people, companies involved in manufacturing of any kind will face the issue of production space when looking to grow. For example, a print house looking to invest in a new piece of kit that increases their capacity will not only need to consider the footprint of the machine, but will also need to take into account the space needed for finishing the product as well as warehousing space to store raw materials and completed jobs before distribution.

The chances are that a manufacturer looking to increase its throughput will also need increased numbers of operatives to keep the new machinery running at optimal capacity and avoid expensive downtime. So, when you’re looking at your growth strategy, it’s key to consider your current premises and staffing and whether they will be fit for purpose or whether you need to make a change.

Funding options

Whichever way you’re looking to grow your business, there’s a high probability that you’ll need a financial injection, either through reinvestment of your previous profits, a loan, selling shares to outside investors or other sources of finance such as government-backed schemes. You can find out more about grants and other kinds of public finance as well as contacts for local sources of advice through the 'Finance and Support for Your Business' section of the GOV.UK website.

You can also visit sites such as Better Business Finance or talk to a corporate finance broker about your options for funding – you can find a broker through sites such as the FindSMEFinance website from the National Association of Corporate Finance Brokers (NACFB) or simply do your own searching online.

It’s important to keep an open mind on the funding you look for and ensure it’s sustainable and right for your business. You might have a great relationship with your current bank or you may want to look for alternative funding – for example from companies like the well-known Funding Circle or other online platforms. Either way, don’t rule out any options before considering them carefully. Good brokers can also help with this.

Is now the right time to expand?

Looking at the areas to consider above, it’s clear that you need to plan carefully before making any substantive moves to grow your business when it’s reached its current capacity.

Taking on new staff, new premises and new production equipment all need some kind of commitment, so you need to be clear before making that leap that any investment is worthwhile and sustainable – as far as anyone can judge the future chances of success in your chosen market.

As well as looking at the costs you will incur, make sure you assess the wider market and your competition to see whether the risks are likely to pay off – does the increased customer base you’re expecting really exist? What does the competition look like? Are there any issues such as upcoming regulation or seasonality of demand that you need to take into account? Is the base you’re working from secure enough to support such growth? Do you have a robust business plan that will help you deal with all scenarios – including either a boom in demand beyond your expectations or a disappointing response to your changes?

Growth can be a challenging time and only by staying on top of all the varying aspects involved can you give your business the best chance of success.