10 Tips for Small Business Growth

Business growth is a prerequisite but, for smaller organizations, charting a successful path to it can be daunting – even treacherous. Unlike their enterprise counterparts, missteps and mistakes have the potential to hit small businesses hard. And research shows that the failure rate for startups stands at 50% after 5 years, and 70% after 10.

The obstacles that small businesses face every day mean that employers need to think much more carefully about their business growth plan, and how to achieve it. It should go without saying that there’s no magic bullet for growth. Fundamentally, nothing is more important than your core products and services, your commitment, and the hard work you’re willing to put in… But, on the other hand, there are plenty of ways to tip the scales a little and boost your growth prospects in both the short and long term.

So, if your business is turning to the horizon, read these practical tips and strategies, each designed to accelerate business growth and expand your prospects into the future…

Understand customer needs and wants

While your small business might be fulfilling an important need in the here and now, and no matter how innovative and in-demand your current products and services, remember that your customers’ needs evolve constantly. The gap between your business and its growth goals might be a lack of understanding of your customers’ changing needs. The only way to address this obstacle is to develop an ongoing discourse. Think about customer surveys, market research, or even offering product samples. At the same time, it might be useful to attend industry events and conferences and subscribe to industry publications.

Look for support and incentives

Don’t assume you need to stubbornly forge ahead alone to achieve growth. There’s support out there for small businesses in the form of funding, advice, and information. All of which could represent a stepping stone to the next stage of your growth plan. Finding and accessing this kind of support is just a question of legwork. Initiatives and programmes can be accessed from government and private sources, and involve direct financial support, tax relief, R&D grants, investment meetups, and more.

Recruit for business growth

When your small business first steps out on the commercial landscape, it’s very likely you’ll have finely-tuned your infrastructure. And have a staff to meet the specific commercial demands of your environment. As the prospect of growth approaches, however, you’ll not only need to expand that infrastructure but put employees in place to handle the increased burden.

The capabilities of your employees are directly connected to your growth prospects. You’ll need to bring in an expanded set of knowledge, skills, and personalities to facilitate growth, and build the foundations for long-term success. Don’t fixate on your core products. While you’ll obviously want talented employees to serve your industry needs, you’ll also need to think about your internal administrative needs like payroll, HR, accounting, and so on.

Professional development options

While increasing your employee population may facilitate growth, your existing employees also have a part to play. Their experience and expertise will help you field the increased demands for growth, and serve as the backbone of your company’s future success. From a practical perspective, you’ll need to ensure your employees receive the kind of professional development they need. You can do this by arranging industry training courses and qualifications. More than just a way to equip employees for growth, the professional development also serves to show your employees that they are valued, and retain their talent over the long term.

Choose and set goals

Setting goals for your business is a way to both stimulate and measure growth. Goals can be calibrated for the short and long term. And don’t necessarily need to be achievable although they should obviously be realistic. Practically, your goals should range from the ambitious to the trivial. And involve anything from hitting a certain sales target, to achieving a higher number of social media subscribers.

The goals you choose should be designed to push employees, drive morale, and essentially create a useful growth roadmap. Importantly, by setting and pursuing your goals (whether or not you achieve them) you’ll bring a focus to your employees which inevitably strengthens your business.

Update your tech

While it’s simply good practice to keep a close eye on the software and technology your business uses (for security and data protection purposes) if you’re looking at boosting growth it might be time to change platforms altogether. Beyond the utility of serving an expanded customer base, you’ll also need to think about how your IT infrastructure serves your administrative needs. An increased payroll burden, for example, could eat into employee time and resources every month. By shelling out for the cost of superior payroll software you could be adding efficiency and compliance for a relatively small outlay.

Make sure your technology tools suit the current and future demands that growth will place upon your business.

Outsourcing possibilities

When small businesses grow, it’s easy to forget that internal administrative processes must scale alongside the delivery of core products and services. Essentially, this means focusing on behind-the-scenes functions, like payroll and HR – both of which are a crucial part of the machinery which keeps your business running smoothly.

While scaling might involve recruiting new employees, or introducing new technology, it’s definitely worth considering the possibility of outsourcing those processes to a service provider. A payroll provider, for example, not only offers pre-packaged compliance expertise but may be able to tailor a service package to scale up and down as your business needs change.

Communicate with your customers

Business growth tends to go hand in hand with your public profile, and a greater level of brand recognition. With that change in status, the way you engage with customers, and potential customers, should also change – especially if you want to sustain business growth in the future. Practically, this might mean thinking a little more carefully about your advertising and publicity strategy. Or even employing a PR organization to game plan your approach.

Social media should also be a priority. Consider which social media platform suits your business and its customer base. If your business ships physical products, a visually-focused platform like Instagram is going to work a lot better than the more services-friendly LinkedIn, for example. It may also be worth employing a social media officer to handle customer engagement across your various platforms. He can also be addressing customer inquiries and complaints.

International possibilities

The modern business landscape is international, and your organization’s growth doesn’t have to be limited to your domestic location. Look across borders for growth possibilities. While you’ll need to conduct sufficient market research in your new location, with a robust communication infrastructure, and an effective global mobility plan, international expansion may be more achievable than you think.

There are plenty of strategies which can help your international growth prospects. Consider outsourcing certain specialized processes like payroll and HR. Service providers can help with local compliance requirements and other challenges like the language barrier.

Partner up

Partnerships are a useful way of consolidating on growth ambitions. Finding a partner to complement your products and services is an opportunity to improve the quality you offer, and reach a wider audience. Partnerships should be advantageous for both parties’ growth prospects. So you’ll need to consider who to enter into a relationship with to ensure a mutual benefit. There are plenty of opportunities to think outside the box here. From traditional business relationships to disruptive mobile and crowd-sourced technologies like Uber or Just Eat.

Conclusion: An Ongoing Process

While growth tips and strategies are important, don’t expect them to work in isolation. It’s crucial that they are implemented as part of an overarching plan if your business is to see long-term success. Practically, this means connecting and coordinating the steps you take towards growth. Identifying and hiring new employees, for example, should complement the training and development of existing personnel. Similarly, access to R&D funding may free up financial resources to engage a payroll service provider, who can help you handle the increased administrative burden of taking on more staff – and so on.

Finally, don’t view growth itself as a goal. Your business growth plan should be part of an ongoing process that continues to serve your business in the future. Planning ahead means anticipating a range of scenarios and outcomes, studying market trends, and being ready to adapt when the time comes. Like all things in business, growth is a reward for focus, ambition, and hard work.

Graham McKechnie
Graham McKechnie is Global Tax Director for activpayroll.com. Holding over twenty years of experience in both public and private sector roles, Graham's career includes time at HMRC, the Royal Bank of Scotland, PWC, and Deloitte. Now working with international employee populations in a variety of locations, Graham delivers global tax and payroll solutions and provides insight and advice on a wide range of compliance issues.
Graham McKechnie

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