In this blog series, we explore the worries that hinder the world of high-growth and the concerns that entrepreneurs and business leaders share. David Staveley, CFPro consultant and leading industry and growth expert, shares his own anecdotes and insight on conquering concerns, overcoming stress and building a business that sees long-term growth and a happy team.
Quite often, the notion of building something new appears far simpler than it may seem, and the global economy is fraught with businesses and product ideas that were great while they lasted, but soon gathered dust, and eventually fell off the proverbial shelf. Building a business which is constantly agile, constantly evolving and, most of all, constantly delivering to an ever-changing market is not what it used to be. As demand increases for a faster, easier, often cheaper deliverable, so too is the demand operationally on a business to satisfy. So, while getting started is one hurdle to overcome, sustaining a long-term, consistent growth pattern is even more critical.
And if you’re faced with a “what now” notion, where you know it’s time for change but you’re not quite sure how to get there, you may even be asking yourself the following questions:
- My growth strategy is so much more different to when I started. I’m not quite sure how to adapt.
- I know I need to change my plan, but how do I do this without upsetting the team?
- How do I know whether I will be relevant in the long run?
- What if there’s no longer a demand for what my business does?
“While you’re gaining new traction, remember to hold on to existing, worthwhile customers. It costs you time and energy to gain new customers so look after the ones you have. There may be some existing customers that seem to cost you more to service than you make out of them, but have you tried tailoring your service and pricing so that you do make money out of them before tossing them in the can?
Growth can come from expanding the customer base or your offering, however be focussed in what you do. Generally you will look after key customers and offer them what they need and anticipate what they are likely to want over the next year or so. You can do this by your team listening to several key players in the customer’s business, rather than just a single contact. When we dealt with Walmart in the USA – one of our best and most profitable customers – we had 5 or 6 of our team n different functions talking to 5 or 6 of theirs in corresponding roles. Thereby we were an integral part of their set-up. Differentiate your offering from your competitors and make sure the customer is aware of the advantages you offer. Mature businesses will be in greater need of extension of their offering but new businesses are often better to focus on their existing key products or services.
Listening is key – I enjoy a Sunday pub lunch in the country, but how do you choose where to go as pubs are closing all the time? How many of those close because they are simply not listening to their customers, reflected in the TripAdvisor reviews of poor or rude service – leading to customers who will never return? Ensure that all you team are taught to listen remembering the old adage that you have two ears and one mouth so use them in that ratio.
You also need to listen within your organisation. If you have a truly collaborative team, employees will come up with ideas for improvements as well as new services or products. Involvement can become a strong motivational factor so don’t let a few suggestions for impractical or unrealistic ideas put you off listening to others. If your organisation is too large for you to make all the connections yourself, make sure that your reports buy into the need to listen to their people. In Canada where we worked across 4 time zones, I sometimes took after hours calls from customers. Although some had hoped to just make a brief call leaving their order on the voicemail, others were happy to talk about their business to the man at the top and even increased their orders!
What role does product development play in your business? Who is involved? I have always sat in on product development reviews of businesses that I have run. You should have a valuable input and frankly, if you don’t, are you sure you are in the right business?
Geographical expansion is always a possibility but make sure you are aware of what your new target market wants, is willing to pay and what it will cost to serve before you take the leap. You might be expanding from one part of the UK to the whole nation or from the UK overseas. How many successful UK companies determine their first steps overseas should be to Australia and South Africa. There may be a common language but not a common culture and even post Brexit, expansion into the major European economies will probably be easier and more profitable.
Growth comes from doing what you do more efficiently as well as finding new products, services, customers, territories and markets. Evolution is generally better than revolution. However there are times when the market or competitors move faster than you anticipated and you need a radical rethink to your approach and need to write a new business plan rather than just modify the existing one.
If you want to know more about how CFPro can help you build your business towards a successful future, get in touch with us today.