Here are five non-digital tips for growing your business.
1. Stay true to your values
Clients and consumers want to do business with companies whose values they can respect and share in. Work out early what your company’s values are and make sure they underpin everything you do. This includes being prepared to turn business away if you are not 100 per cent certain you can deliver the deal.
Refusing business may seem like madness for a growing company but why compromise your values for the sake of a quick buck? Repeat business and recommendations are real drivers of growth but they come through staying true to your values and remembering that you are only as good as your last deal.
2. Reinvent sectors with a poor reputation
Identifying new areas of growth can be tricky, however, existing sectors such as estate agencies and payday loans are crying out for a fresh approach. Introducing a radically different business model that delivers what customers want is key. We launched Astus in 2003 when media barter had a “dodgy” image because the way it was done left many advertisers out of pocket. We changed the business model to deliver the advertiser’s side of the deal before taking payment. This removed the risk for them and so persuaded some to give our approach a chance. Changing perceptions of a sector involves rebuilding trust one deal at a time but it is possible to do.
3. Hire and keep the best people
Staff costs will be one of your biggest overheads so it’s important that your staff are also great ambassadors for your brand. This means ensuring they really buy into your company ethos and bring it to life in the way they deal with clients and each other. It’s easy to get hung up on filling particular roles but don’t rush as you will make compromises – getting rid of people is time-consuming and distracting when you need to be focused on growing your business.
4. Look at smart ways to protect cash flow
Managing cash flow means being prepared to think laterally about making best use of your existing inventory and assets. It’s worth considering whether you can barter your company’s products or services for other goods and services you may need. Media barter is a form of barter which allows companies to use their own goods and services to part-fund ad campaigns without having to pay 100 per cent in cash. Because companies can transfer the margins on the goods and services to the media space/airtime they need, it costs them less than if they had paid for it all in cash.
5. How to survive and thrive without VC investment
Be clear about whether your business model needs outside investment or not – ours did and it was raised by the start-up team and one private investor. Managing without external funding entails obsessively focussing on budgeting and profitability. It’s key not to spend what you haven’t earned – this includes paying yourself a salary. Learn new skills such as accounting or coding so you can fulfil these tasks in-house. You also need patience: if you’re going to fail, you’ll do so quicker without private investment. Conversely it will take you longer to grow and to hire a top team, but once you do, you will be in charge, not your investors.
Frances Dickens is chief executive and co-founder of media barter company Astus Group.
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