Here are five key insights into what small business leaders can learn from large corporates to grow their brand:
(1) Work on your business as much as you do in your business
If you manage your own business, it’s very easy to get bogged down in the day to day running and operation, and forget the bigger picture. SMEs often spend time managing – or sometimes firefighting – their business, and the longer term vision and strategy is neglected, or at worst, has never been set.
It’s important to be clear on your long-term vision, i.e. where you want to be in five years’ time, and how you plan to get there. A lack of long-term vision is akin to driving without a destination – you’re just wandering aimlessly avoiding pot-holes.
Set time aside to check that your business is heading in the right direction. And if it isn’t, take action to steer your business back on track. Great leaders in the corporate world make sure they spend time out of the business to understand how to develop and drive things forward.
(2) Have a business plan, and refer to it!
Most SME’s start out with a business plan, but often it can be a paper exercise that is written up once and never looked at afterwards. Whether you put together a plan to secure funding or a loan, it’s vital that your business plan is a living and breathing document that helps you develop your business.
A business plan details the shorter term actions to achieve the longer term strategy, therefore it should be done on a yearly basis, and ideally checked in with monthly.
It’s tempting to see this as a frivolous admin exercise, particularly when you’re being pulled in other directions, or when things are going well and you’re busy. However, a business plan should act as a blueprint to guide you in the good times, as well as the bad.
(3) It’s not all about the revenue
Numbers have their place, but they’re not the be-all and end-all of any business. It’s tempting during the good times of healthy revenue to assume that things will continue this way. However, it’s important to observe where the business is coming from, and base your ongoing strategy and tactics on this.
For example, is your business seasonal, or largely governed by national events? If so, what is your plan to address an off-season slump in sales? Big corporates don’t just ride the wave of high revenues, they plan ahead for future shortfalls and continue to work on developing the business.
Equally, some SME’s fall into the trap of being busy just being busy, and don’t check that their numbers are on track for what they predicted. So in short, look at the numbers, but remember that they don’t tell the whole story.
(4) Don’t neglect the business development
In times of plenty, businesses forget about the pipeline, but it’s imperative that you keep doing whatever is bringing in the business.Whether it’s networking, PR, or marketing, don’t stop your new business activity just because business is booming. For SMEs in the UK, it can be feast or famine, so don’t let your pipeline dry up.
Also, take time to look at the market beyond your business. Who are your competitors? What are the risks your business faces? These aren’t just questions you ask when setting up your business, they’re key to your business development (and protection) and should be revisited regularly.
(5) Don’t be afraid to ask for help
They say it’s lonely at the top, and this is especially the case for SME leaders who don’t have the luxury of a board to bounce ideas around. Even if you have partners, you’re all so close to the business it’s often difficult to think outside the box. So it’s important to look beyond the business for support.
Whether it’s professional coaching, a business mentor or a networking group, take the time to seek advice from outside your business to help you take your business to the next level. After all, it’s not for nothing that some of the biggest corporates have engaged the services of mentors and coaches. You and your business deserve the chance to develop into a great success, so think big in order to give it the best chance.
Amanda Cullen is an executive coach who runs Coaching with Amanda and is an author with over thirty years’ experience advising some of the top business leaders.
Meanwhile, as industries entrenched in out-dated businesses practices begin to experience a sea change, the financial services space – and banks in particular – could pick up a tip or two from the mother of all disruptors, Amazon.
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