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How to grow your business

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As we go from £100,000 to £1m to £10m turnover, so the demands on the business owners change, as do the rewards. The impact is both financial and personal, in every sense.

On the one hand, if it were that easy, everyone would be growing a business. On the other hand, there are paths and routes that expert business growers can share with you to make your growth more inevitable and less painful.

Rather than bore everyone stupid with senseless business-school mumbo jumbo, I want to outline how some businesses have followed the path and grown their business. This is not a one-size-fits-all recipe; more a reflection on recent business growth success stories that I’ve witnessed.

The owner-managed business is a complex beast, but at the core of any business has to be some basic simplicity. As I have said elsewhere, most great businesses are simple, obvious and remarkable.

At the heart of any business is the board or decision-making structure – it is, in effect, the “business brain” (and we all know what happens to a body if the brain isn’t working properly!). Our experience is that most business brains are under unnecessary stress.

Here is a “quick ‘n’ dirty” roll call of some of the areas that you need to work on in order to grow your business even in these difficult economic times.

Put an effectively driven board at the centre of the business

The board should be the central structure of the business, clearly defining the future direction and taking the tough decisions. The structure of the board (and its processes) must enable:

  1. Effective, swift decision-making (because you are clear about what you are trying to achieve); and
  2. Action to take place and for individuals to be responsible and accountable for the activity.

Without such simple ground rules, the board is no more than a vacuous talking shop.

Don’t think profit is the only definition of success; bigger is not always better

Most business founders fall into the trap of believing that business growth = high profits = success. Wrong! You can run the best (rather than the biggest) if that is what you want. But it is you that decides what race you are running.

Respond rapidly to changes in the outside environment

Change and risk go hand in hand and you need to make decisions while being acutely aware of how your outside world is changing. Changes in customers, customer needs and tastes, markets, competitors, the industry are very real. Changes in government, political, economic, social, technological, legislative and environmental situations also impact massively.

Putting up prices is usually a good thing

You lose your less desirable, customers, you lose those buying solely on price and you send a very clear message to the market that you are selling on quality not price.

Opportunities abound

Very often we just can’t see them that way. Too much “business as usual’”makes you lower the radar and miss the potential.

Follow a simple formula: talk – research – decide – act – review

Repeat quickly and with massive energy and enthusiasm.

Robert Craven spent five years running training and consultancy programmes for entrepreneurial businesses at Warwick Business School. He now runs The Directors’ Centre and is described by the Financial Times as “the entrepreneurship guru”. 

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