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How to build a dashboard to drive your business forward

July 06, 2015 by Guest contributor

Dashboard{{}}When you are running a business, most of the time you are focused on three things: getting more customers; increasing sales; and earning more profit. So when, for example, sales are not really happening, I find at The London Coaching Group that most business owners start "reacting" and implementing activity to get more customers. "Let's run an email campaign", or maybe "Let's do some SEO" or "Let's get on the phone and call some customers."

A lot of random approaches start creeping in to their marketing activity – and it starts to get messy. What needs to be understood here is that these three things are important, but at the time of setting goals – when you are clarifying and planning the destination for your business.

From a day-to-day and marketing point of view, however, these are not what you should be focusing on. The really important considerations are the items that lead to these outcomes. "Of course" most people say, but I assure you, most businesses do not focus on the right variables on a weekly basis.

The main thing you need to get into the habit of is measuring and managing the Five Levers that lead to these outcomes:

  • Number of enquiries
  • Conversion rate
  • Number of transactions
  • Average sale value
  • Margin.

You can download a one-page PDF of these Five Levers of growth here, with an explanation of each one. You should print this out and stick it up on your wall to constantly remind you of where your focus should be.

But the real key to managing these figures is to ensure you have a weekly business dashboard where you are gathering and monitoring these important stats. There are two main reasons that I believe almost every business owner should have a weekly business dashboard:

  1. It allows you to have a weekly overview of the measurements that matter in your business, and lets you catch any problems before they become catastrophic.
  2. If and when you get a business coach, business mentor or investors to take a look at your business, having this habit in place will ensure they can get a quick and meaningful look at the business's performance. This will allow them to help you identify what is and is not working, where you should be focused, and the areas where you can improve in order to get better and faster results.

If you do not have a weekly business dashboard, then the truth is that you are not staying on top of what is happening in your business. This may be ok, because your business is operating fine right now, but as soon as something is not operating properly, instead of catching it at the start, it could become a major problem before you even know it is happening.

Here are a few of the must-have elements on your weekly business dashboard:

  • Revenue
  • Gross margin percentage or "ratio" (gross profit divided by net sales)
  • Orders taken
  • Average value sale (revenue divided by orders)
  • Leads generated
  • Cash in bank
  • Debtor amount (the amount of money owed to you)
  • Creditor amount (the amount of money that you owe)

You will notice that this list does not include things such as conversion rates, which lend a deeper, richer analysis. That is because the weekly dashboard is not intended for that, you should be using those in your monthly dashboard. On a weekly basis, you want to review these eight pieces to get a quick overview of what is happening, and ensure you are on track.

Ideally, you should be measuring these against targets, which you should determine at the beginning of the year, or the quarter, as a part of your strategic planning. Creating a weekly dashboard is one of the first exercises I do with new business coaching clients. Not once have I had a business come back to me and tell me that keeping that dashboard maintained was a waste of time.

On the contrary, I have had multiple clients that have come back to me years later to let me know that they still use their weekly dashboard, as it really is the perfect way to keep on top of their business.

With the coming of age of a few businesses dashboard specialist companies, which allow data in businesses to be measured and reported event on a real-time basis, there is really no excuse today to not have a dashboard in your business.

Copyright © 2015 Shweta Jhajharia, principal coach and founder at The London Coaching Group. Follow her on Twitter.

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Four ways to make your small business look bigger

June 25, 2015 by Guest contributor

Four ways to make your small business look bigger{{}}Whether you currently run your business from your home or even your local coffee shop, all businesses must start somewhere. Giving the impression that your business is larger than it actually is could help you reach more customers and compete with the big players in your market. These four tips could help you to do just that...

1 Get online

Some 90% of the UK's population are active online, yet, surprisingly, 45% of SMEs in the UK still do not have a website. When a potential customer hears about your business the first thing they will do is search online, so it is important to have an online presence. Having a website will give your business the opportunity to reach more people and can include features such as giving visitors the option to sign up to your newsletter. When designing your website think about where you want your business to be in the future and not where it is at the moment. Just because you are a small business doesn't mean your website can't make a big impression.

2 Be smartphone savvy

With Google's mobile-friendly update having just rolled out it has never been more crucial to have a mobile-optimised website. Some 80% of internet users own a smartphone, but almost half of SMEs have a website that is not optimised for smartphones. Websites optimised for smartphones are designed to fit all screen sizes from iPhones to Androids. When designing your website, be aware that smartphone websites are generally much simpler than regular websites, so simplify and then simplify again.

3 Use a Skype number

Small-business owners often find that they are on the go a lot, whether it is meeting a client or travelling to a training course. You may think that it makes sense to use your mobile number as your main point of contact, however, using a landline number instead gives the impression that you are based in an office and thus own a larger company. An easy way to get around this problem is to have a Skype number. For a small fee you can have a country and area code of your choice and you can answer all calls via your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

4 Be more social

Social media provides brands with a free outlet to communicate and engage with potential customers. All big brands are expected to be active on the main social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Depending on your industry, you may want to make other social channels a priority. For example, if you work in photography, visual platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest could be the most beneficial. Aim to post several times a day and make your business an interesting one to follow by asking questions, providing tips and interacting with your followers.

Copyright © 2015 SJD Accountancy

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How to fund your business growth ambitions

June 17, 2015 by Guest contributor

How to fund your business growth ambitions{{}}Whether you become a sole trader (ie are self-employed) or set up a partnership or limited company, starting your own business is relatively simple, quick and inexpensive, which partly explains why so many people continue to do it. Last year, a record-breaking 581,173 new businesses were registered at Companies House. Per capita, more new businesses are started in the UK than in the USA.

However, the survival rate for new businesses remains low. About half of all new UK businesses fail within three years and 90% are gone within 10 years. And only 4% of start-ups achieve a million-pound turnover after three years. For those who survive the three-year test, achieving significant growth remains a huge challenge, with many small firms staying more or less a similar size.

Why do small firms fail to grow?

Some small businesses are restricted by business models that can't be scaled, while others are run by people who simply don't have the know-how, experience, drive, vision or leadership skills to grow a business. Some businesses fail to attract the right people or find the right strategic partners to enable growth.

For most businesses, organic growth by reinvesting profits will only take you so far, usually at a much slower pace. Without doubt another reason why some small businesses fail to grow is lack of funding.

If you really want to take your business to new heights, external investment or funding can unlock the door. I co-founded ezbob in 2012 and since then funding from institutional investors and the UK government-supported Angel CoFund has enabled us to grow our business so that, alongside our sister company, Everline, we've now provided more than 6,000 business loans and lent more than £60m to fellow UK small businesses.

Business growth funding options

Business angel or private equity investment might not be available or preferable (not everyone wants to concede ownership or control in exchange for investment). Grants from public sector organisations exist, but they're few and far between.

You might think you could turn to your bank for a loan to help fund your growth ambitions, but there are no guarantees your application will be approved. That's partly why 'alternative sources' (ie not from banks) now supply 25% of lending to UK SMEs, according to an FT.com report in February, which also said that many smaller businesses are discouraged from applying for bank loans as a result of previous rejections or the cost implications.

The most suitable business growth funding option for you will be determined by how much money you need, when you need it, your turnover, whether you're prepared to put up any assets as security or concede any ownership or control. These are all key considerations.

Trying to grow a business inevitably involves some risk and it takes time and a lot of hard work, but the results can make it worthwhile. Above all, you need to ensure you get the funding you need to match your circumstances and ambition.

Copyright © 2015 Tomer Guriel, co-founder and CEO of ezbob. Follow ezbob on Twitter.

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Make start-up growth easy with six simple tips

May 18, 2015 by Guest contributor

Make start-up growth easy with six simple tips{{}}You have an awesome product, but now it's time to scale. Other than word of mouth, how are you planning on bringing users to your product? If your answer is 'I don't know' or 'the subscribers' list' you might be in trouble. But don't fret; these quick tips that many start-ups ignore will help boost your growth without taking too much time out of your busy day.

  1. Get listed: There are numerous start-up listing websites that will help you build up backlinks – the main currency of search engines. Once you have backlinks, the Internet will do a lot of the work for you.
  2. Get press: If your product fills a niche or serves an industry, find the trade news sites and submit press releases to coincide with new features or products. This is a great way to build awareness and gain legitimacy for your product.
  3. Get social: There are a number of growth-building Twitter apps such as Crowdfire and Twitfox that will favorite tweets by people who are tweeting about things you like and bring them to your page. Make connections and grow together.
  4. Get creative: In a world where content is king, you need to start a blog and write content your users want to see and share. It doesn't have to relate directly to your business, but it must resonate with your customers. Feel free to think outside the box.
  5. Get friends: When you're creating content, be sure to “shout out” the products and people that you like. Nothing makes someone want to share your product more than you sharing theirs.
  6. Get smart: Use analytic tools such as CrazyEgg (creates a click heat map), Google Analytics, and live help software in order to learn from your audience. This will help you provide better customer service while also improving your user interface.

These may sound simple, but working at a company that lists web apps, you'd be surprised at how many of the start-ups we work with that fail to abide by these maxims. If you follow them, the customers will come.

Copyright © 2015 John Ray of web app marketplace Crozdesk. If you have a web app and would like the get listed on the site visit this page. Follow them on twitter @crozdesk.

Should the focus be on ‘scale-ups’ rather than start-ups?

December 01, 2014 by Mark Williams

Should the focus be on ‘scale-ups’ rather than start-ups?{{}}A new report commissioned by the Information Economy Council (a joint initiative between the Government and the private sector) argues that resources should be focused on helping “scale-ups”, because this could “contribute a million new jobs and an additional £1 trillion to UK economic growth by 2034”. The report defines scale-ups are enterprises [with 10 or more employees] that have “average annualised growth in employees or turnover greater than 20 per cent a year over a three-year period”.

Significant growth

The scale-up report on UK economic growth was written by Canadian-born but UK-based serial entrepreneur and investor Sherry Coutu, who sits on the boards of the London Stock Exchange, Zoopla, LinkedIn and others. In the foreword she says: “If we take action now to focus on ‘scale-ups’, we will secure significant growth in jobs, taxes and wealth, and the competitive advantage of Britain for generations to come.

“This report explains how a boost of just one per cent to our scale-up population should drive an additional 238,000 jobs and £38bn to GVA [ie gross value added – a measure of economic output] within three years. In the medium-term, assuming we address the skills gap, we stand to benefit by £96bn per annum and in the long-run, we stand to gain 150,000 net jobs and £225bn additional GVA by 2034.”

She adds: “With the supportive government policies, industry structure, geographic placement and talent supply we enjoy in the UK, we [can] create unrivalled national competitive advantage by increasing the proportion of companies that scale-up.”

Big disappointment

As Coutu explains, although more new businesses per capita are started in the UK than even in the USA, few scale-up into large companies, with Britain (0.5%) having a lower proportion of larger businesses (ie 250-plus employees) than the USA (0.7%) and many other nations.

In 2013 in the UK, according to Government-endorsed entrepreneurial campaign group Start Up Britain: “526,446 businesses were registered with Companies House, beating the 484,224 businesses recorded in 2012 and 440,600 in 2011.” But, about half of all new businesses fail within three years and most (90%) are gone within 10 years; only 4% of start-ups achieve a million-pound turnover after three years.

According to Coutu, high-growth, scale-up companies “contribute a disproportionate amount of jobs and growth to the economy, so closing this ‘scale-up gap’ is the most effective thing government, business and academia can do to drive economic growth.”

Analysis by RBS has found that closing the ‘scale-up gap’ could create 238,000 more jobs and £38bn in additional annual turnover in the UK within three years, while (innovation charity) Nesta estimates it could “be worth up to £96bn per annum to UK economic output”. Professional services heavyweight Deloitte says implementing the report’s recommendations could deliver a potential £225bn in additional GVA and 150,000 net new jobs over the next 20 years.

More ambitious challenge

“Britain’s start-up community is flying,” Coutu comments. “The next stage of creating wealth, prosperity and jobs will come from focusing on scale-ups. We have the chance to identify and support the companies that are already creating new jobs and help them further drive the UK economy. People often ask if the UK could be home to the next global success story, like a Google or Facebook. The answer is yes, but we need to be more effective at identifying the companies that have the greatest potential, and making sure they can find the most talented people and serve more customers, in more countries, more easily.”

She adds: “Getting our ecosystem to produce a greater number of scale-ups is more ambitious and challenging than producing a greater number of start-ups or celebrating entrepreneurs.”

Blog written by Start Up Donut editor and freelance SME content writer Mark Williams.

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Ten strategic imperatives for every business

November 03, 2014 by Guest contributor

10 strategic imperatives for every business{{}}There are 10 key strategic imperatives every business needs to understand if it’s to be successful.

1 Be clear

In all of your marketing material, emails and social media, clarity is the foundation of selling. Avoid jargon, speak in simple language and don't assume that your prospects have an encyclopedic knowledge of industry terms. Be concise; get to the point and be relevant. Speak in terms of the prospects’ needs.

2 Share where you're needed

To people who find your message relevant, you can be a godsend. They need you and they want what you're offering. To everyone else, you're spam. For example, if you're selling car wax, people who own luxury cars will probably be glad to hear from you. But those who drive cheap cars just to get to work probably don't spend a lot of time waxing them. Know your customers and where to find them.

3 Sell to buyers

The best sales people qualify their prospects and only sell to people who are ready to buy. This is more specific than just finding the right market. You're looking for people within that market who need precisely what you're offering.

4 Make realistic promises

Make promises that you can deliver on more often than not and...

5 Deliver on your promises

A business that delivers on its promises will thrive without having to spend millions on advertising. Playing it straight with your customers' expectations isn't just ethical – it's also profitable.

6 Document your methods of operation

This will allow you to find out what you're doing right so that you can keep doing it – and what you're doing wrong so that you can make changes where necessary. If you're not going to make the necessary changes – don't bother gathering data in the first place.

7 Grow in the right way

Growing as a small business doesn't mean opening additional premises you can't afford. Growing means improving profitability, for example, by exploring an untapped market or discontinuing unpopular products. When you think of growth, think strictly in terms of profit margins and customer satisfaction.

8 Keep the cash flowing

If your business is costing you more than it earns or if it's just breaking even, it's not a business, it's a hobby. Taking out a second business loan and maxing out your credit cards is not cashflow. Be realistic about how much you need to stay in the black and how you're going to keep that money coming in.

9 Bridge your gaps

Where are your shortcomings in terms of skill level, experience, customer service, marketing, etc? Spend some time thinking about what you could be doing better and how to improve on it. That could mean improving your knowledge when you have time or (if you can afford it) hiring someone who can bridge that gap for you while you get up to speed.

10 Plan your getaway

Successful entrepreneurs build something bigger than themselves. Building a business takes a lot of work; it can be both exhilarating and exhausting. Almost nobody has the energy to work for years without having a day off. So, one of your goals – and something that you should write into your business plan – is an opportunity to take some time to yourself. Whether your aim is a month-long vacation or selling the business, you need your business to be able to run without you.

Putting these imperatives to work

Whenever you're faced with a decision in your business, double-check the 10 points above. With enough experience and education, you'll absorb these imperatives. They'll become second nature. Until then, whenever you feel uncertain about a business decision, check back and make sure that your ideas are financially and strategically sound.

Copyright © 2014 William Buist. William Buist is the owner of Abelard Collaborative Consultancy and founder of the exclusive xTEN Club. He is also the author of At your fingertips and The little book of mentoring.

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Five top tips for business growth

October 13, 2014 by Guest contributor

My five top tips for business growth{{}}1 Create, create, create…

Never sit back and admire what you’ve achieved – always look forward to what’s next. Innovation is progress and progress leads to further success, so don’t put a lid on your ideas and goals – however successful your current business. Continually evolve your offering, responding to clients’ needs and aspirations to keep clear water between you and your competitors. Regularly step back to view your business from your customers’ perspective and always seek to exceed their expectations.

2 Don’t take no for an answer…

In the early days, cashflow was a major issue for us and we felt like we were hitting brick walls, one after the other, in our search for a bank to allow us BACS and direct debit capabilities. We knew we needed them for the development and scalability of the business and were determined not to give up. We finally found a bank to say ‘yes’ when all the advice around us urged caution. If you believe in something and know it’s right for you – stick to your guns.

3 Recruit on attitude, not aptitude…

Any business is only as good as the people in it, so you need to get your recruitment right. Recruit on attitude not qualifications on a piece of paper; have fun together; introduce a strong culture of reward and recognition; and – importantly – pay more to attract the very best.

4 Have the courage of your convictions…

When we started out in 2000, a time when outsourcing was seen as the preserve of larger businesses, we were considered to be bucking the trend by providing our service almost exclusively to start-ups and small firms. At that time, for larger businesses to even think about outsourcing their telephone answering function was virtually unheard of, so we faced many sceptics.

5 Communicate well and nurture relationships…

Listen to your clients, communicate well and think about what you need to do to reach new markets. Pre-empt. Don’t be afraid to be different. Stand out, so that it’s easier for prospects to make a choice. Get your name out there; get people talking about you and build fantastic relationships. Don’t just concentrate on new acquisitions; look after the ones you already have, too.

Copyright © 2014 Ed Reeves. Ed is co-founder and director of telephone answering specialist Moneypenny and sister product Penelope.

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Posted in Business planning | Tagged growth | 0 comments

Three reasons why you don't have a million pound business

September 29, 2014 by Guest contributor

Three reasons why you don't have a million pound business{{}}

Would you like your business to reach £1m turnover? Most business owners would answer yes, but 96% of them will fail. Only 4% of businesses reach £1m turnover.

Why so few? Well, it has a lot to do with how you started the business and what pillars you have in place to allow you to reach that level.

Having worked with hundreds of businesses over the past few years, I have discovered that there are some striking differences between the ‘micro’ business owner and the owner of a £1m enterprise:

1 Qualification

Starting a business requires no formal education or qualification. The process of going online and registering a new company is easy.

This ‘low bar’ to start also means that most people assume that what they know is likely to be enough. They then spend the entire first year bravely finding their footing and ‘learning to walk’.

The skills they develop at this early stage will influence their ability to break through the £1m mark later on.

2 The "complexity ceiling"

Most businesses hit a ceiling because the way they began means further improvement and growth is too complex for them to handle and pursue.

Effectively, the business becomes trapped in what is sometimes called the ‘Hindu Rate of Growth’ – an average growth rate of around 3% each year – just enough to keep pace with inflation.

To break through this ceiling, new systems need to be employed to allow for growth to happen, while at the same time managing the increasing complexity of the business. What allowed many entrepreneurs to run a successful small business simply cannot support larger, more complex teams and issues.

It is at times like this that it helps to have an outside party shine fresh light on your business processes.

3 The language of numbers

Every entrepreneur – ideally at the start-up stage – needs to become fluent in the language of business. This language is all about numbers; profit, sales, cashflow, receivables, assets, equity, ROI, average value sale, conversion rate – these are all numbers that the professional business person not just understands, but is also able to leverage for every business decision they make.

In marketing, sales, team management and leadership there are key metrics to measure, estimate and average to evaluate and justify decisions that will lead to sustainable growth.

If you want your business to break through the £1m threshold, review your techniques and decision-making processes now. Don’t wait until you hit the ceiling and get stuck.

Copyright © 2014 Shweta Jhajharia. Shweta is principal coach and founder of The London Coaching Group, which you can follow on Twitter.

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Seven key steps from freelancer to business owner

May 06, 2014 by Guest contributor

Seven key steps from freelancer to business owner/ 3D golden number 7{{}}The transition from being an independent freelancer to a business owner is a process of shifting responsibilities and needs. For me, moving from freelance copywriter to founder and MD of my own copywriting agency has been one of moving from one set of challenges to the next – and developing processes or recruiting people to meet those challenges.

As the business has grown we’ve increasingly moved from being reactive to proactive, and that has been crucial in ensuring the continuing success of the agency. I’d like to share with you seven proactive steps you need to take to move your business to the next level. Many of these are true not just for freelance copywriters moving into agency territory, but anyone making the shift from self-employed individual to business owner and boss.

1 Stop marketing yourself – market your business instead

To give clients the sense they’re dealing with a bona fide business rather than an individual, you need to market your business as such. Outline the core values of your business and shift from using ‘I’ in your promotional copy to ‘we’. Consciously create a brand image that leverages the strengths of your agency and sets it apart from the rest.

2 Start delegating

Once you’ve got staff, use them. There are only so many hours in the day, so to grow your business and focus on areas such as marketing, entrust certain activities to others. Once I’d taken on other copywriters, I found I spent most of my time being an editor. Later, I went on to recruit one of my senior writers to work full time as an editor, freeing me up work on expanding the business and developing processes to increase efficiency.

3 Get your cashflow in order

As a lone freelance writer you can weather the lulls and cut back on the groceries till that big client finally pays up. But if you’re employing other people (or even sub-contracting to other freelancers) you must have a much better handle on your cashflow. Nobody works just for praise and promises, and if you can’t afford to pay them, you may find that your business suddenly contracts again.

4 Invest more in marketing

Continued business growth requires an investment of time and money in marketing. You also need to develop a cohesive marketing strategy that will exploit your business strengths and conform to current market conditions. If you fail to market sufficiently or effectively, you may find you’ve got an excess of manpower and a shortage of work.

5 Set up and refine processes

To produce a consistent product, you need to have processes that ensure quality. This extends to everything from gauging client requirements and expectations to briefing writers, invoicing clients and dealing with problems that arise. Remember, delegating will give you the time to develop these processes.

6 Consider expanding into different areas

One of the key transitions from freelancer to business owner is to redefine your offering. Where once we focussed solely on providing writing and editing services, now we offer PR, consultation and training. The larger your business grows, the greater the possibilities.

7 Develop recruitment and training policies

As a freelancer you are in direct control of the quality of your output. As a business owner your staff now play a crucial role in maintaining that quality. Effective recruitment and training policies will go a long way keeping standards high. Your staff are now one of you key assets. Look after them!

Blog supplied by Derryck Strachan, MD of content marketing and copywriting agency Big Star Copywriting.

Further reading

Have you signed up for Growth Vouchers yet?

April 07, 2014 by Guest contributor

Have you signed up for government growth vouchers yet?{{}}At the beginning of the year, the government announced a 15-month, £30m small business growth scheme. Qualifying small businesses can register for up to £2,000 of funding support for:

  • finance and cashflow;
  • recruiting and developing staff;
  • improving leadership and management skills;
  • marketing, attracting and keeping customers;
  • making the most of digital technology.

Small businesses must match the government’s funding and those that are selected randomly must work with the Cabinet Office's Behavioural Insights Team, which has been tasked with finding out how the funding helps businesses that receive it. 

To qualify the small businesses must:

  • have 49 employees or fewer (including any employees of companies that own a stake in your business);
  • be registered in England;
  • have been trading for at least one year;
  • not have paid for business advice in the past three years;
  • be independent (ie no more than 25% is owned by other businesses or organisations).

The Prime Minister’s enterprise adviser, Lord Young, heads up the fund and principally it’s meant to help businesses conduct research before launching a new product or entering a new market. 

All services must be bought from approved advisers (there are more than 3,160 of them) through Enterprise Nation. As of 6 March 2014, Enterprise Nation reported that more than 1,400 businesses had applied for funding, and 598 vouchers had been allocated, with a value of more than £1m. Here’s the breakdown of the types of strategic advice small businesses have invested in so far:

  • 46% marketing, attracting and keeping customers;
  • 15% raising finance and managing cashflow;
  • 13% improving leadership and management skills;
  • 5% recruiting and developing staff;
  • 21% making the most of digital technology.

With the scheme due to run for 15 months, I’d advise small businesses to apply – but be aware that you have to pay fees upfront before reclaiming money from the government. Find out more about the scheme here

  • Blog provided by Scott Brown, accounting MD at Sable Group.

Further reading

Posted in Business planning | Tagged growth, Funding | 1 comment

How to achieve sustainable business growth

February 03, 2014 by Guest contributor

How to achieve sustainable business growth/Business lady inflates a red ball{{}}With the giant cogs of the British economy finally whirring back into life, many businesses may experience significant growth in 2014. However, for companies to achieve successful and sustainable growth, they must expand with maturity. Here are my top five tips on how to go about it.

1 Embrace change

When a company grows organically, you create certain processes and people can get stuck in their ways. You may also find that when people take responsibility for things naturally, or by necessity, this can lead to them becoming possessive over one particular part of the company.

It’s an age-old cliché but there is ‘no I in team’, and employees putting themselves in charge of certain things and then being unwilling to relinquish them could be very unhealthy for the company. Therefore, as you grow and start to hand over responsibilities correctly, it’s important that you…

2 Specialise

As processes grow, they often become more complex or require more detailed monitoring and management. For instance, in the case of officebroker.com these areas include the likes of pay-per-click advertising and database administration.

When we were smaller, these responsibilities were handled in an ‘all-hands-to-the-pumps’ type approach. However, to maintain their integrity and maximise their potential to influence service levels and revenue generation, boxing off these responsibilities into defined roles can be hugely beneficial. However, to specialise you need…

3 Trust

Specialising means handing over ownership and sometimes relinquishing the day-to-day knowledge that you gain from this interaction. This means you have to put trust in the person taking ownership. Sometimes this can be difficult, as you are very familiar and efficient in how you complete a task – but given the right support your successor will flourish and in many cases a fresh perspective can help to improve it. Nevertheless, for trust to be built you need to develop effective…

4 Communication

Growing companies are often built around a nucleus – be they the owners, investors or trusted employees. Stay mindful that those who were there on day one will often have a sense of ownership toward the company, built around their involvement and the part they have played in helping it grow.

As the company grows and new team members arrive, it’s important to understand that their connection and attitude may be different. To keep them engaged, communicate clearly and find the “currency” that works for them (eg financial rewards, success, acknowledgment). And finally…

5 Think forward

Change brings challenges, but similarly, challenges bring change and it’s all too easy to resist them, have knee-jerk responses or fall back into old habits when they present themselves. You need to keep thinking forward and give the changes and people delivering them every chance of success. That said, never lose sight of the past nor ignore what it has taught you.

Blog supplied by for Liz Yorke, Director of Global Operations at officebroker.com.

Why you need to focus on your intangible assets if you want to grow in the upturn

January 29, 2014 by Guest contributor

Why you need to focus on your intangible assets if you want to grow in the upturn/Business man pointing at green bar chart{{}}As the recovery begins, it's a sobering thought that because they have become reconditioned by a common ‘batten-down-the-hatches’ approach to recession, few companies are likely to be engineered for growth. The repercussions could be fatal.

The danger is no longer 'boom and bust' - but ‘boom and rust’. Proactive organisations will grow, but more pedestrian businesses risk stumbling into terminal decline. There is the real possibility that if business owners/managers remain in a risk-averse mindset, they will preside over organisational paralysis that not only prevents growth, but also allows competitors to seize market share.

After five years of surviving it's an understandable response, but it leads to an uncomfortable truth – many UK businesses have forgotten how to grow.

So, as the 'green shoots' of recovery begin to take root, what should businesses be doing to reinvigorate themselves and create a platform for growth? Experience suggests that many will be doing the very thing they should most avoid – focus solely on profit.

The alternative approach will send chills down the spines of accountants the world over, no doubt, and it may appear to defy common business logic, but the best advice for business owners seeking growth through the upturn is don't just focus on profit.

There are tried-and-tested ways to keep your business small and stressful and the most common is to obsess about profit as the markets recover and hold on too tightly to the P&L. This approach will prevent you from creating the headspace required to innovate and grow. You may well stay profitable, but you'll also stay small.

Fundamental shift

In the longer-term, the most successful businesses will facilitate a fundamental shift from a focus on profit to a focus on 'multiple'. They'll look at the long-term value of their business and switch attention from the P&L to the balance sheet. And crucially, they'll shift their focus from income to assets. After all, income follows assets.

As well as traditional 'balance sheet' assets, there are ‘intangible assets’. And the key to long-term growth - and driving the value and multiple in a business - is to focus on the intangibles.

Intangible assets generally boil down to culture, talent and systems. They're the people and processes that drive equity value and combine to form your intellectual property. The challenge is to structure your business culturally and organisationally so that it drives value, grows sustainable revenue streams and supports your long-term ambitions. Creating and building upon the right cultural platform to empower staff to deliver these common objectives - leaving senior management free to plan for tomorrow - is critical.

Catalyst for growth

The economic upturn should present a clear catalyst for growth - but business owners must not allow their desire for short-term profit to dictate caution about long-term planning and investment. Now is not the time for 'logical' product innovation and extension based on understanding today's marketplace – taking baby steps will only keep you small. Today's green shoots represent the ‘teenage years’ - and to exploit them, businesses need bold innovations if they are to capture whole new markets and appetites.

To progress, owners should consider pursuing an asset-based strategy. The challenge is to understand the ‘rocket juice’ in your business – the core intellectual property that powers your current product and channel. Once you identify it, you'll be well placed to innovate into radical new product areas and channels that are more lucrative and less competitive.

The most successful companies at this point in the economic cycle will always be outwardly-focused - and they will look for partners that can help stretch and stimulate their thinking. Business coaching can provide an independent perspective on how companies can invigorate their core intangible assets to drive value, increase their multiple and stimulate sustainable growth.

The most common way to keep your business small and stressful is to focus obsessively on profit. But there are also innovative ways to engineer growth and the best is to concentrate on intangible assets, and to work with a partner that can help to revitalise your company and create new platforms for growth. After years of austerity, UK businesses may well have forgotten how to grow, but they need to get their memory back - and quick.

Blog supplied by John Rosling, CEO of business growth consultancy Shirlaws (UK) Ltd.

Tristram Mayhew of Go Ape's eight top tips for business success

May 31, 2013 by Guest contributor

Go Ape’s eight top tips for business success{{}}Tristram Mayhew, “Chief Gorilla” at popular forest-based leisure adventure attraction Go Ape, provides his eight top tips on how to be a successful ‘On-tree-preneur’.

1 Find a business opportunity that you enjoy

If you do something you actually love, you're more likely to be successful at it. It will be fun rather than just work and your natural passion and enthusiasm will rub off on those around you. That can make all the difference.

2 Read

Starting a business is probably the single most risky financial adventure you are ever likely to make. You can minimise the risk of failure by learning from the wisdom of those who have gone before you. There is a library full of great tips and advice that, for just a few pounds, might save you tens of thousands of pounds. One book that I recommend is Guy Rigby's From Vision to Exit.

3 Study

Once you have got through the start-up phase, if you want your business to really take off you need to give it some rocket fuel. I put Go Ape through Cranfield School of Management's 'Business Growth and Development Program' (BGDP). It takes four weekends over eight weeks and is only for owner-managers. It is a potent mix of practical theory and case studies, which you then apply to your own business. The 30 or so other owner-managers on the course work on your business with you, and you on theirs, their advice and experience was invaluable. The BGPD was worth every penny. It was the point when Go Ape grew up from being a good idea into a great business. Our growth and profitability took off after that.

4 Plan

If you know where you're going, you're more likely to get there. So come up with a plan for your business. Be bold. Go for some big, hairy goals. It needs to inspire your team and your customers, and ideally put fear into your competitors. It should set out your vision, mission and tactical plan. Once you have worked out where you want to go, ask yourself what you have to do for that to happen. This will become your 'to-do' list.

5 Delegate and empower

If you are to manage rapid growth successfully, you must bring on a great team. You can't do it all. Unless you can make yourself redundant, you won't have a business that can truly grow, nor will you have a business that you can sell. Encourage your team to take entrepreneurial risks. Don't punish them if they make mistakes, but praise them for trying. If you recruit good people, when you drop them into the deep end, most will swim rather than sink.

6 Become a strategist

One of the main lessons from Cranfield is that you have to stop being the 'Hero' (ie someone who makes all the decisions in your business), because this limits your businesses growth potential. You need to become a 'strategist' and work on the business not in it. Your job is not to do the heavy work, but to look ahead and guide your business around obstacles, coaching, encouraging and motivating your team as you go.

7 Network

Running your own business can be quite lonely. Getting to know other people who are in the same boat can be a great source of encouragement and advice. There are lots of clubs and social events for entrepreneurs, so try out a few and make the most of the advice and support on offer.

8 Enter business awards

If you are aiming high and want to be the best, why not enter some business awards? Entering the National Business Awards is a great test to put your business through. The Application process makes you take a long cool look at your whole business. Whether you win or not you get feedback on how well your business scored in a number of key areas, which helps you target improvement. If you do win it's a terrific morale boost for your team, and also introduces you to a stellar network of useful contacts and leading entrepreneurs. Entrants for the 2013 National business Awards need to be submitted before 31st May.

Plan for growth in your business

January 28, 2010 by Peter Gradwell

If your business is to continue to expand and grow, then plans need to be put in place for that growth potential to occur right from the start.  If you make a smart choice when you set up your business Internet services, then you’ll have faith in its capacity to expand as your business grows.  But if you don’t choose right first time, you may end up paying the price when you need to shell out to cover the expense of expanding your Internet operations each time your business or organisation grows.

If you wish to save time and money, then it’s best to choose an Internet services company with the flexibility for expansion built in:

Multi User VoIP:

Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, is growing in popularity with businesses due to its flexibility, cost-effectiveness and quality of service. VoIP to VoIP calls are free and the system is easy to set up with no expensive capital outlay at the beginning. With Multi User VoIP, you can add internal extensions to your existing VoIP phone services quickly and without any additional cost, allowing your rapidly expanding call teams to respond to increasing demand.

Email:

Exchange allows you to share all your important information with others and access your mail on your computer or mobile device. Share calendars, files, and address books and ensure that everyone is using the same up to date details. As your needs change and your business grows, increasing your email services will simply be a matter of adjustments, not having to look for a brand new product.

Broadband:

The standard broadband should give you the fastest possible speeds that your telephone exchange will allow.  Broadband should also give you a very generous bandwidth limit and direct access to a VoIP network, like the Gradwell. However, as your organisation grows and your needs change, you may need faster connection speeds, more bandwidth and line prioritisation with a separate line for data, to free up your VoIP phone line as the number of calls increases.

Web Hosting:

Getting reliable hosting for your web activities is vital from the start.  Poor hosting leads to down time that damages reputation, productivity, confidence and sales. It’s important that your web hosting is reliable and robust enough to ensure your site can handle all the demands that could be made on it – particularly when an influx of new visitors occurs, if there’s a sudden surge of interest in your business. Many companies fail to plan for these surges and end up with their sites going down when visitor numbers spike.

Your web host should provide plenty of web space, quick speeds and reliable, expandable services, and if they don’t – maybe it’s time to look elsewhere.

Peter Gradwell, Gradwell

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