Topic overview

Preparing for business growth

Preparing for business growthAs with most things, sound preparation is essential if you are to scale up your business. Getting back to basics could be the best way to prepare for the challenging journey ahead. Your business should be in great shape, which means eliminating waste, finding more cost-effective alternatives and other ways to reduce your outgoings. Do a SWOT analysis to identify your business' key strengths and weaknesses too.

Reconsider your prices to find out whether you could be more profitable. Maybe it's time to increase your prices? Could you make your products and services more appealing? How could they be customised for new overseas markets? Should you develop new products to win more customers? Selling via new channels (eg online if you're not already doing so) might also boost your sales, as could selling via agents or distributors.

Also take an honest look at your brand. Does it need makeover (or something more radical)? Involve your staff and customers. Again, their input could make your business better placed to scale. Also carry out somemarket research to update your knowledge. This will help you to decide how to scale your business.

Proper planning

The next step on your journey is to revisit your business plan. This not only forces you to detail your growth goals, but also explain exactly how you plan to achieve them. Without an up-to-date business plan to remind yourself of your aims you won't be able to judge your progress, and your business may not scale up as quickly or as much as you hope.

A well-researched business plan can also stop you making bad decisions while seeking to scale up your business, as it will encourage you to stay focused on your growth strategy. And without a convincing business plan, underpinned with sound financials, you won't be able to access sources of funding.

Selling more to existing and new customers is central to your ambitions to scale up your business, which is why you also need to have a sound marketing plan. Starting to sell to customers overseas has been a key reason why many small UK businesses have been able to achieve significant growth, but you need todevelop an export strategy and skillfully plan your marketing.

Talent and skills

You will also need to assess your team and decide what skills and knowledge you will need to achieve your plans. A programme of staff training might be required. You may need to recruit and interview new employees. Finding new people with the right talent and skills to fill new positions might be more challenging than you imagine. According to research, finding new employees with the necessary knowledge and skills is a key obstacle facing small businesses that want to scale up.

Small businesses that want to scale require big leaders - have you got what it takes to run a larger business? If not, you need to develop your leadership skills. Do you know the difference between management and leadership? While managers plan, organise and coordinate, leaders have a vision; they persuade, inspire and motivate others. Think now about how you can build your leadership capacity. Finding a mentor who has scaled a business is recommended. You also need to recruit the right people to your company's board if you are to scale up. Find out what support you can access to help your business scale up.

Other challenges

You also need to find the right funding, which can take time and a lot of effort. Being able to access the necessary funding mix (the solution is likely to come from more than one source) when you need it will be essential to your scale-up ambitions.

Your business management systems should also help rather than hinder growth, so you will need you judge whether they're fit for purpose. Investing in the latest technology and software could also prove to be a vital ingredient in your scale-up success. You need to be able to effortlessly monitor your business performance, understand what you're doing right and wrong if you are to continue to scale. Businesses that scale up are usually ones that embrace technology, invest in it and use it to its full potential. You also must consider your premises - will they help or hinder your efforts to scale your business?