1. Ask Yourself – Are YOU ready?
It might sound corny, but acknowledging your objectives out-loud will help you develop a purposefully designed strategy. Growing your business could mean significant changes in your lifestyle, a change in priorities, disruption to your home life, and even a tightening of the purse-strings. Adding shareholders into the mix (funding) could mean a change in your job role or reduced influence. Take some time to consider the purpose of your growth – do you ultimately want more leisure time, time to pursue other business interests, or greater financial freedom? Do you want to create a legacy business or do you want a firm exit plan? Get clear, to be clear on what you do next, and next after that!
# 2. Engage your stakeholders
You probably know this already, but you can’t do this alone. What does growth mean to your stakeholders? Indeed, who are they? How will this growth be fed? The prospect of more sales may be exciting but is everyone prepared for it? Think about your supply chain – can your suppliers manage the additional production needs without additional investment. Do your team have the necessary skills, attitude and time to fulfil increasing demands? Does your existing infrastructure have room for growth without additional resources? Will your family and personal routines and activities be affected? Take time to share your plans with your stakeholders – your path to success will be smoother for it.
# 3. Be Prepared to Spend
Of course there’s always a chance that you’ll be able to boot-strap – at least in the early stages but inevitably if you want to increase revenues, you will have to be prepared to invest, so make sure you have some funds set-aside. Your business cannot flourish without additional resources. Will you need more people, more equipment, better marketing tools? What are the implications on capital and cash flow? Take time to give this critical thought – how much will you need and when will you need it? Once you’ve got a handle on this; maybe time to open discussions with your bank and other shareholders
# 4. Plan and Plan Again
It is imperative to create a critical path for your growth. Here you will be challenged by The ‘Chicken or The Egg’ scenario. Make a list of all the things that will need to be done to manifest your growth and decide priorities. Determine dependencies (tasks must be done to before priorities can be activated). Decide start and completion dates for each priority. Now go back and check that your capital and cash flow plans correlate with your action plan. Not everything will go as planned so give some thought to Plan B; what that can be done if you experience delays?
# 5. Take Action
One of the biggest challenges SME’s face is finding the time to focus on growth when the day-to-day running of the business inevitably sucks the day away. The first thing to do is to commit. Start by carving out a set time – even if it’s only 45 minutes a day – put it in the diary. For that 45 minutes do one or two things that take you a step further along your critical path. Have that all important discussion, book a meeting, send a couple of emails or give yourself some thinking time. Remember you have to take a step to begin a journey and one more to continue it.