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Getting Started

New year, new growth plan

Looking to grow your enterprise this year? Then you should consider these five New Year’s resolutions suggested by Richard Murray, Chief Commercial Officer of business growth advisor Elephants Child

New year, new growth plan

1.Offer employee benefits to attract staff

Your business is only as good as the people working in it and they are one of the fundamental cornerstones of any successful, growing business.

Having great products and processes is all well and good, but if your people aren’t up to the job it will hinder your development.

But recruiting appropriate, qualified people is a challenge, and to attract the best candidates you need to find cleverer ways to differentiate yourself as an employer.

Think about offering small perks – not necessarily huge or financial – just doing something different that shows you value your employees and are prepared to recognise that.

2. Endeavour to understand market forces

Every entrepreneur needs to spend time looking at how they might be affected by external market forces.

You need to assess forces or changes that can affect the business for better or worse, whether that be new laws, changing economic conditions, the introduction of new technologies or new markets opening up.

Essentially, that means thinking about where the wheels might come off your enterprise or opportunities you can exploit, or a new sector you could enter that could really spur growth.

Keep abreast of regulatory, political and social change in particular. For example, the impact of Brexit, or plastic-based products in a time of heightened corporate social responsibility. Keep track of new developments and innovations in the marketplace to stay ahead of the curve.

Consider the opportunities changing market forces might bring, not just the threats. For example, a changing retail environment might be damaging for sthe House of Fraser but a great opportunity for a brand like Gym Shark.

3. Ensure the capital structure is right

Growing businesses delivering great sales results get into financial problems, cash is king and therefore managing working capital is a vital skill.

Smaller firms can get messed around by suppliers and customers over payment terms and find themselves with a financial shortfall and unable to buy materials and equipment to sustain the business.

It’s a common growing pain, but be careful not to just focus on sales. Analyse the time frames of your money coming in and out and explore setting up a funding mechanism to bridge any time gap. Set up a rolling cashflow forecast you can regularly review to ensure the business is properly monetised and ensure you’ve something to dip into when money’s tight. 

An awareness of the financial markets and instruments you can use to support cashflow and growth is also critical.

4. Think like a giant small business

If you’re a £1 million turnover company and want to grow into a £10 million turnover business, then start thinking and acting like one as soon as possible.

It’s not about spending money or adopting a corporate mentality. It’s about understanding that to reach a certain size you have to project that internally and externally and have the systems, processes and governance for a bigger business in place.

Ensure you have board meetings and carry out proper governance, so you’re looking after your asset properly; you can then focus on sales because everything else is in the right place.

Get the systems and processes right and have everyone thinking the right way, then look at service levels and professionalism. That makes the whole business scalable – all you have to do is increase sales.

5. Juice your relationships

Most enterprises get caught up in marketing and winning new, cold business; but in reality, they should be putting more effort into building on their existing relationships.

It’s easier to build on what you’ve got than to grow new business and, arguably, 80 per cent of growth should come from current relationships.

So, small businesses in growth mode should be ‘juicing’ their relationships to squeeze all available spend from existing clients, win referrals and build on relationships with non-clients who can act as introducers.

It’s often more effective to spend time developing a relationship with someone who can introduce you to the next potential client, than splashing out lots of money on less effective marketing initiatives such as advertising.

Where the opinions of third parties are offered, these may not necessarily reflect those of St. James’s Place.