Taking your business to the next level could seem a daunting task but nonetheless, growth is imperative. Dr Joanna Berry, an Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship at Durham University Business School and founder of four businesses, outlines six steps to creating a fail-proof growth strategy.
1. Secure a mentor and grow your network
Securing a suitable mentor is one of the most important things you can do for your business. You can use websites like LinkedIn to grow your network while looking for another entrepreneur who has successfully grown their own business. University business schools hold frequent networking events for introducing mentors. In addition, make contact with your local Chamber of Commerce, your regional Institute of Directors and your local economic partnership. These organisations will expose you to a worthy and informative network.
2. Become financially literate
Take time to understand the financial and legal jargon that applies, or will apply, to your business. At a minimum, this should include gaining an understanding of VAT, Corporation Tax, and the importance of incorporating your company.
An unexpected tax demand could be enough to crush your growth plans, or worse, irreparably damage your business. Initially, you can contact the Institute of Directors or the Federation of Small Businesses for advice. There are lots of member organisations that are great for sourcing information. Alternatively, invest in a skilled bookkeeper that will keep on top of this for you. The organisations mentioned above will all be able to signpost you to cost-effective providers.
3. Be prepared to fail
Businesses can fail for many reasons, but most notably, either the company or its owner makes a mistake or something uncontrollable happens in the industry. Whether it’s a personal setback such as a death or divorce or a swift change in the economy or the knock-on effects of Brexit, being prepared for these setbacks will put you in good stead. However, failure is how you learn, so teach yourself to change what you can and to be resilient towards what you can’t.
4. Introduce governance
You need to start thinking about the rules of the business at this point. What will you allow employees to do? What information do they need to treat with confidentiality? What information can they take with them if they leave? It can be tedious, but it’s important. Today’s technological entrepreneurial environment – which most start-ups are in some way – makes this increasingly important. Claiming ownership and distribution of intellectual property is vital but can be difficult to pin down.
5. Hire the best talent
At this point, you will need to make a sufficient investment in talent, which will not be cheap. Using your network should provide you with an initial pool of potential employees. Your team is critical to the success of your business and each side, you as the company owner and them as your employee, must have mutual respect for each other.
However, this does not mean that your employees should agree with everything you say, in fact, almost the opposite: they must be able to disagree with you. Recruit for character as well as skill.
You must be able to get along, but it is not necessary for you to become close friends. Just before your business makes more money than it spends, it tends to be the team around you that helps you get to that stage.
6. Know your limits
Surround yourself with experts and empower them with the authority to make decisions that are out of your depth. Entrepreneurs, by nature, can become bored, so stepping back and allowing employees to lead on decisions that are within their remit is key. Alternatively, an entrepreneur needs to learn the art of management, which is not the same as entrepreneurship.
Everyone’s limits are different and some people can move from being the entrepreneur of a small business to the managing director of a very large business with little trouble. But others get bored once the business is stable and need to step back at this point. Understanding when your business needs you and when it doesn’t is a steep learning curve for many entrepreneurs.