You've launched your enterprise, become profitable and are now keen to take things to the next level by devising a business growth plan. What exactly do you need to consider before supersizing?
What's the best way to grow?
Are you going to invest in R&D to develop new products and services in the hope of attracting new customers? Are you going to expand your existing product offering so existing customers will buy more? Are you going to keep doing exactly the same thing but chase customers located in different parts of town, different states or different countries? Should you open a new store, buy a competitor or look into franchising your business?
There are many ways a business can grow. To determine the most promising, put some time and effort into a SWOT analysis to identify how you can best leverage competitive advantages.
Is a solid foundation in place for growth?
If your orders tripled tomorrow, would you be able to cope? How much thought have you given to your existing staff's capabilities - and your own? Do you have access to the capital you'll need to fund new equipment, staff and premises? Do you have the technology necessary to cope with a significantly larger volume of sales? And do you have well-functioning systems in place that can cope with the make-or-break stress test of rapid expansion?
Are all stakeholders on board with the idea of growth?
Growth is undoubtedly exciting, but it can be painful too. Before pursuing it you need to be sure you and those you depend on are up for the challenge. Are you going to be comfortable moving away from working in your business to working on it? What about the staff you'll be delegating more tasks to? Are you expecting them to work harder out of the goodness of their hearts or have you explained how growing the business will allow you to offer them promotions and pay rises? Will your suppliers be able to scale up to meet greater demands? Finally, are you at risk of losing those customers who've been with you since the early days when you start frantically pursuing new ones?
Are you reinventing the wheel?
Can you learn from the successes and failures of another company's business growth plan, be they a direct competitor or an organisation operating in a different industry? Can you hire a consultant or mentor with the hard-won experience to provide sage guidance as you work out your own business growth plan?
Have you and your staff transitioned to growth mindset?
Most businesses are, rightly, overwhelmingly focused on continued survival in the early days. It's quite a shift in perspective to go from worrying about how to make payroll and pay the rent to brainstorming sessions on how to quadruple revenues and conquer new markets. Before pursuing growth, honestly determine whether both you and your staff have moved from a survival mindset to one that's primed to identify and chase after any available opportunities.
Only after you have satisfactory answers to all the questions posed above is it possible to list exactly what your goals are and develop a credible business growth plan for achieving them.
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This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Nigel is a freelance journalist and web content provider. Over the past 15 years he has worked for many of Australia's major print media companies and written for a wide range of newspapers, magazines, trade publications and websites. Nigel most enjoys writing about entrepreneurship, popular culture, politics, social trends and small business.