Growing Your Business: The Don’ts
There is always time, there is always something that can be done. A decision made in haste, without enough information is likely to be wrong and could lead to bigger problems, but also don’t prevaricate, get on with it and don’t bury your head in the sand. (3 Don’ts for the price of one there!!)
Don’t rush out and recruit a Sales Team
If you are short of orders, a bigger Sales team or even a single extra Sales person, is not going to be the overnight solution that you are looking for. Indeed without the proper guidance and focus they will certainly be a drain on your cash and resource and may even damage your business as they seek to channel your efforts into their view of the world, and by their very nature disrupt your existing organisation. Don’t forget herding cats is far easier than managing a sales team – been there done that!
Don’t spend thousands on Advertising.
Advertising is one of the easiest ways to spend money, be it pay per click or traditional magazine advertising, one of the fastest ways to see your cash reserves disappear with little to show for it is to embark on a random advertising campaign, Google and others are masters at draining your budgets. These days there are other ways to create “Brand awareness” some free, most very cheap.
Don’t go out and buy the latest, trendiest piece of capital equipment.
In my experience, more white elephants are purchased on the back of apparently growing a business than for any other reason. Investments need to be backed up by hard numbers and hard data driven from fact not the fantasy of your Sales, Engineering or Operations team based on something they saw in “Widgets 2000” or some other dubious source.
Don’t fall for the “Export or die” Con.
Exporting is a lot harder than most companies realise, and takes both time and money, and whilst there are plenty of helpful souls out there eager to “help” what they are really doing is “helping” to relieve you of hard earned cash. So make sure you are certain before jumping into this particular pit of vipers. Some industries and products lend themselves to exporting, many do not – particularly if you are an SME. Usually your sources of growth are a lot closer than you think.
Don’t make decisions based on “gut feel”
If your gut is feeling something, it is probably indigestion. Data, data, data.
Growing Your Business: The Do’s
Do take time to understand your business.
Your business and your market are defined by two things and only two things. First is your CAPABILITY: the service, the products, the processes that you offer, and the second is the DEMAND for that service. Clearly understanding those two things is absolutely fundamental to growing a business.
Do listen to your customers.
Your existing customers are possibly THE best source of market intelligence that you have, and they cost nothing to access. They have a good handle on your capability, and the demand for your products/services too. Speak to them, take time and ask them the questions you ask yourself when you think about growing your business. You don’t have to do what they say, and don’t just ask one either, they have their own agenda. It is important that you collect as wide a range of views as you can.
Do involve your team.
Your employees are another invaluable source of data, they see aspects of your business that you do not, they are also likely to have peers working elsewhere who may have insights into markets, competitors and technology trends, particularly if they are actively involved in social media platforms such as LinkedIn. Again – you are not asking them to tell you what to do, but they are a useful already paid for and hence free data source – use them.
Do have a Plan
Not only a plan but a vision of what you want your business to look like. Might be a cliché but not having a plan is like packing your clothes, jumping in the car and going on holiday, without knowing where you are going, how you are going to get there or how long it will take. Now not many families do that, but an awful lot of businesses appear to.
Do monitor your progress.
A plan is not something to be filed away to gather dust, it is not a spreadsheet controlled by your Accountant. It is or should be one of your key management tools with progress measured and reviewed at least monthly to make sure that you are on track, and if not on track immediate corrective action should be put in place to bring you back in line. BUT it is not the Ten Commandments set in stone, a good plan needs to have flexibility, and it needs to respond to external and or internal factors, to keep you moving towards your vision or goal
Remember “No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.” (i)
(i)Field Marshall Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke” On Strategy” (1871), as translated in Moltke on the Art of War: Selected Writings (1993) by Daniel J. Hughes and Harry Bell