You’re putting the hours in, doing good work, meeting deadlines, and your order book is full for the next six months; so why do you feel like your business isn’t as successful as it should be?
There are four stages of growth in a business – where does yours currently sit?
Survival: you’re up and running and making a small profit. As a business owner your aim is to ensure profit is maintained, so you’re actively seeking new customers.
- Lifestyle: it’s making enough revenue. It’s all about you (the owner) – so when you go on holiday so does your business.
- Scalable: you’re starting to recruit and use outside resources to make it more profitable.
- Sellable: this is the freedom to choose to sell, or keep it. Many SME bosses can reach the sellability stage and happily continue as owner-managers.
You might already know – or at least suspect – that the biggest challenge is the transition from the lifestyle business to a ‘scalable’ style. This is the stage where you’ll find yourself working ‘in’ rather than ‘on’ your business. It’s time to take a step back to gain some perspective!
I come across the same five main barriers that prevent businesses from growing.
Do any of these apply to you?
1. You’re consumed by your business
Shouldering the responsibility by putting in extra time outside of working hours, can give a sense of achievement – but letting your workload take over your life isn’t healthy for you or for your business in the long term. If you’re the first and last person to enter and leave the office, the last to get paid, the last to take a break or a holiday … Your business might have turned into an all-consuming entity. Try delegating more, which will free up some thinking time, or seek objective advice from a business coach.
2. Not being objective enough
Can you make business decisions with your head and not your heart? When it’s your business you have vested interest, so you will find it impossible to be objective. You almost always need to have someone who can coach you from the outside, to point out the strengths and weaknesses.
Objective input will help you deal with current markets, competitors, local business opportunities, your customers, partners and employees.
3. Forgetting your initial ‘why’
In order to grow, check if you’re in line with your strategy and always remember the reason why you started the business in the first place. This is especially important to remember during the difficult times. Many coaches will agree:
“Forgetting about your ‘why’ will make it difficult to accomplish your ‘what’.”
Reconnecting with what your core purpose is will help you unlock some great strategic ideas.
4. Not knowing your strengths and weaknesses
Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your business – and being comfortable with the latter – informs you of the areas where you need to ask for others’ help and can aid in forming a growth strategy with a clear direction. A strategy is all about aligning internal with external opportunities so try focusing on the internal and assess the value they bring to the business; then decide what you need to source from elsewhere.
5. Under-appreciating and under-charging
If you appreciate your products and services, price them properly. SMEs don’t succeed on volume – it will not be profitable if prices are kept low so they can beat competitors; SMEs can’t afford to compete on price, only on the basis of quality. Don’t forget, it’s possible to transform the challenge of being a small volume business into an advantage, by identifying what value you can add that bigger competitors can’t, and monetising this.
If there’s one single fact that I hope you take away from this article, it’s that what you have created has the potential to become so much more – so if you’re still stuck between ‘revenue’ and ‘scalable’ take heart: growth is within your reach.
Matt Levington founded Business Doctors with Rod Davies in the UK in 2004. It is a national support network dedicated to helping SMEs achieve their vision.
Visit the website for a free SME health check.