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6 Growth Accelerators to Transform Your Small Business Into a Big Business
If growth is your goal, you need to do the right things at the right time in your business. This step-by-step guide will help you get there.
Not every business grows from start-up to rock-star. Some just coast along. They stay the same size, make the same amount of money and never really change.
This happens for one of two reasons. Some business owners just don’t want to grow. They’re happy with a small business that meets their needs.
A more common problem though, is business owners who want to grow, but are so busy chasing customers and deals that they don’t focus on the ‘growth’ areas of their business.
Identify the factors blocking your business growth
Don’t let your hustle today get in the way of your future tomorrow. Your hustle should be your superpower – not what’s keeping you from shooting the lights out.
So, what’s the solution? Step one is understanding that you need to shift gears as you move from your start-up phase into your growth phase.
- Don’t fly by the seat of your pants. Most start-up entrepreneurs follow their gut instead of business theory. This isn’t a bad thing - it’s your entrepreneurial DNA and it gives you the ability to see opportunities and pursue them. But now’s the time to get serious.
- Start getting serious. It’s time to realise that every successful SME reaches a point where a more systematised approach to business needs to be implemented.
- Grow your customers, not your costs. Growing a business is all about doing everything better, for more people, at a lower cost.
If you want to build your start-up into a bigger, more profitable business, then this reference guide is for you.
We will take you through the fundamentals of business growth, from yourself as the leader of your business, right through to your business model, employees and customers.
With the right mindset and foundations in place, you will take your business to the next level.
Build yourself to build your business
You’re the leader. How well your business grows is up to you. Which means the more you focus on your own development and skills, the more you’ll understand what your business needs.
Allon Raiz, founder of Raizcorp, Africa’s largest business incubator, has this question posted on his wall: “How are you standing in the way of Raizcorp’s Growth?”
It’s a message to himself that he never forgets. The more he knows about himself, his market, his competitors and his business, the greater his ability to lead Raizcorp’s growth.
Conduct a personal SWOT analysis
To determine where your gaps lie, perform a personal SWOT analysis. Draw four squares on a piece of paper labelled Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
To complete your SWOT, ask yourself these questions – and be as honest as possible. This is only a valuable tool if you are critically honest.
- What skills, talents, degrees or certifications do you have that others around you do not?
- How strong is your network? Who is in it that is a real strength?
- If your managers or co-workers listed your strengths, what would they be?
- Do you have values or ethics that others in your field or industry lack? What are they?
- List the achievements that you are most proud of.
Where are you lacking in terms of skills, degrees or qualifications?
If your managers or co-workers listed your weaknesses, what would they be?
Do you have negative personality traits or work habits that impact your success or those around you?
Is there anything you avoid because you lack confidence?
- Are there any trends currently affecting your industry that you could leverage?
- Are there areas where your industry is growing?
- Where could you leverage new technology in your business?
- In what ways could you leverage your networks or connections?
List the obstacles that you’re currently facing.
Who are your competitors? List those in your industry, and players who could enter your market.
Are there new technologies or certification demands that could hold you back?
Is your industry becoming commoditised, with everyone competing on price?
Create a personal development growth plan
Based on your personal SWOT analysis, you can now determine where your gaps lie. It might be a good idea to hire someone to fill that role so that you can concentrate on your strengths, but on the whole, it’s important to focus on increasing your skills.
Your personal development plan should include goals, timelines and what you will do to achieve certain benchmarks.
Don’t do it alone
Start working with a business coach or a mentor who can hold you accountable to your personal growth journey. You can also join a networking group or a business association. Your local chamber of commerce should be able to connect you with like-minded business owners.
Most importantly, read as much as you can, listen to business podcasts and even take short courses.
The world’s top entrepreneurs are focused on personal development:
- Bill Gates reads a book a week, or about 50 books a year.
- Warren Buffett readbetween 600 and 1000 pages per day when he was beginning his investing career, and still devotes about 80% of each day to reading.
- Mark Zuckerburg reads one book every two weeks.
- Elon Musk is an avid reader.
Become more efficient – at everything
Hiring people to fill the gaps and take pressure off you is important, but you also need to become the most productive and efficient version of yourself possible.
There are two key areas to work on if you’re going to become a productivity machine: time and focus.
Guard your time
There are only so many hours in a day – no matter what you do, there will never be more (even if you’re limiting your sleep, which isn’t a good idea). This means that time is your most valuable resource. How you use it will determine how successful your business is.
- Determine what you’re worth. Spend a week keeping track of everything you do in a day. At the end of the week, assign amounts to each activity – how did that task directly impact your revenue? You’ll quickly see two things: What activities bring in money, and which don’t. Now you can see what your time is worth – and where you should be spending it.
- Be deliberate. Distractions derail us from tasks every day. To get your most important, revenue-generating activities done, block time out in your diary. Let everyone know you’re in ‘focus time’, which means no distractions unless the building is burning down.
- Limit meetings and emails. We spend a lot of wasted time in meetings, on unnecessary emails and on being cc’ed. Delete all internal meetings in your diary and start from the top with only the most critical meetings. Implement short ‘walking’ meetings where appropriate. Tell your staff not to cc you unless it’s critical.
Prioritise your focus areas
Are you focusing on admin tasks or revenue-generating and strategic activities? The more focused you are on what you do – and don’t do – in your business, the more you’ll be able to drive growth.
- To figure out where you should be focusing your energy, draw four squares on a piece of paper and label them: low priority, low urgency, high priority, high urgency.
- Now put each and every activity you do into one of these four squares.
- You’ll find that you spend most of your time on urgent tasks, but that high priority tasks are often carried over – you know they’re important, you just never get to them.
Use time-blocking and your focus hours and become radical about spending a few hours (at least) each week on your high priority tasks – and watch your business grow.
Get the right people on board
The great thing about getting the right people into your business is that once you have a good team, a lot of things start taking care of themselves.
For example, smart people have good ideas, which result in better systems and processes. They spot problems in the company and come up with suggestions on how to do them better.
The three rules of thumb when hiring:
- Hire for skills and attitude. Skills can be taught but you can’t change someone’s attitude.
- Business can often feel like war. Make sure you’re in the trenches with people you trust.
- The cheapest option is most often the most expensive option down the line.
Success comes down to the right staff, in the right positions, adding the right value. Here’s how you hire the best people for the growth phase of your business:
- Hire the best team on the planet. This means that if you need a marketing person, hire the best marketing person. Don’t look for all-rounders.
- The best are more expensive. But the 20% more you pay on their salaries gives you exponentially more skill and productivity within the business.
- Hire slowly and fire fast.
- Test skills. Include real work examples that need to be completed alongside the interview to ensure candidate skills match their CVs.
- As the founder, critically evaluate yourself as well. If you’re not good at marketing, hire someone who is. Know your weaknesses.
Make the most of your employees
1. Clearly define Job Descriptions and KPIs
Take the time to think through each job in your organisation, and list every activity that will be involved, as well as some that might be involved. The goal is for everyone to know exactly what is expected of them – even before they accept the position.
This includes Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that can be reviewed. It creates a shared understanding between the business and its employees, as well as a clear roadmap that employees are measured on.
Provide clarity on everything you expect from your employees
If you give tasks and briefs, ask your employees to repeat what is expected of them in their own words. This will make sure everyone is on the same page.
Employees should also create process documents for everything they do – this ensures anyone can pick up from where they left off if necessary.
Check work and provide feedback
Take the time to check work and provide feedback regularly. Keep the tone of these conversations positive (highlight strengths), but include learnings on where there can be improvements.
Run daily stand-ups
Quick 15 to 20-minute morning meetings ensure everyone knows what the entire team is doing that day, where there are hold-ups or ‘stucks’ and keeps everyone accountable to the tasks they have committed to that day and/or week.
Encourage staff to problem-solve and to work independently
The more clarity you provide on your briefs and in feedback sessions, the more confidence you give your team that they know what you want. The key is consistency.
Once employees are confident in their work, encourage them to problem solve without coming to you first. Give them the freedom and latitude to make mistakes (which they will), but hold post-mortems where everyone learns from the mistakes without feeling persecuted. The goal is for everyone to work better as a team.
More customers equal more revenue
Here are 4 ways to get more customers buying from your business.
Sell something they really, really need
Business guru Peter Drucker said that the purpose of a business is to create a customer. To accelerate a business, you have to get very good at creating customers, above and beyond what you’ve always done. So, how are you creating customers?
Before you launch your smart, cost-effective marketing plan (read more here), make sure you have the right product or service offering for your target market.
Do you have a ‘nice to have’ business or a ‘must have’ business? Does your product or service qualify as a vitamin pill, or a headache pill?
A vitamin pill is something that a customer doesn’t notice if they don’t take it.
A headache pill is the opposite - you notice each minute you don’t take it.
The closer your solution is to a headache pill, the closer you are to a product that your customers will continue to pay full price for, even when times are tough. They feel the pain when they’re not using your product, which keeps them loyal.
Make sure you offer real value
Once you have determined that you are a ‘must have’ business, concentrate on making sure that you’re fulfilling a core need. The way to do this is to actually start small.
The rule of thumb is that before you can cater to 100 000 users or customers, you need to have 100 extremely happy customers.
The founders of Airbnb for example, made sure their model worked for a small customer base before they started scaling their business. Most entrepreneurs want to build big businesses, but if you can’t find your first 500 customers, how will you find 5 million?
Top Tip: Vuyo Tofile’s business, mysmetools.com, has 46 000 SMEs on its platform, and it’s because it fulfills a need. There’s a simple way to test this. Find your ideal customer, and make sure what you’re offering is useful to them. Then find ten more just like them. If they find value in your product or service, they will spread the word, and your business will start to grow.
To find out how to create ideal customer profiles, read our guide, Strengthen your customer value proposition and win more customers
Become laser-focused on customer engagement
Vinny Lingham and his team built their start-up, Gyft, into a business doing US$100 million in sales at the time they sold it because of a laser focus on customer engagement. They didn’t focus specifically on growth. Instead, they focused on driving high levels of user engagement to ensure they had repeat customers.
“We all know that if you build a great product, people will want to buy it. The problem is when they come once – and then never come back. You need to make sure you have repeat customers. That’s how businesses grow.” Vinny Lingham, tech entrepreneur and investor
Ask yourself these questions:
How do your customers feel when they are engaging with you, your team or your brand?
Do you have a high-level of repeat customers?
Are you able to cross-sell and up-sell your customers?
Get customers on board at a reasonable cost
Your aim is to grow your revenue, which means you need to be able to:
- Get each customer on board, and
- Delight those customers, at a lower cost than what you spent getting them.
The problem is that with growth comes complexity: more people, more systems and processes, and of course the actual cost of producing your goods or services, including investing in machinery.
These complexities come with a price tag. Your revenue might go up, but your profits may not.
To get this balance right, re-evaluate everything your business does. Look at everything you do and work out what costs the least to deliver but makes the most money. Your financial plan will help you to do this. You’re basically comparing your costs to your revenue through specific formulas.
Build robust systems and processes
The goal of systems and processes is to set up your business in such a way that you can service 5 000 customers in the same way as your first 100 customers (which is 100% what you’re aiming for).
Here’s the most important thing to realise about operations: A business that has no systems and processes is completely reliant on the entrepreneur. If your business is completely reliant on you, it can’t grow, and you can’t ever take a holiday.
Streamline your processes
Determine where there are bottlenecks in every process the business follows, across departments. What can be removed, automated or outsourced?
Get each employee to document what they do and each step in their process. These become process documents that all employees and new hires can follow.
Short videos and operational documents will speed up the onboarding process of new hires, and ensure everyone knows what they should be doing, the culture of your company and how they are measured.
Look for tools that can help you
The reality though is that setting up systems and processes doesn’t need to be expensive. There are many free tools you can utilise, from Google Docs to Slack. To find out more, go to our free (and almost free) tools guide.