Growing your business – this is a really exciting time. All of the hard work establishing the business is paying off and you can now start thinking about what the next stages to grow the business might be.
Maybe you have been approached by a customer who has a bigger order than you’re set up to manage, or you’ve explored all of the new business opportunities in your local area and you want to expand to national or international customers.
Expanding or growing doesn’t always mean getting bigger, it can also mean being able to do more with the structure you already have, being able to offer a broader range of products and services , advertising and marketing to gain more customers, or being able to supply to customers who a geographically further away. You might want to do all of these things.
To help you decide which direction to take to find out how to grow your business, here are some key steps related to business growth that will help you plan the next stages of your business’s development.
Improving business productivity or profitability isn’t just about getting bigger, employing more staff or getting a lot of new equipment. Before you decide that putting a growth plan in place is the only way to go, here are some simple and low cost ways you can try first:
Providing training for staff. Although training can be costly upfront, the return on investing in relevant and good-quality training will be reflected in improved quality and efficiency. Your team will also have a broader range of professional skills, which can benefit your customers by being able to offer a wider range of products or services.
Upgrading your I.T. equipment or software. Slow-running hardware and out-of-date software can result in consistent time wasting and ‘stress out’ your staff (and you!). It’s important for businesses to have reliable computer and phone services. If cost is what’s holding you back from making these improvements, find out whether there might be a grant or funding option to help you.
Improving the quality of your internet service. Fast and reliable internet access is essential in today’s business market. If you’re consistently experiencing slow or inconsistent internet or wifi service, it’s worth contacting your provider/other providers to see if any improvements can be made.
Cultivating a happy and engaged team. Overall, an engaged and motivated team is one of the largest contributing factors to improved productivity and consistent output. In addition to maintaining a level of business transparency and openness with your employees, simple activities such as team socials can be great ways to maintain the good running of your business. Your people are one of your organisation’s most valuable assets (that includes you too), so don’t forget to ‘look after’ them, as well as focussing on the bottom line.
Improving your customer service: Do you struggle to keep hold of your customers – then you may need to invest time into looking after the customers you have. It is Far easier and cheaper to resell to existing customers than it is to find new ones.
Developing a new product or service
How do I grow my business by developing new products or services?
If you want to grow your business, developing new products or services can be a great way to widen your customer base. Learn how to get started here.
You may only start with one product or one distinct service, but in order to continue growing, you’ll need to think about how to diversify your offer. In other words, changing, improving or offering more services or products in order to encourage your existing customers to keep buying from you and to attract new ones who may not be interested in what you already have.
Step 1: Identifying a new idea, product or service to help grow your business
Market research is a great way to get a sense of what people are after and it’s also a sound way to make sure you’re not throwing money at an idea that isn’t going to sell.
If you’re looking for ideas to aim at your current target audience, try asking some of your existing customers:
- What would you like my business to offer in terms of services that we don’t already?
- Is there anything that our existing product doesn’t do that you wish it did?
Also take note of what the most common product or service enquiries are that your business receives. Is there a pattern to them or consistent things that keep getting asked? It could be that a product or service you offer does do what they’re looking for, but that this feature isn’t being communicated clearly in marketing materials or by salespeople.
A small change on your website or more information given to your stockists might result in an upturn of sales without having to make any fundamental changes in your product or service range.
Step 2: Development
Setting up periodic review points during the development process is important, as it will allow you to review the progress as you go and make changes if need be. It’s easy to get ‘caught up’ in the excitement of making something new, particularly if you’re sure the idea is a winner.
Taking time to check what you’re doing against what you set out to do, plus asking other people’s opinions who are outside the process can not only add value to what you’re doing, but also prevent you straying too far off-course.
Step 3: Financing
Gaining adequate funding for your new product or service is one of the most common hurdles that you’re likely to face. Even if you’ve planned a realistic development budget, unexpected costs can throw a spanner in the works if you’re not prepared for them. Do build a buffer or contingency margin into your budget, just in case. You can find out more about financing a growing business here.
Step 4: Launch
It’s important to determine how to sell, promote and support your product or service prior to launch. Click here for more information on Sales and Marketing Planning.
What is intellectual property, and why is it important?
Intellectual property is the aspects of your business that you have created using your mind.
This is how the Intellectual Property Office defines intellectual property:
What counts as intellectual property?
Intellectual property is something that you create using your mind – for example, a story, an invention, an artistic work or a symbol.
You own intellectual property if you:
- created it (and it meets the requirements for copyright, a patent or a design)
- bought intellectual property rights from the creator or a previous owner
- have a brand that could be a trade mark, for example, a well-known product name
Intellectual property can:
- have more than one owner
- belong to people or businesses
- be sold or transferred
Intellectual property rights allow you to make money from the intellectual property you own.
Sales and marketing
Now that you’ve established that your business idea or product is a good one with a solid group of potential customers – you need to sell it. Effective selling isn’t about attracting people with promises you can’t keep – it’s about showcasing the benefits of your service and product. This is an important point. Customers buy benefits, rather than features.
Think about it this way – it’s not about what your product can do (its features), it’s about what your product can do to make a person’s life easier, better, or solve their problems (benefits). Always have this in the back of your mind when you’re in a selling situation and couch your offering in these terms. If your product or service is good from this perspective, the sales inquiries will follow.
If you want to keep your customers intrigued and invested in your business, you need to keep things fresh. Staying at the front of your customers’ minds and being the go-to company for your specific product over all your competitors, means keeping your marketing and sales techniques in line with the market’s demands and desires.
Selling doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but don’t worry, there are a number of local sales training courses that can help you develop your sales technique further.
Exporting and International trade
Exporting is a great way to expand into new and emerging markets and also lessens the potential impacts on your business of changes in the UK economy.
Whether you’re a first-time exporter or a seasoned overseas trader looking to branch out into new markets, the Department for International Trade (DIT) provides unmatched international trade advice and practical support to UK-based companies. The Department for International Trade will give you a solid grounding in everything you need to know to begin exporting your products and services.
DIT runs a Passport to Export Service that offers export advice and assessments and support programmes for SMEs. These provide prospective exporters with training, planning and support in order to grow their services overseas.
Open to Export is also a great hub of international trading knowledge. Focusing primarily on SMEs, Open to Export is an online service that provides bespoke answers to your exporting questions. Also unique to Open to Export is that in addition to government support, it gives you the opportunity to speak directly to established exporters, lawyers, accountants and independent trade advisors.
For options closer to home, your local Chambers of Commerce offer a range of services to help exporters ‘maintain their competitive edge’ in the international marketplace. Working closely with the DIT, its Global Membership package features cost-saving benefits and added services, including online access to Tate’s Export Guide.
Do also get in touch with UK Export Finance , the UK’s export credit agency. It provides trade finance and insurance solutions and advice to support UK exporters.
If you’re looking for exporting inspiration watch our series of videos, visit Get Exporting to find out about the experiences of local companies that have grown their businesses through exporting.
Don’t forget to consider how you’re going to market yourself. You’ll need to consider how to internationalise your website and how to protect your IP when trading outside the UK.
Connect with your local Chambers of Commerce
- Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce
- Norfolk Chamber of Commerce
- Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce
- Suffolk Chamber of Commerce
- Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce
- Essex Chamber of Commerce
Building and Constructions
What support is there for builders and construction businesses?
The Growth Hub is here to offer free support for small and medium-sized builders and construction businesses in the region. Read on to find out more about the resources available.
The Growth Hub is here to offer free support to help provide local advice and assistance for small and medium builders, who may not have the capacity or resources to research and access the best services and support available, to help maximise their growth potential and output.
What we can offer for builders:
- Advice is available for small and medium builders at any stage
- Grants and loans are available to support growth
- The Growth Hub offers a FREE service to support new growing builders
- In addition to business support, the CPCA Housing Programme specifically invests in housing schemes in the region, either through traditional grants or loans.
With a firm commitment by Government to boost house building across the UK, and proposals to deliver 29,000 homes by 2021 in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area alone, the construction and building industry needs to be ready to respond to this growing demand.
Small and medium-sized builders help to provide greater diversification and more resilience in the market. They provide good quality homes which fit to local need and support the local labour force and supply chain, providing a multiplier effect within the local economy.
Click here to see business support initiatives that are open to all businesses including building construction firms.
- Support to increase energy efficiency
- Assistance with innovation projects
- Local advice on business success and growth
Sources of information and advice on building and construction specific can be found on our Knowledge Base.