Planning for Growth

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So, you want to grow your business?

Here are a few tried and tested methods that are very effective in helping businesses to plan for growth and achieve it.

  • Goal setting
  • SWOT analysis
  • Competitor analysis

Setting goals for growth

Start with the end goal – what is the result you’re looking for? Keep it broad and open. Record all of the ideas you have relating to what the end goals might look like and make them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and have a specific Time against them) e.g.

  1. Be able to fulfil 20 orders a week
  2. Get one new client a month for the next 12 months
  3. By the end of the year, be able to build x in-house and not have to outsource it
  4. Within the next six month, set up social media channels for the business and know how to use them to gain new business
  5. End the financial year with an average profit margin of 15% across all orders

If you’re struggling with this, try the SWOT analysis method first where you identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – you may find that this will uncover some growth opportunities that aren’t obvious at first thought.

Once you have a list of end goals, start with the first one and work backwards asking ‘why?’ until there are no more steps needed to achieve it. This will give you a starting point for what you need to do to achieve your growth goals.

There’s support available through the CPCA Growth Hub in all of these areas, including the potential to access grants towards the purchase of new machinery.

Try the Knowledge Hub or see Training, Finance and Funding and Productivity for more information.

Once you’ve completed the SWOT analysis, have a look at where there are complementary factors between sections and how these might become items to add to your growth planning.

For example, the physical therapy business owner being solely responsible for the admin and finance tasks appeared in the Weaknesses and Threats sections.

One growth goal might then be ‘Find external resource or hire a staff member part time to manage admin, payroll and finance functions.’ This would free up the business owner on the weekends, be a more efficient use of their skills and time, allow invoicing to be done in a timely way and improve cash flow.

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis is a structured business planning method that will help you to gain a broad overview of where your business is now and where the opportunities for growth could be. It can also be helpful for decision-making around the benefits of a potential business opportunity or project.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The Strengths and Weaknesses section refer to conditions inside/internal to your business. Opportunities and Threats are to do with external factors.

Strengths

Strengths is where you list all of your businesses current strengths. What is your business really good at? What do you have that no one else does? What do you do that’s excellent? What are your other benefits? What are your assets?

If possible try to ask people outside your business why they like doing business with you or what they see your businesses strengths as. They’ll have a different perspective to yours and may tell you things you didn’t know that will be useful for your planning.

Weaknesses

Weaknesses is where you detail what gaps you might have in skills, capability or infrastructure that cause you problems or are preventing you working in the way that you or that your customers would like. What could be improved? This could also be things your competitors do better.

Opportunities

Opportunities is the area where you detail which external factors could provide opportunities for your business. These could be to do with the economic climate, lifestyle trends, a competitor going out of business, or changes in legislation that relates to what your business does.

Threats

Threats are about the external factors could have a negative impact on your business’s performance. This could relate to changes in your customer base, the regulatory environment, technology, or the personal circumstances of staff members. They can be current or potential ones and it’s good to include a couple of ‘worst case’ ones in the list as well.

Competitor Analysis

Researching and understanding who your direct competitors are and what they do well/not so well may give you ideas for your growth planning, help you understand your customers (or potential) better and see where you’re already doing well.

Most importantly having a good idea of who else is out there and doing what you do, will show you what choices your customers have and who they’re comparing your business to. Thanks to advances in technology, it’s now possible for customers to compare multiple companies, their services and products through the convenience of their smart phones or tablets.

There are multiple ways you can do competitor analysis. These include:

Using the major search engines on the internet (such as Google) and entering the key words you’d associate with your own company and the area you work in.

Asking people who use similar companies/services to your own, “what three companies would you recommend me to and why?”

Checking with the industry bodies and professional organisations that cover your sector. Who else is located near you?

Once you have a list of names, start a spreadsheet or similar to capture their:

  • Service offering
  • Pricing
  • Key messages and claims
  • Who you think they’re aiming at
  • Your overall impression- as a customer, would you like them/not? Why?
  • What their best feature is
  • What could do with improvement? What do you do differently?

Most of this information will be on their website, but you can also request or download brochures, or even phone them and ask some questions.

Once you have this information, you can use it to guide your own sales and marketing or service offering.

You can also use it as inspiration for your growth goals if they’re doing something particularly well.

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