The next step for growing and developing your business will be influenced by two key factors. These are the nature of your business and the environment in which your business operates. Before you ‘jump in with both feet’ you should ask yourself a couple of questions. First question, where is this business in the business life cycle? This could be start-up, growth, maturity, expansion, maintenance or decline phase. Your next question should be, what external factors influence the industry in which this business operates? Depending on your circumstances, this could be political, economic, social, technological, legal or environmental? The answers to these questions will influence your plan for growing and developing your business. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Capitalize on your strengths and resource your weaknesses
During the start-up phase, there is the temptation to become a cheapskate. However, this approach can result in a waste of your valuable time and increase your business risks in the long-term. The sooner you accept that that you are not a ‘jack of all trades’ the better. Start by delegating key tasks such as book-keeping, taxes etc. to those who are suitably qualified to deliver these services. This strategy will provide you with valuable time to capitalize on your strengths to deliver the product and/or service. It will also enable you to carry out business critical activities such as networking necessary for growing and developing your business.
Develop new products and/or services
As you move into the growth phase your key product or service should now be embedded. It is a great time to shift your attention to growing and developing complementary products and/or services. This strategy will result in faster return on investment when compared with the introduction of a new product and/or service. In addition, you should computerize key processes such as invoicing using Excel, PayPal or QuickBooks to gain cost efficiencies. Remember, businesses operate in a changing environment which is influenced by technology, global markets etc. As a result, your business needs to keep growing and developing to remain competitive.
The possibilities are numerous
Now in the maturity phase, you can breathe a sigh of relief. You’ve made it through the critical stages of the development of your business and you are still of a sound mind. You would be expected to have a range of product or service lines and a significant proportion of recurring business. This phase lends itself well to exploration of a range of possibilities for growing and developing your business. Such options include but not limited to franchising your business, merging or acquiring another business. In addition, you could also expand your strategic alliances and establish additional locations / branches at home or overseas.
Maximize your client or customer relationship
By the time you get to the maintenance phase, you should have pretty much every aspect of your business under control. You have a steady flow of income, your kids have made it through college and you are looking forward to moving to Florida. In this environment, there is a risk that you might become distracted and miss opportunities for growing and developing your business. However, keep your focus and maximize the resources available to you. One such resource is your loyal clients or customers, incentivize them to introduce new clients or customers to the business. They could be rewarded for their efforts via discounts on your products and/or services, alternatively this may be a donation to a charity of their choice.
Evolve your strategy – local, national or multi-national?
You should feel a sense of pride when you reach the expansion phase. At this level, the options for growing and developing your business will be significantly influenced by your approach to risks. Remember ‘you can’t make omelettes without breaking eggs’. Think creatively about other groups who are not currently consumers or purchasers of your products and/or services. Alternatively, you might decide to break into new markets at home or abroad. Whatever the decision, you need to give detailed consideration to the barriers of entry and how to overcome these.
Keep going, tomorrow is another day
It could be argued that the decline phase is every business leaders’ worst nightmare. There are a number of factors to indicate that you are in or about to enter this high risk phase. For example, repeat orders start falling away and you are not attracting new clients or customers. You will also notice an increase in complaints, creditors fail to return your calls and you are paying out more than you are collecting. Although tempting, do not bury your head in the sand and ignore the problem; take steps to stop the decline. Start by undertaking an analysis of your internal and external environments. This should provide you with a better idea of what is going on and what to do next. Be courageous, you may need to make significant cuts to your people, products and/or services. Alternatively, you might find there are still opportunities for growing and developing complementary products and/or services. In the case of a significant downturn in your business, activation of your exit strategy is your best bet.
To summarize, in the start-up phase you should capitalize on your strengths and resource your weaknesses. As you progress through to the growth phase you should focus on developing new products and/or services. By the time you get to the maturity phase, the possibilities are numerous so you would be encouraged to think outside the box. Try to keep the momentum going during the maintenance phase; recruit your clients or customers to your sales force. Moving further forward, you are ready for expansion at home or away. Last but by no means least, continuously analyze your internal and external environments to identify opportunities for growing and developing your business.
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In the meantime, what ideas will you take away from this article and how will you go about implementing them? Let us know in the comments.