Like life itself, the business world is never static. Prices fluctuate, consumer demands shift, and operating conditions vary over time.
Organisations looking to weather these storms and seize opportunities when they arise must be prepared for changes. In an ideal scenario, these changes will be well within the capacity of the business to handle. To ensure that this is so, organisations must make business growth a key part of their change management strategies.
The ways in which a business grows over time can cover various aspects, including:
- The volume of sales
- Overall revenue
- Profit levels
- The valuation of the business on the stock market
- Increasing size of the customer base
- Increasing numbers of employees or divisions
Growth may occur in some of these areas, without taking place in others. For example, if an organisation is increasing sales due to its existing customers buying more, profits and overall revenue may rise, without the business actually growing its customer base.
Why Growth Matters
Growth matters to businesses of all sizes.
For start-up organisations, growth is essential for establishing a position in the market and achieving a level of profit or productivity that enables the business to cover its costs, and still have resources left over for other purposes.
More established and stable businesses may require growth for various reasons. For instance, an increase in sales and profits could enable a mature business to build a liquidity fund to hedge against future risks.
In all cases, growing is key for the long-term sustainability of a business. This growth can be internal, with the company developing its workforce in order to raise output. Alternatively, external growth can occur if the business merges with another organisation, or is taken over in an acquisition.
The Five Stages of Small Business Growth
When it comes to small businesses, there is a wide variance in the size of enterprises, and their capacity to grow. However as a whole, these smaller scale enterprises share common characteristics in terms of their degree of autonomy or independence of action, diverse organisational structures, and diverse management styles.
The roots of 21st century business growth theory date back to 1983, and the results of an exhaustive analysis conducted by researchers at the Harvard Business Review that identifies five key stages of small business growth. They are:
Stage I: Existence
Key issues for the business at this stage include its ability to achieve core objectives such as attracting enough customers and effectively delivering the products or services offered by the enterprise.
Businesses at this stage range from start-up ventures to high-technology manufacturers that are yet to stabilise their production capacity or product quality.
Stage II: Survival
Having demonstrated that they are a workable venture with the capacity to exist, the issue at Stage II becomes one of maintaining a flow of cash and resources that enable the organisation to continue to survive.
Many small enterprises will remain at this stage for some time, earning marginal returns on their invested time and capital.
Stage III: Success
At this stage, the growing business has attained true economic health, with enough product-market penetration and organisational scale to earn average or above-average profits.
Stage IV: Take-off
At this expansive stage in the development of a small business, the key issues are how to grow rapidly, and how to finance that growth. During this pivotal time, the enterprise has the potential to increase in stature and become a big business.
Stage V: Resource Maturity
Businesses achieving this level of growth have the staff and financial resources needed to engage in detailed operational and strategic planning. Their aims will typically include consolidating and controlling the financial gains brought on by rapid growth, and retaining the advantages of small size, such as flexibility of response and the independent entrepreneurial spirit.
What are the Four Growth Strategies?
These four strategies are of particular importance to any business looking to expand:
- Market share: The aim here is to increase sales of existing products or services on existing markets.
- Growth of the market: Typically, this will require the business to continue developing new products or services and improving on existing ones.
- Diversification: Looking to expand your products and services, to existing customers as well as new customers. Actions here may include improving a product or service by researching and testing changes with customers and hiring people or training existing staff for new skill sets and service offerings.
- Finding alternative funding sources: These may include new investors and partners, or a change in the business model, such as switching to online sales.
Business Growth Services
Achieving a stable and successful expansion of the enterprise can be a difficult process, requiring knowledge and expertise beyond what’s available within the one company. For this reason, a number of business growth services are available.
Some are government sponsored schemes, while others are private ventures. They all tend to have certain elements in common, including:
- The business growth service will perform a thorough assessment to identify where your business is currently positioned, what is working for you, and what isn’t. On the basis of this analysis, the service will provide a recommended path for improvement.
- Consultants will assist with long-term strategic planning, with details on long-term business goals, objectives, performance metrics, and communication and change management plans to ensure that all stakeholders of the enterprise are aware of the changes, and on board with them.
- Business growth services provide support systems, responsive monitoring, and assistance to enable businesses to meet their strategic growth objectives.
- Coaching and training for management and executives will prepare these senior officials for enforcing and supporting the necessary new business strategies and initiatives.
Business Growth in the Technology Sector
Growth strategies for companies in the technology sector follow a pattern similar to the four growth strategies outlined above for businesses in general. However, tech business growth services and frameworks adopt a specific focus that includes:
- Market Penetration: Businesses seeking growth will typically try to distinguish themselves from the competition by offering the lowest prices or subscription rates for their software and systems, the best bundling deals, or discounts for loyalty.
- Market Development: The tech company will attempt to market their existing products or services to a new customer base. Typically, this will be by targeting users in different geographical areas, and/or via new distribution channels.
- Product Development: The company may add new features to an existing product, change the presentation or distribution method of a product, combine tools or systems, or create entirely new products and services.
- Diversification: Either in-house or through collaboration with partners or service providers, the company creates new products for a new market.
What Can You Do for Business Growth?
More broadly, there are two crucial strategies for promoting growth that business operators can pursue in all sectors of the economy. They are:
Nurture and Manage Your Leads
Many small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) spend a lot of time and effort generating leads, but little in following up and converting them into actual sales.
The growth opportunity here lies in using technology to create a single repository for storing leads, with tracking, monitoring, and communications features that can identify where each lead is along the sales funnel/customer journey, who is responsible for interacting with them, and what form that interaction needs to take.
Manage Your Customer Engagement
A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system or Customer Management System (CMS) will assist in monitoring and optimising the various channels of online or offline communication, between consumers and your business. Effective customer engagement pays dividends, as this graphic from Gallup demonstrates:
(Image source: Gallup)
Take The Next Step
This guide will have given you some idea of the concepts and methods that business growth services and technology systems for startups through to scaleups and enterprise have to offer.
To discover how Incisive Edge can take your business growth efforts to the next level, get in touch with us today.