Growing your business – checklist

Once your business is up and running, it’s important not to rest on your laurels. Successful business owners are always looking at ways they can grow their business and maximize their profits. We’ve put together a guide and checklist that can help you identify ways to get the most out of your business.

1. Grow your sales

  • Contact your best customers to buy more
    One of the easiest ways to achieve an increase in sales is to sell more to your existing customers. For example, you could try contacting every customer and offering a complementary product or service that they might need now. You could also try and determine when customers may have run out of product or need to re-order from you and contact them just before this happens.
  • Create a customer loyalty scheme
    What you’re looking to do here is create a customer care program, using customer contact software, so you’re implementing a customer loyalty scheme.
  • Commence a contact nurturing program
    Can you make more effective use of your database of customers and clients by maintaining regular contact through newsletters (physical or email), phone calls, personal visits, or attendance at conferences and trade fairs? Do you advise them of special offers or tell them about any products and services they have not previously bought?
  • Develop a social media campaign
    If you’re not already on social media, now’s the time to start. It’s one of the most important marketing tools you can use, as well as one of the cheapest (and often free).
  • Run webinars/demonstrations
    By doing this you’re positioning yourself as an expert in your industry, and this creates brand awareness and customer trust. It’s also a great way to network among industry peers and to meet potential customers.
  • Attend and exhibit at trade shows
    These are important for the same reasons you’d run webinars and demonstrations, but trade shows also offer the chance to get your product to new customers and increase word-of-mouth advertising, as well as adding more to your customer database.
  • Cross-sell complementary products/services
    Learn the fine art of cross-selling, which is suggesting to customers that whatever they’re buying from you would be of more value if they purchased a complementary item. For example, if you’re selling business attire for men, and someone buys a shirt from you, you’ve got an opportunity to cross-sell by encouraging them to purchase a tie as well.

2. Grow by developing new products/services

  • Research new ideas, and see if you can update current products
    What you’re looking to do here is identify any new products or services that a) complement those already existing and b) your customers have indicated they’d be interested in buying them from you. Any new product needs to complement what you already sell, not be a substitute, otherwise there is no growth in sales.
  • Check financial feasibility
    It’s important to make sure there’s a demand, and that you can actually create the product. Diversifying into new products is a medium to high-risk growth strategy because new products and services cost time and money to source or develop.
  • Develop prototypes
    You won’t be able to market a new product if you don’t have an example to show your customers. So invest some time and money in research and development, so that your prototype makes a good impression and is an accurate representation of what you’ll be selling.
  • Test with customers
    From friends and family to more formal focus groups, it’s important to test your product in your target market and record and analyze the results. You’ll be able to determine if the demand exists and if there are changes you could make to the product before taking it to market.
  • Protect intellectual property
    The last thing you want is your brilliant idea and all the work that went into creating it nixed at the last minute because someone else beat you to the patenting, copywriting and trademarking. Equally, you don’t want to be stealing someone else’s idea, so protect your IP and make sure you’re not breaching anyone else’s.

3. Grow by improving profits

  • Improve efficiencies
    Technology’s great here – there are many ways you can use it to make your processes more efficient. So review all your systems and look for ways they can be improved. The better the system, the more efficient and productive it will be. Look at your customer base. Do you have habitually late or non-paying customers? It might be time to ditch them.
  • Increase output, especially of those products that are selling well
    Invest more time and money in manufacturing products that are selling well and consider increasing the amount of time and money you spend promoting them.
  • Increase prices
    Increasing prices widens your margins and raises cash you might need for business growth. You should always be seeking to increase your prices over time so that you can improve your profit margins and keep up with inflation. Make sure you communicate to your customers the reasons for the price increase. It’s important to convince your target market that your products or services are worth the additional cost, so think about ways to justify a price increase and focus on the benefits.
  • Streamline debt collection so there’s more cash coming in
    Make sure you’re always paid on time. If your customers owe you money, the faster you’re able to obtain it using effective collection tactics, the better. Ideally, you want to reduce the chance of bad debts and pressure on your business’s cash flow.

4. Grow your capability

  • Assess your capacity to handle expected growth
    This is especially important if you need additional equipment or space. Capacity building is about working on your business’s ability to do more internally – such as speeding up production or improving your systems and processes.
  • Conduct a human resource audit to identify if you need additional staff with different skills
    It’s worth investing in additional staff if they have the specialized knowledge and experience you need. Consider this as an option to upskilling existing staff, especially if the training involved would be too time-consuming or demanding.
  • Retrain current staff if your business’s growth requires new skills
    If you believe that your current staff would benefit from retraining instead of taking on new staff who already have those skills, it’s a good idea to explore what training options are available. It’s important to discuss retraining with your staff to ensure they’ll be able to fit it into their schedules.
  • Review your technology
    What you’re looking to do is determine if you need to upgrade internal systems or software. You need to be sure that the systems you must administer your business and its sales can handle expected growth.
  • Conduct an inventory process audit
     The idea is to solve any potential bottlenecks that increased growth might cause. It’s also a good way to get rid of anything in the inventory that’s not needed – a great excuse for a sale.

5. Grow by updating your business model

  • Investigate if franchising your business is an option
    This a big step but if you can justify demand, shifting to a franchise business model can generate serious growth.
  • Develop a strategic alliance to gain shared advantages
    Consider entering a strategic alliance with successful distributors or complementary businesses, as you may be able to expand your business’s reach and win new customers in a more cost-effective manner.
  • Open an offshore branch to get a foothold in an export market
    Not only are you expanding your business overseas, but an offshore branch is a great advantage if you decide to start exporting.
  • Purchase a competitor
    Not only will you expand your customer database, but you’ll also get access to their staff and suppliers. Odds are your competitor has unique strengths your business can benefit from. You’ll be able to open up to new and diverse markets as you add more value for your customers. And, because you already know the industry, acquiring a competing business should be a safe investment if everything checks out once due diligence is complete.

6. Grow staff expertise

  • Investigate training courses your staff can attend
    As your business grows, so should your staff expertise. If you’re developing new products and/or services, it’s important that your employees are well trained in how to use them. Aside from in-house training, look at educational institutes and the courses they offer to determine if any of them complement your business.
  • Run in-house seminars on new technologies
    If you’ve installed new software that your staff will need to use on a day-to-day basis, make sure they’re up to speed by training them in-house. You might want to get a specialist on the new software to conduct the training, or if you’re an expert, you can do it yourself. This applies to any new technology you’re introducing to your business.
  • Incentivize staff to sell more
    If your employees are motivated to maximize their sales, the greater your profit margin will be. There are all kinds of perks you can introduce to encourage your staff to increase their sales, such as bonuses, staff discounts, the chance to attend overseas conferences and use of a company vehicle.

7. Grow your cash reserves

  • Free up internal cash
    What you’re looking to do here is avoid seeking a loan or outside investment. Reduce the number of withdrawals you’re making, or look at leasing equipment only when it’s needed, instead of buying it. If you can achieve growth without borrowing to do it, so much the better.
  • Weigh up the risks versus rewards to assess whether you need a loan
    It could be that there’s no other option than to borrow money to finance your business growth, but you should carefully consider whether it’s worth it in the long run.
  • Set up a crowdfunding venture
    Not only is this a great way to raise funds, but you can grow your customer database and get people who are interested in your offerings to provide capital.
  • Angel investors or venture capital
    If you can get either of these on board, you can take advantage of tapping into their external expertise as well as using their money to grow your business and increase your cash reserves.
  • Take advantage of government or regional grants
    This is especially true if you’re considering exporting. Too often businesses aren’t aware of what support is available to aid growth.

8. Grow your IP assets

  • Grow new markets by exporting
    If your product is doing well locally, it’s a good idea to determine if there’s a demand for it overseas. Exporting is a great way to maximize your profits and bring in new customers.
  • Maintain your competitive edge by conducting regular R&D
    Successful businesses don’t rest on their laurels. You should always be on the lookout for ways to add to or improve your product or service, which is where continuous research and development is important. And remember, always protect your IP if you do come up with something new.