1. Define Specific Annual Business Goals
Significant business growth is typically not achieved overnight but is the result of an effective year-on-year progression in which business performance is incremental and largely predictable. In order that each year is successful, a company needs to clearly articulate at the start of it what “success” looks like and define specific goals to achieve this. These goals need to be shared, reviewed on a regular basis and measured.
2. Create an Organisational Architecture
An “organisational architecture” adheres to the same principles used in any other architectural application that is “high internal cohesion and loose coupling”. When applied to organisations, this means that business functions are well defined and that the interfaces between them are simple. It also requires that there is true ownership and accountability for each of the functions with no overlapping responsibilities.
3. Establish a Healthy Company Culture
Probably the single biggest impediment to sustained business growth is a lack of staff engagement and support. Unfortunately the results of a Gallup survey of Australian businesses in 2018 show that only 14% of staff are “engaged” (a staggering 71% are disengaged and 15% “actively disengaged”). Creation of a company culture that fosters work/life harmony and adherence to company core values is the oil that lubricates the company engine.
4. Train Managers in Professional Recruitment
Often overlooked as something that any skilled manager should be able to do, recruitment, like any other essential discipline requires skill and experience. Typically companies “hire on skill and fire on fit” because the people doing the hiring are focusing primarily on a candidate’s technical competence without sufficient exploration of the other essential characteristics of the role and alignment with the company’s core values. In addition, interviews are a two-way process in which not only should the company be confident in its decision regarding the candidate, the candidate should also walk away with a positive but accurate impression of the company. There are many ways to approach interviewing, but a competency-based selection interviewing approach which is evidence-based works best.
5. Know Your Numbers
There is simply no substitute for a proper and rigorous understanding of the company’s financials at all times, afterall without this, how can you plan for and truly accommodate business growth? In addition to a regular review of the financial performance, I also recommend developing a simple Business Model that shows how business performance will change in response to variations of the key business levers. Doing this is actually far simpler than it may at first seem and minimises risk.
6. Track and Manage Sales
Whilst there is often room to cut back on some expenditure, growth primarily derives from an increase in Sales and so management of this area is key. Clearly the ability to understand the target market’s requirements and pain points are key but too often I find that the real reason for lower than expected sales performance is the lack of management and follow up. With customers these days becoming ever more discerning in how they spend their money, developing strong business relationships is now an essential part of the sales process backed up by the ability to demonstrate real care for clients through follow-up and sales support. This benefits greatly from systems that enable effective sales management and tracking.
7. Systemise and Automate
As businesses grow, the old ways of doing things need to be reviewed particularly if they involve significant manual effort or intervention. Using a Decision Matrix to identify the best value systems and/or processes to reduce the level of individual effort will pay great dividends as will a thorough analysis of the pay-off associated with the investment(s). The level of systemisation and automation required will vary according to the size and nature of the business, but this is best done in an incremental way and by the application of a proper change management methodology so as to minimise the impact of the change to the work environment.
8. Delegate Effectively
Successful implementation of the “organisational architecture” item above necessarily relies upon managers’ ability to effectively delegate. This should never be perceived as ‘off-loading’ and instead be used to not only share the workload but also as an opportunity for growth and development of the individuals to whom the works is being delegated. Done properly this not only increases productivity and efficiency, it also enhances job satisfaction as staff feel greater ownership and control over the outcomes of their work.
9. Develop a Marketing Plan
It is a simple fact that the more effective a company’s marketing is, the easier it is to get sales. However, there are three key elements to marketing: understanding the key message to be delivered, determining the best marketing channels and creating the best possible implementations. Marketing should be viewed as an investment, not an expense so a good Marketing Plan will clearly articulate the expected return on the outlay and over what time period.
10. Build a Succession Plan
Sustainable growth means analysing company risk and mitigating points of vulnerability within the business. Nowhere is this more important than for key roles within the business where the question of ‘what would happen if person X left their role?” and a suitable plan developed to accommodate this possibility. This is far easier to do when a proper organisational architecture has been established.