To grow or not to grow: What’s holding you back?
Your business is chomping at the bit: it wants to grow, but you’re not so sure. If this sounds like you, the following pointers will help you confront your concerns and prepare you for small business growth.
At some stage, many small and micro business owners, freelancers and soloists will reach a crossroad: you’re making sales and business is growing, but you have more work than you can manage – which can be exciting and confronting in equal measure! So what do you do if the path ahead looks less like the Yellow Brick Road and more like a German autobahn?
The first step: clarify which aspects of your business are being held back, and by what. Capacity constraints, insufficient manpower and a lack of funding are often blamed for inefficiencies; however, a clearer definition of the problem is critical if you are to move forward. Here are five points to kick-start your investigation:
Service delivery: Are you meeting client expectations?
If deadlines are a frequent problem, ask yourself: Is my system/equipment too slow, the premises too small etc. to meet demand? Do I know how many billable hours it takes to deliver on a job? In this case, a cost-benefit analysis may clarify whether a change is in your best interests.
‘Being in’ versus ‘working on’ your business: Where do you spend more time?
Doing paperwork does not earn you a cent: it steals you away from money-making activity, which impacts your bottom line. For periodic tasks (like BAS reporting) or tasks outside your area of expertise, try outsourcing. Remember to include outsourcing costs when weighing up pros and cons.
"Evaluate new business opportunities not only according to profitability objectives, but whether they will bring personal satisfaction and happiness."
Technology: How efficient are your systems and devices?
Using underperforming tools results in under-delivery, which leads to unhappy customers and declining sales – so stay abreast of technological advancements that could save time and/or money. Take advantage of tablet/smartphone tools that can be used on the go, such as cloud accounting, logbook and receipt scanning apps and credit card readers.
Want more articles like this? Check out the growth section.
Work/life balance: an elusive goal?
If the number of hours in your working week has reached triple figures, you may be more of a liability than an asset. Again, outsourcing can help, as can delegation. For soloists, it may mean saying no more often. Evaluate new business opportunities not only according to profitability objectives, but whether they will bring personal satisfaction and happiness.
Competition: friend or foe?
The growing number of micro businesses means that in some industries, competition is increasing. Don’t be alarmed – this is a good thing! Not only can it help you to better define your market position, it will reassure you that there are other like-minded people out there who understand your world. Making connections with businesses similar to yours can also be an invaluable learning resource. Industry associations (Business Victoria has a directory), networking groups and online forums such as Flying Solo are a great place to start making contact.
Deciding whether to take a leap into the unknown or maintain the status quo is never easy for a time-poor business owner – but careful planning, aided by external resources and professional guidance, will ensure it repays its debt many times over in the long term.