You’ve got big plans. Your small business is staying afloat—maybe even thriving—and you’re starting to look ahead. Maybe you’ve reaped the benefits of a government small business support like the 8(a) program, or maybe you’ve done it all on your own. Everyone’s back story is different, but at this point it doesn’t matter, things are good, and you’re looking ahead. You want to succeed, and you’ve got aggressive goals.
It’s time to start putting your vision into action, but how are you going to get where you want to go?
Part of this question is “where’s the money going to come from to meet my financial goals?” That’s obviously critical, and it means you have to think about questions such as:
- How are you going to maintain your current sales?
- What new products and/or services are you going to offer?
- What new markets are you going to pursue to get more customers?
- How are you going to let people know about your new ideas?
- How will you translate “I’m interested” into “I’m going to buy what you’re selling?”
Equally crucial, though, is how you are going to deliver once the business arrives. If you don’t, growth will be short-lived, and you won’t achieve your vision—even worse, your brand could suffer, and you could lose what you already have. Reputation is key to small business growth (especially if you’re detaching from government help), but it’s also absolutely essential to sustainability. You don’t want to become just another “failed small business.”
Successful small businesses invest in their futures. Their owners take hold of their visions, and they think ahead—“What will we need to look like in order to accelerate and accommodate growth?” The key words here are ”“accelerate” and “accommodate”—that’s the essence of the challenge. What strategies and resources are needed to grow the business, and what structures, processes, etc. are going to ensure that customers are getting what they expect when they buy?
Understanding the strategic “journey” is a great first step for small businesses with growth designs. The “easy part” is setting your sales targets, and breaking them down into milestones. It’s a little harder to figure out the composition—what’s going to drive the numbers? It gets even more difficult to understand what it all means operationally—there are a lot of questions to be answered about what growth means, beyond the bare sales and profit metrics.
- What’s the best delivery structure at each milestone?
- What skills will you need to get from Point A to Point D, and Points B and C in between?
- What kind of infrastructure will be required?
- What cultural attributes will encourage growth and sustain the results?
- What information will I need to make smart decisions, are where will I get it?
Once you lay out the essentials, the devil’s in the details. As a small business, for example, you may have “multi-taskers,” but with growth comes a greater need for specialization. It makes sense to think about the roles you’ll need to be cost-effective. How will you design useful roles that you can fill with qualified people? How are you going to recruit the right candidates? What becomes of the people who have loyally accompanied you on your journey this far?
And then there are the challenges you didn’t get into business to solve—human resources administration, technology infrastructure, facilities, etc. There are many complexities, and too many small businesses don’t deal with them until it’s too late. Part of the reason is they don’t know what questions to ask and, when they do, they don’t always know the right answers. Either way, growth is a huge opportunity—but it’s also a huge risk, and not everyone makes the leap.
Why not “wing it,” cross that bridge when you come to it? That’s less costly than getting a business adviser, and you may be wary of the investment it takes to plan ahead. Simply put, you won’t accelerate growth to the extent that you can, and you’ll certainly have a ton of headaches trying to accommodate it if it happens—headaches that often also cost money and carry significant—even existential—risk.
The decision whether to really plan your future beyond the numbers, and the confidence to start transitioning before the results come in, may make or break your business. To be successful, you need to push the right buttons, and make sure you’re ready for what happens next. You’ve invested a lot of time and energy into your small business. You’ve taken risks to get this far. Now it’s time to ask yourself, “How committed am I to taking this to the next level?”
Don’t let growth control you. Look first, plan and act smartly, and take control of your future. You can make it a success.
Tom Morley has 18 years of experience as an internal and external consultant helping clients in all sectors, across industries, in the US and abroad, to become sustainably cost-effective and achieve their visions. Formerly with BearingPoint and Deloitte Consulting, his areas of expertise include organization strategies, human capital management, and change acceptance and adoption. His clients range from small, local concerns to international, multi-lateral institutions, and he has advised leaders and managers of more than 50 organizations to help them realize their goals over the course of his career.
For more information on planning ahead for small business success, contact Snowflake. We’ll be happy to talk about your situation and offer our perspectives, risk free. Refer to this blog and get a one-hour consultation at no cost.