Pro Manchester SME Club: 10 Tips to Grow your Established SME

Greater Manchester SMEs are poised for growth and according to a study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) they are estimated to contribute £14bn to the region’s economy by 2020. Stephen Whelan, Business Relationship Manager at Spotcap UK, offers his tips on making that estimate a reality.

1. Is there demand for scaling up?

You know your business inside out but understanding day to day processes or the fact that sales might slow up at a certain time of year isn’t the same as understanding where your business fits in the grand scheme of things.

Take a step back and ask yourself if there is a demand for your growth and to what extent you should be doing this. A SWOT analysis can help. Look at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, all of which should shape your strategy.

2. Listen to your customers

Thanks to your customers you are now in a position where you feel comfortable to scale up. Therefore, make sure to listen to your customers’ feedback and act upon it. By pinpointing the qualities that have established your company in the first place you can build on them, ensuring customer loyalty beyond your big changes.

3. Seek advice from other business owners

Whilst this idea may seem self validating coming from a list of tips, it shouldn’t be underestimated. If you can identify those who’ve scaled up before you—ideally in your field—their experience could prove invaluable. They may just remind you of that detail you might otherwise be filing under ‘costly oversight’ further down the line.

4. Consider timescale

You might think that growing your business is a natural next step, but it’s unlikely to be simple. Consider breaking things down, phasing in the changes that should make long term growth a reality. Not only does this prepare you and your staff in a manageable way, but it also allows you to respond to any unexpected challenges one at a time.

5. Find suitable finance

Growth needs investment and investment needs know-how. Beyond traditional bank loans there’s a world of alternative finance that could suit your needs perfectly. Have you researched offerings of online lenders, crowdfunding platforms or peer-to-peer lenders? Also, don’t be afraid to ask for advice from an accountant or a financial advisor to familiarise yourself with all the options.

6. Invest in appropriate marketing

Believing in your product or service is crucial, but without the correct marketing who will find out about it? Increasing spend on inventory and staff should appear in your budgeting plans alongside an increased marketing spend. As important as changes are to scaling up, communicating that you’ve made them is equally vital. Look to PR and SEO opportunities to raise your public profile and growth.

7. Recruit well

Whilst this rule may apply at all times, the need for the right team becomes even more important at a time of change. You may not want to add to your workforce at this stage but ask yourself: is my current set-up capable of dealing with my growth plans. Attracting the right talent may mean offering a competitive salary but this could be justified if everything goes ahead as planned.

8. Refine your back office

Planning for growth is the perfect time to iron out smaller problems in the office. Increased activity could see increased profits but with that too, smaller problems can become considerable ones. This could mean implementing new (automated) processes to better organise seemingly inconsequential tasks. You may currently order supplies as and when you need them, missing a few items here and there without impacting on business. With growth that hole in your supplies could be felt much harder and have far greater implications.

9. Can outsourcing help?

Whilst there’s little doubt that you’re passionate about your business, it’s almost guaranteed that there are some aspects of your work that you simply don’t enjoy. By delegating tasks you should find yourself with more time on your hands to concentrate on other matters. Outsourcing is one option and after some digging you may be surprised by the wealth of freelancers out there.

Alternatively, technology could also help. Online services now include automated invoicing, digitally signed documents and even offer the potential to manage your day-to-day business whilst on the move.

10. Prepare Yourself

Planning for growth should also take in to consideration enjoying that growth. If everything’s covered set yourself a reward, a holiday, a big purchase, something that can be enjoyed at a safe distance from all your changes.

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Originally published on Pro Manchester SME Club on 22 February 2017.