Bear in mind that every new development brings with it changing risks. It's worth regularly reviewing the risks you face and developing contingency plans. Good cash flow control is important for any business. For a growing business, it's crucial - cash constraints can be the biggest factor limiting growth and overtrading can be fatal. Making the best use of your finances should be a key element in business planning and assessing new opportunities.
With limited resources, you may need to pass up promising opportunities if pursuing them would mean starving your core business of essential funding. Every element of working capital should be carefully controlled to maximise your free cash flow. Effective credit management and tight control of overdue debts are essential. You may also want to consider raising financing against trade debts. Good stock control and effective supplier management tend to become increasingly important as businesses grow. Holdings of obsolete stock may become a problem that needs periodic clearing up.
You may want to work with suppliers to reduce delivery cycles, or switch to suppliers and systems that can handle just-in-time delivery. Planning ahead helps you anticipate your financing needs and arrange suitable funding.
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For many growing businesses, a key decision is whether to bring in outside investors to provide the equity needed to underpin further expansion. New businesses often run in perpetual crisis mode. Every day brings new challenges that urgently need resolving and management spends most of their time troubleshooting. As your business grows, this approach simply doesn't work.
While a short-term crisis is always urgent, it may not matter nearly as much as other things you could be doing. Spending your time soothing an irritated customer might help protect that one relationship - but focusing instead on recruiting the right salesperson could lay the foundations of substantial new sales for years to come. For example, your business might be increasingly at risk unless you take steps to ensure your intellectual property is properly protected.
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If you are focusing on individual marketing campaigns, you might need to devote more resources to developing your brand. A disciplined approach to management focuses on leading employees, developing your management team and building your business strategy. Instead of treating each problem as a one-off, you develop systems and structures that make it easier to handle in the future. All businesses produce and rely on large volumes of information - financial records, interactions with customers and other business contacts, employee details, regulatory requirements and so on.
It's too much to keep track of - let alone use effectively - without the right systems. Responsibilities and tasks can be delegated as your business grows, but without solid management information systems you cannot manage effectively. The larger your business grows, the harder it is to ensure that information is shared and different functions work together effectively. Putting the right infrastructure in place is an essential part of helping your business to grow. Documentation, policies and procedures also become increasingly important.
The informality that might work with one or two employees and a handful of customers simply isn't practical in a growing business. You need proper contracts, clear terms and conditions, effective employment procedures and so on. Many growing businesses find using established management standards one of the most effective ways of introducing best practice. Quality control systems can be an important part of driving improvements and convincing larger customers that you can be relied on.
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Investing in the right systems is an investment that will pay off both short and long term. You benefit every day from more effective operations. If you ever decide to sell the business, demonstrating that you have well-run, efficient systems will be an important part of proving its value. Entrepreneurs are the driving force behind creating and growing new businesses.
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All too often, they are also the people holding them back. The abilities that can help you launch a business are not the same as those you need to help it grow. It's vital not to fool yourself into valuing your own abilities too highly. The chances are that you'll need training to learn the skills and attitudes required by someone who is leading growth. To grow your business, you need to learn to delegate properly, trusting your management team and giving up day-to-day control of every detail.
It's all too easy to stifle creativity and motivation with excessive interference. As the business becomes more complex, you also need to develop your time management skills and learn to focus on what's really important. As your business grows, you may need to bring in outsiders to help. You'll want to delegate responsibility for particular areas to different specialists, or appoint a non-executive director or two to strengthen your board.
As you start tackling a new opportunity, someone who has experience of that activity can be vital. For many successful entrepreneurs, learning to listen to - and take - advice is one of the hardest challenges they face. But it may also be essential if you are going to make the most of your opportunities. Some entrepreneurs, recognising their own limitations, even appoint someone else to act as managing director or chairman. Complacency can be a major threat to a growing business. Assuming that you will continue to be successful simply because you have been in the past is very unwise. Regularly revisiting and updating your business plan can help remind you of the changing market conditions and the need to respond to them.
See the page in this guide on planning ahead. An up-to-date plan helps you identify what action you need to take to change your business and the way it operates, for example:.
You need to be fully committed to your strategy, even if it takes you out of your comfort zone. This may involve hard decisions - for example making employees redundant or switching business away from suppliers you have become friends with. But unless you're prepared to do this, you risk putting your business at a dangerous competitive disadvantage.
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