Last year, there were a record 5.7 million businesses in the private sector – which means a whopping increase of 197,000. Sufficed to say, the spirit of starting your own venture is sweeping through the nation. Whether it’s the realisation of a long-held dream, the right inspiration or the empowering potential of working for yourself, the goal is not just to get started, but to keep growing.
In the same set of statistics pulled together by the FSB, they found a couple of trends which is that businesses are growing, and the ones with most growth were small businesses.
However, four out of ten small businesses also fail, with cash flow being one of the biggest problems, there are some key learnings about the right way to grow.
Emma Sexton, ‘serial entrepreneur’ and founder of MYWW, says that one of her biggest tips is to really know your customers, and in turn figure out how your business is providing value. “When I say value,” she says, “I mean something that they need so much that they will pay you money for it.
“I know it sounds obvious but it can take time talking to lots of your potential clients before you can really nail this. So get out there, listen hard and keep refining how you talk about what you do until you can sell it in a meaningful way.”
Hannah Martin, Founder of Talented Ladies Club – an online resource and network for working mums – says 17,200 UK businesses go into liquidation every year. She advises looking at growth cautiously, and not getting sucked into social media FOMO.
“All too often we’re focused on growing our business fast,” she says, “and comparing our progress with our seemingly speedier competitors.
“But over the past five years we’ve seen many business ‘hares’ crash out of the race – and plenty of slow and steady tortoises build hardy, profitable businesses. So don’t let one small setback now get you down. As long as you’re moving forward it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you’re going.”
Emma says that identifying what growth looks like to you is also important.
“Does it mean more products? More people? More offices? More countries? For me growth has always been about increasing profits by getting smarter at how I run the business,” she says.
“Big growth plans have an audacious vision but don’t get overwhelmed by that - trust that one day at a time focusing on the right actions is going to get you there. “While you might not know how to run a big company today, trust yourself that you will evolve as the business does. One step at a time and trust in the journey.”
However, that doesn’t mean you have to throw caution to the wind. While growth is great, make sure your existing cash flow is in order.
“So many businesses fail because the owner doesn’t have an eye on the cash,” Emma adds. “Get clued up on this as a priority with no excuses that you are ‘not a number person’. Know your taxes, know your business costs - it’s key to your survival.”
And, if you hit a bump in the road, don’t bury your head in the sand.
“Reach out to your business network,” Hannah says. “Talk to other entrepreneurs you’ve met and befriended along the way and share your experience. You’ll be surprised at how much love, reassurance and emotional and emotional support is out there when you need it.
“Don’t compare your truth to someone else’s PR, and trust that every other business is probably battling the same ups and downs as you.”
Plus, she says, if you are just overwhelmed by a lot, just factor in a couple of days where you are just on auto-pilot. Sometimes growth is as much to do with when you pull back, as to when you pile in.
“It’s difficult to be creative or enthusiastic in the face of bad news, so find mindless, routine tasks that don’t take much brainpower, but need to be done, and tackle them.”
Above all, leverage your networks. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are great free forms of marketing and PR. Don’t be afraid to leverage testimonials to amplify your good work or be afraid to bang your own drum. Growth is as much about capitalising on existing success to get to a more successful point.