Growing a business? Time to stop, look and listen
Once you’ve got over the shock that your business is viable, people do actually want to buy from you and you’re making a profit, your thoughts may be turning to growth, and turning your business into something even bigger and better. So what should you do next? Sue Keogh from Cambridge digital agency Sookio shares her tips.
Take stock of where you are now. Look at the data, look for patterns. That recent increase in sales – where did it come from, can it be maintained, is it seasonal, and how can you build on it to bring in even more revenue?
A mistake lots of small businesses make is rushing to hire new staff and moving to more expensive premises on the back of a short-term boost in fortunes, and then finding they have increased overheads that they can’t maintain.
So get your hands on as much data as possible. Don’t bury your head in the sand about your accounts. Don’t just pat yourself on the back and think, ‘well, this is all going rather well, isn’t it?’; think about why your business is a success and how you can build on this over the coming weeks, months and years. Then write this down so you have a business plan with some clear goals to work towards.
Keep your eyes and ears open! You’ve got to be alert to new trends, new tools that can help you do business more efficiently and new shifts in the marketplace that mean you need to tweak your offering to suit. Whether it’s customer needs or social media platforms, the pace of change is pretty fast nowadays and you need to keep up!
It’s also about listening to feedback. This doesn’t always come from obvious places. You may expect customers to dutifully fill in feedback forms on your website but that might not be from where the most honest responses come.
If you’re a major brand then yes, people will merrily fling all sort of mud at you because they know you’re big enough to take it and they see you as a faceless organisation. Just look at the Ryanair Facebook page or Twitter feed. But for a small retailer people might not want to be critical to your face.
So keep an eye out on reviews sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor, as well as niche online forums where people are discussing your type of product or service. It’s amazing what you can discover about what they really think of your offering. And if it’s negative you just have to take it on the chin and learn from it – growing a thick skin comes with growing a business!
You also have to listen to your team. Their input is vital if you’re going to scale up. You have to realise that you don’t have all the answers, and developing ideas together helps people feel valued and part of the continued success. You want to hire good people and you want them to stay with you long term – so involve them every step of the way.
Sue Keogh is a Sage Business Expert and founder of Sookio, a digital agency based in Cambridge which specialises in quality content for the web and social media.