You've been running your own business for a few years. You make a decent living. But now it's time to take your business to the next stage and scale up. As a small business that understands the issues other small businesses face, we're perfectly placed to help. Here are some proven tips to support successful expansion.
Growing a business sustainably
First, triple-check you're achieving a consistent bottom-line profit while demonstrating steady growth. Then...
1. Make sure your admin systems are as good as they can be, capable of supporting growth without falling over
2. Don't make a move without first creating a new business plan, a vital intellectual exercise that will confirm your assumptions, help you see the wood for the trees and reveal any gaps in your thinking
3. Every good business plan involves marketing. Think through and price up the extra marketing you'll need to do to support expansion
4. Pin down any financing you may need early in the process, so it's there when you need it
5. If your business can be replicated successfully in other locations on a cookie-cutter basis, you could sell franchise opportunities outside your home territory
6. Think about creating a fresh alliance with a similar business to your own – would togetherness add up to more than the sum of the parts? If so partnerships can be a great way to expand fast. You need to align with other businesses with a healthy list of prospective customers. Explore every angle carefully in fine detail first, to make sure everyone concerned is making the right decision
7. Diversify. You could start selling complementary products or services, which are a natural fit. You could take your skills outside the business and teach others, or even become a paid speaker. Think through ways in which you could earn from multiple income streams, broadening your audience and widening your reach
8. Identify brand new markets. Are you missing a trick? Is there a segment of people you haven't approached yet, or can you tinker with products and services so they fit a new niche to perfection?
9. By the same token, is one of your target markets a better performer than the rest, or bigger, or easier to convert, even easier to identify? If so, reducing your reach and focusing harder on the best customers could result in more profit and a stronger business
10. Go for a government or local council contract. Just bear in mind that the process can be long and complex, with a lot of groundwork and research to do. You should be able to find a local or national organisation dedicated to 'business matchmaking', which connects business owners with potential buyers
11. Merge with another business, or buy another business to support expansion. You might have to deal with customer retention issues, which may involve speaking to hundreds of people individually or sending out thousands of persuasive letters or emails, but when both businesses are similar enough the integration can go nice and smoothly, instantly increasing your reach, reputation and income
12. Expand your online presence. If you have an excellent local online presence, can you harness the principles of search marketing and SEO to widen your reach nationally or even internationally? If you're in a particularly competitive sector this might prove a bridge too far unless you have significant digital marketing experience and expertise, or a large marketing budget, but it's worth exploring
13. Borrow cash to fund expansion. But bear in mind lenders will want to feel confident in your ability to manage the expansion and pay back what you owe in good time. If you can contribute your own cash, better still
We're perfectly placed to provide neutral, sensible advice to help you take the next big step. If you're thinking about whether to expand your small business and take things to the next stage, get in touch with Sussex Business Bureau for friendly, practical, expert help.
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