You might have reached the point where you need to expand your operation to continue developing your business. But what should you think about before committing to a growth strategy? Which approach will suit your business best? And how can marketing help you drive business growth?
Some small-business owners are content to maintain a small operation they can run themselves in return for a decent, but limited, income. Others, however, are driven by the challenge of growing their business into a high-profit venture with larger market share. Although higher-risk, this path can generate greater personal rewards - including the pay-off that might come from selling a profitable concern.
A larger firm is likely to be more complex, demanding and time consuming. It will probably require greater commitment - at first, at least - and you are likely to have to spend more time doing things you don't really enjoy, such as financial planning.
You will probably also have to concede some responsibility or control to others and invest in greater resources, such as larger premises, more equipment and more employees. As the business grows, your costs and management burdens will increase.
Depending on your growth strategy, you might also need to find the funds to expand. Your bank is the obvious starting point for a loan (check out the Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme), but there are other options, too:
Don't make the mistake of attempting to grow too soon, but wait until you have a period of successful trading behind you to provide evidence that your business model works. This - perhaps along with some basic market research - will also tell you whether there is enough demand to justify expansion and give you time to put the systems in place to cope with an increase in scale.
Working to a development strategy will help you to measure your progress. It should set out your methods, costs, targets and a realistic schedule, and you should revise your business plan to incorporate it.
Fast growth is easier to achieve in sectors driven by innovation, and launching new products or services can fuel considerable growth quickly. Most businesses opt for a more gradual, 'organic', growth that is more manageable and involves less risk, however. There are a number of well-established strategies:
Growth involves risk and commitment; but, well-managed, it should be achievable for most businesses. It will not necessarily happen fast or enable you to retire next year; but every large business started somewhere.