Rapid Growth: The Hidden Pitfalls

Business growth can be stressful. There’s so much pressure these days for businesses to perform at full capacity from day one. So how do you combat problems that come with accelerating business success? Rick Smith, Managing Director of Forbes Burton, explains how…

Whether your company is large or small, the stress that directors and business owners are put under on a regular basis can sometimes seem unreal. There’s a real edge to business in these modern times that dictates that you can’t switch off, you can’t say no and you certainly can’t turn down business.

This pressure cooker environment often creates situations that few can deal with. The temptation to sign up as much business without a second thought can be tempting. If the charts at your monthly management meetings are heading in the right direction, what is there to worry about?

This is a mistake that is often seen in business. Trade seems good and customers are happy. However, scratch below the surface and it all starts to come unstuck. Those who have experienced such growth will be wary of the pitfalls already. Overstretch yourself and the dark shadow of liquidation, insolvency and bad credit could loom large. Not being prepared can lead to reputational damage and worse.

Focus on yourself

Instead of developing an obsession with turnover, you should seek an understanding of why your business is doing so well. Look at your most successful products or services and make them work for you.

Prioritising this as your core business, irrespective of whether this is what you expected it to be, is the best way to go. Knowing what makes you unique as a business can have untold benefits. If you don’t know what you are specialists or experts in, then how can you maintain growth and success?

Also, make sure you know your financial standing. How much have you got coming in, what are your overheads and how can you make sure this is maintained?

Knowing your own business well is key. If liquidation is your worst nightmare, then knowing your finances down to the penny is incredibly helpful.

Be a people person 

Surrounding yourself with the right people with the requisite skills is essential. Bringing members of staff on board who think in different ways and have knowledge in areas you don’t is very advantageous. Getting people in with the right skills before you start to grow is also helpful. If you are aiming for the stars, then take people who can support you along for the ride. After all, there’s nothing worse than battling against odds in which you have no experience.

Take advice 

Have a business confidante who can help inform your decisions. Most directors would kill for a sounding board, but few have the immediate options. A mentor can be a sound investment early on, or look for a network of businesses which are in a similar business scenario.

Growth can happen in the blink of an eye at time, and being equipped with the right kind of advice can prepare you for the challenges that come with such a situation.

Make yourself customer-focused 

Rapid growth can often bring on the itch to move towards automation of customer service. Bowing to convention in this instance can often backfire.

If your customers or clients have always been used to being able to speak with a human being based at your central office, AI or an outsourced call centre won’t foster longevity.

Keep what makes your products or services special unique and improve them. Businesses that grow often look to cut costs as they get bigger, but this is often at the cost of losing that personal touch many companies work hard to engineer in their early days.

Don’t get overwhelmed 

As company culture continues to push for ambition and instant gratification, it can be easy to say yes too often and end up taking on more than is physically possible. Remember the old adage that if your outgoings simply don’t match your earnings, you are insolvent. This is important to remember, simply so you don’t lose sight of what your plan might be.

Refinance at the right time 

Looking ahead is essential when it comes to growth, but perhaps more important when planning out finance options. Cash flow is a stone-cold killer in business, especially when startups make the leap to the next level.

Making sure your business has enough in the way of funds to carry on trading in that crucial period between growth and then sustaining that growth cannot be underestimated in terms of importance. Bridge that gap and you’ll have more breathing space. Fail to plan this element of your finances and you could find times become lean, even when orders seem to be flying in.

Overall, patience is a virtue when it comes to growth. Unnecessary purchases and taking on too much, too soon can halt progress. It pays to think lean even when things seem perfect. There’s a lot to be said for diversifying too. If you pin all your hopes on one supplier, it could easily turn your world upside down if things go awry.

Growth, after all,is a double-edged sword and should be approached with caution.

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