NEWS / INSIGHT

Supersize me

Are you ready to expand?

There are a few ways to do it…  

So you’ve got your business up and running, with some lovely products and a group of spellbound customers. So, asks Rachel Bridge, what next? What if you want to continue to grow?

Venture capitalists see most business with less than 100 people as ‘lifestyle’ plays. Once the founders have secured enough cash to live the life they want, doing the job they love, the fire to grow is extinguished from their bellies. And that makes them ‘un-investible’.

But what about the rest of us? How do we move from startup, to growth and then into a business that works on a bigger scale?

For many, it starts with being honest.

There’s no sitting still in business – you’re either moving forwards, or slipping back. Are you really looking for the next challenge, the next opportunity and the next stage of their development?

 
 

If you are then scaling-up is just as exciting as a starting up. You just have to be motivated. And so do your team.

James white, head of sales operations at virgin media business, says: “the key to delivering growth in competitive markets is creating a culture where your teams feel empowered to challenge, experiment and feel that they can effect change.”

What are the ‘routes to scale’?

Well, apart from simply selling more and taking market share, there are three routes to scale: entering new markets, innovation or exporting. Each of these avenues should build on the progress you’ve already made.

Whichever route you choose, the key to success lies in thorough research, and making sure you definitely have the resources to pursue new avenues – without neglecting your existing business. And you don’t need an MBA to do it.

1. Entering new markets

You’ve built up a loyal following of students, but could pensioners fall in love with your products? Is there a way to tweak how (or where) you talk about what you do, to engage a new section of customers? Is there a gap in another market that, with a bit of thought, your services could fill?

2. Innovation

There are many ways to innovate. Sure new technologies get the glamour and, sometimes, the headlines. But innovation is also about looking at market trends and tweaking your product range to reflect them. Innovations in your financial systems or supply chain could also have a massive impact on how big your company gets. Make it easier to do business with you, and more people will do business with you.

3. Exporting

If it works in the UK, it might well work somewhere else as well. There’s a lot of mystique about exporting – and it can be more complex than selling in your home market. But it’s also very achievable and may have less risk than a big innovation. It can also be done early in your business cycle.

A quick case study

Praveen Vijh is the co-founder of Eat Natural, makers of fruit and nut bars. The business began exporting to a customer in Holland soon after it launched in 1997, and it now exports to 43 countries and exports account for 28% of its sales.

Praveen says: “I think the problem that most businesses have is that they fear exporting – because they don’t know what it’s going to entail. It’s nowhere near as hard or daunting as it seems. Don’t think of it as exporting – just think of it as selling to another customer, except that instead of that customer being in Manchester, they’re in Cologne. There are a few simple logistical problems to solve – that’s all.”

His advice? Just do it. “You can always change things as you go along. If you’re a bit concerned about it, concentrate on one country at a time, or maybe two or three countries – as much as you think you can actually handle.”

For Eat Natural, expanding has brought numerous benefits. “People can generally find our bars wherever they travel. That’s very good for pure sales but it’s also exciting. It’s a little bit glamorous to travel the world with your business. And it brings perspective – for me, running my business in the UK seems a lot easier because i’ve expanded my horizons.”

And there’s another upside: “You’re spreading your risk. If you lose any part of the market, you always have something to fall back on. So it increases the security of your business.

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