Managing growth for small businesses

Jürg Widmer Probst

Managing growth for small businesses

Jurg Widmer Probst - Business Growth

Growth is a curious thing. Clearly, it’s what most of us want for our businesses – more clients or customers, new markets, and the opportunity that expansion gives us to provide bigger, fresher and more innovative products and services, to more people – and hopefully for more money.

Growth, then is a natural part of any business’s development – but that doesn’t mean that it is necessarily always easy. Over the years, we’ve seen how growth, rapid or otherwise, can have a pretty dramatic effect on a small business. Growth is a form of change and when handled correctly, that effect can be a good one, of course – but when growth happens and the business isn’t prepared for it, it can be hugely damaging and even fatal. So, here are just a few thoughts on how you can adapt to the growth that your business is experiencing – and hopefully ensure that it is as positive an experience as possible.

Be strategic about your growth, while you still have time

Growth is good, of course. But you also need to think strategically about what it actually looks like. It’s crucial that before your business starts to grow too quickly, and you run out of time to do this, you plan out and understand what growth might mean for your business, and how the systems, processes and people you have in place currently will be able to deal with it. Growth, essentially, is change – and change can be hugely traumatic for a company if it isn’t prepared for it. It is really important therefore to understand how you will handle each stage of this change process – the training and development you’ll need to implement, the talent you’ll need to hire, and the messages you’ll want to communicate.

Culture and communication matter

As with any kind of change management, effectively managing growth within a company relies heavily on your ability to get your messaging clear and consistent. Your people will need to understand how the growth of the company effects them directly, and what will be expected to them in terms of performance. But they will also need to have a sense – as perhaps they did when the business first started – of the kind of culture they are a part of at your company.

Is that culture changing as new people join and the business grows? Do the values you laid out in the early days as a small company still hold true now, or have they changed? These are huge considerations, because they speak to the aspirations that people had when they first joined you – and they address not just the structural, practical changes of the growth of your business, but actually how it feels to your people too.

Never forget the people who are making your growth happen

When a company grows, there are at least two sets of very important people who are driving that growth. One is your customers, and the other is your own team. Remember that both of these groups are also, in their own way, growing – either physically, in terms of numbers, or perhaps in terms of the training and development you are giving your people to help them to handle the demands of your growing business.

The key point here is that it is crucial that you acknowledge this, and support these two groups upon whom so much of your success as a business rests. As we’ve mentioned, for your teams, this could be about making sure that they have the right skills they need to handle the needs of the growing business. You might do this by training and developing your existing staff, or by hiring new recruits – but however you do it you’ll need to also make sure that you balance their needs with the needs of your growing customer base.

The quality of your customer service and the innovation that drove your products and services was most likely one of your biggest selling points as a ‘small’ company – and so now you’ve grown, you’ll need to make sure that those qualities aren’t lost.

Remember that so much of business is about relationships, so make sure that as you grow you look after these closely, inside and out. Prepare for growth, communicate the change to everyone it affects, and support the people who are driving your success to reach even greater heights.

Jürg Widmer Probst 

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