With business confidence reaching a four year high, one in four UK small businesses have set the target of 10% growth or more in the next year. On top of that, more than one in ten firms are targeting 15% growth or more in the same period, one in twenty (5%) are aiming for 25% growth or more and nearly half are planning to hire more staff.
These statistics, taken from a November survey of business owners, underlines the ambitions of small and medium-sized firms as the economy warms up. Growth is firmly back on the agenda for Britain’s business owners and with this month’s Autumn Statement confirming the economy is set to increase by 3% in 2014/2015 firms are right to be setting their sights on unlocking future growth.
With a rise in confidence reflected in businesses’ predictions for the year ahead, how can small and medium-sized firms un-tap further growth in 2015? Here are five tips to help you with your growth aspirations.
1. Harness The Power Of Technology
The rate of technological advancement continues to march on, and effective use of technology lies at the heart of many successful business growth strategies. Many small and medium-sized companies have been able to use cloud-based technologies to give them capabilities that were previously the preserve of large corporations with big IT budgets, while others are leveraging mobile technologies and big data to boost the productivity of their employees and access new customers and markets.
By pre-empting rapid growth you can actually put the systems in place to help you manage surges in demand and growing complexities. Technology can also move your business into the next gear. Whether that is by allowing a more flexible way of working for your employees, or by being able to manage your business online and on the move – arming employees with the right tools and infrastructure is fundamental to achieving sustainable growth.
2. Offer Mobile & Flexible Working To Staff
By law, all businesses must now offer flexible working arrangements to staff – and research has shown the growing importance to the workforce. More than half of employees (57%) say the availability of flexible working in their workplace is important to them, and 500,000 people have adopted flexible working in the last three years. Flexible working can empower your staff and increase productivity by unchaining employees from their desks, as well as allowing for more efficient use of space and reduce overhead costs.
3. Close The Mentoring Gap
Small businesses in the UK could double their chances of increasing their turnover by using a business mentor – yet four out of five organisations are not utilising one. Small and medium-sized firms need to look outside their business to thrive. Research has shown that 70 per cent of small businesses that receive mentoring survive for five years or more – double the rate compared with non-mentored entrepreneurs. With small and medium-sized firms making up 99.9% of the UK business population, the wider implications for the economy could be huge if mentoring was widely adopted.
4. Don’t Miss The Boat On Exporting
The Chancellor is aiming to see £1 trillion of exports by 2020, but many businesses are still not exploring this as route to growth. Exporting not only leads to greater revenues and improved profits, it can also diversify risk because you are selling to a number of countries and are no longer reliant on a single customer or the domestic market. The life cycles of your products or service can also improve as they extend lives in new markets, and there are economies of scale to be untapped by producing greater volumes, and operational efficiencies. Whilst exporting is not a silver bullet for business growth, an export drive should be a consideration for firms in their quest for expansion.
5. Explore Alternative Routes Of Finance
With many business owners turning their backs on traditional routes of raising finance, technology has opened up a whole range of doors for connecting firms with potential investors. One such route is crowdfunding – where funding a project or venture through raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically through the web. Many people who use crowdfunding are of course looking for the next Amazon, or the next Google, but often they are very savvy investors that can also add a huge amount of value and experience to your business beyond finance.