If you want to grow a business fast, good ideas are often merely the first ingredient.
Having a scalable concept is one thing, but executing it requires expertise, skill and no shortage of persistence.
The fast-growing companies that made this year’s Smart50 Awards list don’t attribute their success to luck, but rather business lessons learnt through failures and mistakes.
The seven businesses below have all seen three-year revenue growth rates of 90% or more.
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Asked what advice they would give to other business owners hoping to make millions, these company founders focus on the elements that often get left out of inspirational speeches — things like routine, strategy and trust.
Here are their top tips for growth.
Think strategically about leadership
“My recommendation would be to learn the difference between a shareholder, director and employee — quickly. The three things are often lumped together at the outset but are so different. Set up your business aligned to these categories.
“If you do choose to start out with others, not everyone involved needs to be all three things, in fact I’d strongly argue that should not be. If there is money available to pay yourselves (there rarely is at the beginning) don’t fall into the trap of equal pay for everyone. Different roles attract different market rates.
“Set out as you mean to go on and make sure this is clear at the beginning.”
— The Interchange founder Gabrielle Harris
Enjoy more than just the good times
“If working in a business partnership you have to trust one another, listen to one another and find compromises and solutions together that benefit the business and the partnership. Enjoy what you do and always look at the opportunity you were given as a blessing.
“Being a business owner has many perks and if your business is doing well it’s extremely satisfying, however, you need to enjoy all of it; the times when things are hard or not going to plan will happen more often than not. It’s in these times we have realised how much our business means to us and we will dig deep every time because we do still love and enjoy what we do.”
— CK Recruitment founders Kylie Hayes and Cassie Greenland
Seriously consider how your idea will scale
“Don’t let the tail wag the dog. Define what you what to achieve then build a plan to make it happen. In retail, business owners will often build a single store, realise they have a good business model then try to roll it out. This can be fraught with problems — from not having the right management structure in place, right through to supply chain inefficiencies.
“This certainly doesn’t the negate the importance of building a concept and being prepared to evolve the model/offering quickly before a rollout, but stresses that there are two distinct arms two consider: 1. The business itself: brand, unique customer proposition and offering, and 2. The requirements for scale or a successful rollout. It’s important not to damage the brand essence in replication.”
— Laser Clinics Australia founders Alistair Champion and Babak Moini
Pay attention to the foundation of your sales strategy
“In the startup world, particularly in the startup IT world, people get super focused on just building a great product. A great product is exceptionally important. If you have a great product, it makes it easier to hire staff, to sell your product and to retain your clients. It makes everything else easier.
“But the product is just one part of the business. On top of a great product you need great staff, you need a great sales process, you need a great pricing model, you need great implementation support, you need to continually improve your product and to provide amazing ongoing support.
“If you have a great product but you don’t have great sales staff and a great sales process then you won’t make a lot of sales. If you don’t have great ongoing support and continually improve your product, then you won’t be able to retain the clients you have worked so hard to win.”
— Solv Solutions founder Glen McIvor
Work on hiring specialists
“Above all else, it is vital that business owners place emphasis on hiring the right staff for their business. We have found time and again there is no match for industry experience and expertise.
“As a Newcastle-based company, TopBetta’s roots are as a family-owned local business. As it has grown rapidly in the past 24 months, the importance of employing specialists has been emphasised. TopBetta now proudly employs individuals with vast industry experience, including a former head of product at global wagering giant William Hill, as well as expanding departments such as IT and marketing with highly qualified professionals. This has added a new level of professionalism, efficiency and productivity to our business, which is reflected in our strong growth figures.”
— TopBetta founder Todd Buckingham
Face failure and hire fast
“Be prepared to fail. We had lots of ideas for businesses and products that we ‘tested’ then discounted. This is certainly something most entrepreneurs can attest to — it’s rarely the first or even second idea or venture that takes off. Failure is a healthy and expected part of being an entrepreneur. They key is to not give up.
“You will also need to hire people before you think you need to. We used to do everything ourselves to try and save money. What we realised is this was a false economy. While we were wearing numerous hats, we weren’t doing any of the roles justice or delivering what was required to the level we expected.
“It was a big decision to hire staff, delegate and let go. But having the right people at the right levels in our business has enabled us to reach our potential and drive our strategy, innovation and growth further.
“Having a strong team with a common vision and passion has enabled us to focus on our business rather than getting bogged down in the business. “
— B.box for kids founders Dannielle Michaels and Monique Filer
Know where to go for support
“I would recommend having trusted advisors who you can turn to when you need advice or are just looking for someone to listen and share the load. It also gives a different perspective and a platform to talk through ideas. Friends and family are great, however, they tend to be more positive and encouraging even when it is not justified!
“While having the right advisors and mentors is important, the most important piece of advice I would give to fellow business owners would be to ‘trust your gut’. If something doesn’t feel right then it rarely is. I am continually surprised how effective this approach is and it has certainly saved me from some potentially wrong decisions in the past.
“The other piece of advice I would give is to focus on what is important and not what is urgent. There will always be urgent items which take up a proportionally large amount of your time but will distract you from the important activities that will drive your business forward. This can make progress seem slow and frustrating but by remembering to take the time to stop and reflect on what has been achieved in the previous days, weeks and months and refocusing on the important items, then the business will move forwards quicker than you think.”
— Cashrewards founder Andrew Clarke