Ten strategies for growth

Now that end of year financial returns have been lodged and the economy is on the mend, it’s time to plan ahead to get ahead.

Many smart companies need to commit some time to bring together their friends, key team members and their accountant to redirect their business development efforts. Renewal replaces recovery.

Smart companies do not attempt to predict the future but rather prepare the business to hold the right level of inventory and stay close to key suppliers and their value chain.

The biggest danger for business owners is failure to thrive because of the negative experiences of the post-GFC realities. Here are 10 steps into the future that may help forget the past and capture growth.

1. Review last year’s budget and identify which expenditures were investments in growth and which are costs that can be reduced.

2. Identify the drivers of your survival in the tough times and set out a plan to expand business around these strengths.*

3. Work with your accountant to develop a break-even model for each major business extension into new terrains.

4. Make an effort to compare your costs of doing business with those of your industry and establish growth targets.

5. Establish key success factors and development opportunities for each member of your top team and key sales drivers.

6. Make sure that each staff member is invited to review their current job description to see how it could give them more opportunities to contribute.

7. Introduce awards and incentives for converting customer queries and complaints into new products, new markets or new ways of creating customer satisfaction.

8. Develop a master plan to take advantage of improving levels of consumer confidence. **

9. Treat competitors in the same way that a basketball coach prepares the team for contingencies. Plan ahead and make changes faster than the competition.

10. Remember that you came into the business to give yourself greater freedom and to take charge of your future. Plan for a holiday by introducing better delegations and succession planning.

* Re: consumer confidence reports – don’t get lost in the vagaries of yesterday (e.g. academic studies of the previous year’s business comments or the Westpac retrospective consumer sentiment studies) when you can look at more accurate weekly trends of consumer confidence (e.g. the weekly consumer confidence reports of Roy Morgan Research).

** By way of contrast, Westpac Chief Economist Bill Evans said recent interest rate cuts had provided a boost for consumer sentiment, but confidence levels remained below the highs of recent years: “This result is far from convincing and should not be interpreted that we can expect confidence to steadily return to more normal levels over the months ahead.”

Make the most of the coming months. No business or marketing plan can ever be completely accurate but smart company management needs to avoid missing business opportunities and be ready to make changes that capture the momentum when things start to turn around. Unforeseen changes should be regarded as tests of prior business assumptions rather than as errors of judgement.

Dr Colin Benjamin is an entrepreneurship and strategic thinking consultant at Marshall Place Associates, which offers a range of strategic thinking tools that open up a universe of new possibilities for individuals and organisations committed to applying the processes of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. Colin is also a member of the global Association of Professional Futurists.

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