Innovation and Growth Strategy for SMEs

Your business is a journey and right now you are at the beginning of that journey so just as you would prepare your car for a big trip, prepare your business. Evaluate your business strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Analyse every aspect of each of the business functions, its products and services, how it operates, what markets it operates in, and the resources required. Resources include staffing as well as financial capital, and for manufacturing companies it can include raw materials.

If your company is starting out, this exercise will look more like a business planning exercise, and there is likely to be a lot of uncertainty about the future prospects of the business. Many start ups are overly optimistic about the future, and especially if the owners or directors have little previous experience of running a company.

Wherever you are on your business journey, it’s advisable to assess the future business potential taking a “warts and all” approach, and really understand what is needed to move forward. Be realistic about sales targets and forecasts, and build in contingencies where cash-flow is concerned.

Success in business has much to do with having a strong vision, strong focus, and having some idea of the direction you need to take to realise the goals and vision. This is your mission.

Having a strong vision is one thing, but to achieve growth and success, you need a team behind you who share your passion and your dream. Really successful leaders are the ones who can communicate their vision and mission to their followers, partners, team members who will then support them to achieve the goals.

Turning a dream into reality requires a strategy. A strategy is the blueprint you are going to use to drive your business forward. It will incorporate the particular approach you are going to take for each aspect or function of your business from your business vision to which products and services you are going to sell, and how you are going to sell them.

Most businesses will require an overarching Business Strategy, and, depending on the size of your company, you may also have individual strategies for each of the business functions. The most common being the Marketing Strategy.

This will focus on your customer profiling and target markets and which channels you are going to use to drive sales. It will also include your pricing policies, your market positioning, the physical location of your company and its branches, and your creative campaigns.

Your company’s corporate identity is one of the most important aspects of successfully growing and developing your business. It is how customers will recognise you, how they will align themselves with your products and services, and how you gain your market position and market share.

Often businesses need access to finance in order to achieve the growth that they are trying to achieve. Raising capital is not as difficult a task as it sounds and in fact there are a number of places that businesses can go to in order to learn about accessing finance – the banks are not the be all and end all of business funding.

A recent funding service called GrowthAccelerator offers the chance for growing SMEs to enjoy business coaching and matched-funded training provision as carefully selected experts share useful tips on how to achieve business growth. It is no single entity and services like this do still exist – you just need to take the time to have a look round at what is out there and how your business could benefit from coaching and training for growth.

As you plan your growth strategy you need to make sure the resources are in place to cope with rising demand. This not only means you need adequate staffing levels but if you are a manufacturer, do you have enough access to raw materials for the long term? It might be worth contracting work out for a short while until you get enough business in to employ somebody new – consider every eventuality.

Once your growth strategy is complete it is time to implement it. You need to consider the best routes to market. Take a look at your competition, set up Google Alerts and follow what others are doing in your industry – this will give you an idea of your own position within your marketplace.

Consider marketing. You can be the best business in the country but if nobody knows who you are, you will not be profitable. There are lots of things you can do to raise your profile – take an active role in social media, plan a social media strategy and develop your brand online. Consider some direct marketing. All those business cards you stored up are useless if just gathering dust.

Start adding them to your contact database and send out newsletters and marketing material letting them know of your latest news and offers. Call in some experts for strategic marketing help and work with an agency in order to achieve the best results.

Once your business does begin to see signs of growth that is the worst time to sit comfortably. Instead, go back to the start and review further areas for growth. Once you begin seeing a return on investment, you need to start re-investing that money in order to achieve greater growth. Step up your marketing further or look at launching into new markets. Does your product have potential in other areas? Growth is a circle and once it starts, you need to keep momentum.