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Your business is thriving, your industry appears to be on the up, and you have identified an area which you believe is a potential growth opportunity. While the possibility of taking your company to the next level is exciting, it is also something which requires forward planning and a cool head.

Fail to capitalise on this opportunity and you risk your business stagnating; go too far the other way, however, and dive into an expansion project without due diligence and proper planning, and you risk overstretching yourselves. As a business owner you should not be scared of growth, but you should ensure you are aware of the potential pitfalls of embarking on such a project without a carefully considered plan.  

Taking the leap

While a level of business growth often occurs organically, in order to truly expand your business it is likely that at some point you will be required to make a big leap. This could involve expanding into other territories, entering a new marketplace, or committing to significant investment in key areas such as marketing or recruitment. A carefully devised strategy is what turns a dream into a workable and viable plan.

When it comes to execution, the best plans are robust yet adaptive – meticulous enough to have considered have to overcome likely issues, yet flexible enough to allow for unexpected events or challenges which may arise. While a business plan is a must when embarking on such a project, as a business owner, possessing the agility to adequately respond to variations within the marketplace is what will allow the company to continue in an upward trajectory in spite of external issues.

Know your customer (and your staff and your products)

Before looking ahead it is important to look back and consider how the company got to its current position. This can help you identify its strengths and weaknesses, as well as highlighting any parts of the company’s history that you would do differently a second time around. This process of retrospective consideration is hugely valuable and can ensure you are starting off

In many ways embarking on an expansion project sees you in a better position than you were when starting up the company. In many ways you start a company almost blind – while it may be backed up by prior experience or market research – the reality of a business is often vastly different to how you may have imagined it before you began trading.

The catalyst for embarking on a growth period is typically through the identification of a gap in the market, or recognising that there is an untapped or underutilised area of your business ripe for exploiting.

When faced with taking an existing trading company to new heights, you can approach this in a different way. A working knowledge of the marketplace, your products, your competitors, as well as the skills and capacity of your team, not to mention relationships with suppliers and distributors already solidified are all massively important factors upon which to build. With actual facts and figures regarding your cash flow and the overall financial performance of the company, you can make key strategic decisions backed up by this knowledge and experience. Knowing these strengths and weakness is hugely valuable – so make sure they are utilised to your advantage!

"If you are committed to growing your business then you need to commit to investing the time and money to give it every chance of success."

Fund the growth

If you are committed to growing your business then you need to commit to investing the time and money to give it every chance of success. Make sure you have allocated sufficient resources to the project – whether this is financial or manpower. This may be already available in the business, alternatively staff may need upskilling, or you may need to look outside of the company for either funding or talent to ensure the business is appropriately set up to tackle such a project. 

A business plan is not just a platform from which to launch a growth project from; it is also a safety net should things go awry. Planning allows you to put contingencies in place for possible shortcomings, limiting the need to make major decisions when things go wrong without these having been thought through prior. What would happen if your preferred source of funding fell through? How about if your supplier went out of business? Are you prepared for currency fluctuations if your business is going to involve overseas trading? Thinking of these things now gives you the chance to devise a ‘plan B’ without the pressure of an immediate decision being required. 

Conclusion

A business plan for growth should be seen as a fluid document and one which should be revisited at regular occasions. This can ensure you are on track to meet certain targets, keeps you focussed on your original objectives, as well as allowing for small tweaks to be made based on current performance and any changing micro- or macro-economic conditions.

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