Do you have the following building blocks of growth in place, and can you manage them?
- Building your team and creating an enviable corporate culture
- Consolidating growth and working to fill in the down cycles
- Controlling costs
- Keeping control of the debt
- Planning the growth
- Taking time for yourself to guard against burnout
- Understanding your core competencies
Core Competencies — Now that you have a growing business, you need to measure the aspects of your enterprise that drive your profits and those that increase your expenses. Common non-core functions in a small business are:
- Computer support and maintenance
- Customer help lines
- Equipment maintenance
- Human resources administration
- Legal and accounting support
- Payroll and debt collection
Functions in your business that are core include those that create a unique competitive advantage, contribute directly to growth, and are a service that others come to you for.
Planning the growth and controlling costs — The tools for planning your growth and maintaining your costs are cash flow projections (see Cash Flow Statement) and multiple scenario budgets planned on a shorter term than one year. While it may be pessimistic to plan for failure, do the math and figure out what things might look like if more money is going out the door than coming in.
Work on improving sales in the slow times — Huge peaks and valleys in the business cycle make it difficult to grow a substantial business. Look for complementary business services and products that provide a steadying influence. Market intensively, perhaps offering price breaks, during the down cycle so that you can offset your fixed costs. Build relationships with suppliers that build goodwill for the down cycles, as this may give you some leeway in terms of bill payments.
Manage the cash beast — Cash flow is king in all businesses, but especially small businesses. A poor business plan, operational budget, and cash flow plan contribute to financial risk. Get in the habit of doing a mini-business plan for every project, complete with a cash flow projection, and best-middle-worst case scenario. Start some cash flow kick starts today:
- Ask for deposits
- Increase your hourly rate if appropriate
- Shorten your billing cycle
- Stop work for customers who don’t pay
Employees and employers, together, create a corporate culture — Cultivating a winning corporate culture is the “buzz” of top employers. The leader’s most important function in creating an exciting, stimulating, growing business is communication. Employees need to feel empowered and that they have contributed directly to the success of the organization. People, including customers, have to believe that the plan will work and that it is not going to be abandoned for the next “hot thing.” Both of the previous two points require commitment of the leader to be a coach and team builder. By focusing on outcomes, working through natural leaders in your organization and listening, your job as a leader becomes easier.
Take time for yourself — Business success depends on the health, creativity, and physical and mental stamina of its leader. Business owners report stress and burnout lead to illness, relationship break-downs, and more. Take the time for yourself that you need to stay healthy (read the delegation section one more time!) so that you can steer your ship, through growth, to success.