By Violeta Martin, area vice president commercial sales EMEA at DocuSign
Businesses are much easier to start than to grow. In the UK, nine out of ten startups survive the first year in business, but five years on, only four out of ten will still be trading. While starting a business may be easy, the complexities of scale are real and can be hard to overcome.
In the UK, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of the economy. This vibrant community, full of energy and creative thinking, accounts for over 99% of all private sector businesses and makes up a huge proportion of UK job creation. They make the UK more competitive, drive healthy turnover that sees the most productive companies succeed, attract interest from abroad, add diversity to our cityscapes, and bring economic value to regions up and down the country.
Confidence levels, however, have plummeted – attributable in large part to the trade uncertainty facing the country, mounting costs and red tape. In March 2019, The Federation of Small Business’s Small Business Index (SBI) was negative for the third consecutive quarter. The first time in its nine-year history.
In fact, our research found that only 22% – less than a quarter – of the UK’s SME owners have plans to expand internationally in the next two years.
So what can make the difference from starting to scaling. From our research, we’ve put together 10 tips for growing a business in the current climate.
Diagnose your blind spots
According to our research, SMEs in the UK are struggling to scale their businesses, and what’s more, they’re confused about the barriers to expansion. Specifically, 45% can’t identify the obstacles that keep them from growing. Having said that, the common thread for enhancing business prosper and expansion is the combination of two things: the right people, and the right digital infrastructure.
Build a team that you trust
Hire the best people you can, learn to delegate and empower them to make decisions and contribute to the development of the business. Supporting your staff will have an immediate and positive effect to the growth and success of your business.
Recognise your limits
Most leaders can identify their strengths, but many struggle to recognise their weaknesses. In order to successfully grow a company, it is vital that business owners are able to take a step back and recognise when someone else in the team is better suited to the job.
Find your niche – and stick with it
Diversifying isn’t always the best strategy in business. Instead, business leaders should their niche and continually innovate around that strength.
Build a support network
Take the time to stay networked in the larger business community. As you expand, your network will be a vital source of new customers, talent and partners.
Make sure that the team has the tools to succeed
Easy-to-use systems that automate daily processes, avoid delayed customer payments, share infrastructure and create flexible working methods help the work to be more accurate and efficient.
Focus on what the team does best, and build a network of outsourcing solutions to deliver the rest. This might mean new products, services, and specialist expertise, which will make employees’ life less complicated especially when preparing contracts online or supporting customers.
Be ready to roll out
Having the capacity, resources and agreements in place to scale quickly will help strengthen your status among your competitors.
Future-proof infrastructure investments
Products and services and their maintenance costs need to deliver value for the future. Find tier based solutions that can grow and extend with your business. Some of these products might include collaboration tools, contract lifecycle management, storage software and other IT platforms – all connected to each other.
Share your passion
Don’t let go of the vision and conviction that was the start of “your” something, but at the same time be prepared to adapt and take on new perspectives to correspond to the ‘digital transformation’ of today. This new era will equip you with the technological innovations that make it easier to match the scale of the SME ambition.
Growing your business is hard work and there are several hurdles SMEs need to face on the way to success. To ensure your business is heading towards the right path, you will need to incorporate the above measurements into your strategy. But an important takeaway you should always bear in mind is that the combination of both business skills and the right technology tools will help you reach your company’s full potential, attract investment and the best talent.