12 killer business growth tips for SMEs

Overtake the competition, motivate your team and devise awesome strategies

So you’ve established your business and successfully grown past that fast-paced, frenetic start-up phase.

How do you continue to grow now, rather than plateauing?

It can be challenging to know where next to invest your resources when you’re making the transition from small to medium-sized.

To discuss how to grow at this crucial phase in a business’ lifecycle, we brought together owners and managers of fast-growing businesses with management and finance experts, for the Boosting Enterprise Roundtable at our Dynamic Enterprise Summit, kindly supported by RBS. Our thanks to all our guests for sharing their time and thoughts.

Here are their tips.

1. Give your team more ownership

Offer opportunities for staff to advance and progress, such as handing over more responsibility – something entrepreneurs notoriously find difficult. This helps retain staff who want to develop themselves, while freeing you up to focus on strategy. Teach people on the job and allow them to grow in the business.

2. Develop a strong culture

If you have more than one office or branch, or staff who work remotely, you may struggle with maintaining a strong culture within the business. You might try developing online training courses for staff, which can help share clear core values, while also ensuring staff are trained consistently. Also, when it comes to training, anything you ask staff to do should be something you’re willing to do yourself.

3. Identify your weaknesses

Understand your own weaknesses as well as your strengths. Surround yourself with employees who have different strengths and let them teach you. You don’t have to know and do everything.

4. Be transparent with your bank

Mark Andrews, managing director, Corporate Banking, RBS (future Williams & Glyn), said it’s important for businesses to be transparent with banks. “Customers are not prepared to tell banks everything because they’re scared they’ll react badly,” he said. He advised businesses to work on presenting their business information clearly and to foster a trusting partnership with their bank manager, who can then help with growth planning.

5. Harness the best graduates

Recruiting isn’t just about paying for experience. Offering a slightly better salary to a graduate means you can harness talent at the beginning of their careers. This is particularly true for tackling the shortage of STEM-trained people in the UK workforce, as many graduate engineers, for example, move away from poor graduate salaries in engineering and get swept up by industries that pay better.

6. Ask your staff

Get people away from the office and ask them what they think the business should be doing and where it should be progressing. This group approach can be much more successful than doing everything on your own – plus, it gives good staff genuine and deserved involvement in the business.

7. Sort out the structure

Growing from a small to medium-sized business can be a big change, particularly when adding a more vertical management structure. Don’t kill innovation by creating unnecessary chains of command.

8. Take some time out

Taking a couple of days away from your business can be revolutionary – particularly if you talk to like-minded entrepreneurs and people who are going through the same changes as you. This can change your entire outlook on the business. Explore weekend courses and workshops aimed at managers, and consider mentoring schemes.

9. Work with the board

Often the biggest disagreements that happen in a business are between the founder and the board, particularly where the founder has been used to making sole decisions for a long time. Boards make changes to how a business operates or the direction that it’s going. Sometimes founders have to accept that and aim to work with them, not against them. The wisdom of the crowd can be a powerful thing, and you brought them onto your board for their expertise – so use it.

10. Choose your mission statement

It may seem pointless to a business that has been running fine without one, but a mission statement can really help you channel your core objectives and share your vision with the whole team. It can take days to come up with a good mission statement, but it’s not something you should rush.

11. Attend business events

Get out of the office to business events to pick up tips. Use the networking time as well as you can, since you never know who you might meet and how they could change your business.

12. Love it

If you’re not passionate about your business or the industry it’s in, you’re doing entrepreneurialism wrong.

The Dynamic Enterprise Summit and Boosting Enterprise Roundtable were kindly supported by RBS.

Also, some exciting news from them - Williams & Glyn, a bank brand that has been dormant for nearly 30 years, is to return to the UK high street under a deal signed by RBS. Williams & Glyn promises to be a bank that truly understands the needs of fast-growing businesses.

Please do take a look at the attached factsheet to find out more, and email RBS business development director sean.wood@rbs.co.uk with enquiries.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Anonymous

    Good to see some proper business advice on the website. More of this and less tittle tattle please.

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  • Anonymous

    "Be transparent with your bank"?

    My bank couldn't care less about my business. The only thing they are interested in is whether I can afford to repay my loans & overdraft, and making sure that there's a Director's Guarantee in place so that they can seize my house if the business fails.

    My last bank manager wouldn't have been able to understand a Janet & John book, much less a business plan.

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