Kayleigh Alexandra is a writer and campaign designer for MicroStartups, a website focused on helping charities and microbusinesses. After years working in the sustainability, marketing and creative industries, Kayleigh now loves to devote her time to supporting other businesses to grow and thrive. Visit her blog or follow her on Twitter @getmicrostarted for the latest news, tips and advice for startups and solopreneurs.
What Does Sustainable Business Growth Look Like?
To expand in a way that promotes the long-term health of your business you need to grow in a managed and controlled way.
Leveraging definable business goals, strategic employee management, risk-managed investment, and a clear brand identity —that’s what sustainable business growth looks like.
Start with your business goals and keep it simple
This doesn’t mean you need to map out your future for the next 15 years (society and technology dictates that you cannot be so inflexible), but it does mean you need to think about your trajectory constantly.
Your plan for sustainable business growth starts with a series of questions:
- What’s the next logical step for my business? What lies ahead of me?
- What does my company need to attain to achieve this growth?
- Who (staff and clients) do we need to develop?
- Why am I growing my business (how will it benefit you and your business)?
- When are we doing this? (stage it – evolution, not revolution…)
Once you’ve answered these questions, your answers need to be structured towards a specific goal (or set of goals). For example, a sustainable growth goal may be to increase revenue by 25% every year or grow the team by one head a quarter. You have to think about how much time you’ll need to invest in staff training, infrastructure, marketing etc.
Manageable growth comes with a high-performance team
Your team is the most valuable asset your business has, even more so than the expertise of your company director.
Your team are the foot-soldiers for your objectives; the ones who will deliver your growth objectives. Sustainable growth for your business looks like a high performance and trusted team — one that grows with your company.
You have to make good hires, putting the right characters in the correct roles – just one bad egg or poorly fitting employee could put the brakes on your planned growth.
You need a training and development program that allows your team to align with your business journey. Hiring new staff when you could have grown an existing one into the role is neither prudent nor part of a sustainable people growth plan. Inhouse employees have insider knowledge that you’ll need to teach new staff, so try to foster talent within your business, as well as attracting new ones.
Sensible growth looks like a risk-managed investment strategy
No business strategy is risk-free. Every growth spurt comes with risk, but you can guard against potential hazards by developing a risk-managed strategy.
Like many aspects of business growth, risk-managed investment is about troubleshooting. You need to think of solutions to any problems you might encounter, assuming that each investment you make might fail.
The bottom-line is that your financial plan for sustainable business growth looks like a bank account prepared to cover any growth shortfalls.
It’s not just about your business being able to face itself in the mirror after a growth failure, it’s about still being solvent enough to own the mirror!
Long-term growth means matching your brand to your market
In the current economic and political climate, there’s a lot of unsubtle noise around branding: Trump is making U.S. trade great again; the UK wants to return to cutting deals that benefit its own interests; the EU won’t taint its brand by sacrificing standards for the sake of money.
Your business can learn from the examples of nation-states and global organizations. How? By matching your growth to services and markets that look like they support your brand identity.
To do this, you need to:
Develop a clear understanding of what your brand is, and will be
Knowing what your brand will look like now and in the future is crucial to your growth strategy because it creates pathways for you to channel your growth into. Even the largest businesses have added products/services or moved into markets that conflict with how their brand is perceived, stymieing or collapsing growth.
New Coke is one of the most famous examples of a brand disaster story. While Coca Cola had the business resources to move past a market failure, your business may not be in a position to survive a product response in the way New Coke did.
Put the structure in place to make the transition to new horizons
The structure to seamlessly make the transition to new horizons should be in place. Your team members are your business’ most important asset, but to deliver your growth plans they need the correct structure. For example, if you want to grow your business by releasing a new product you need the marketing resources to tell people about it.
A social media marketing tool like Hootsuite, or email marketing software like MailChimp, provides the structure to market your business quickly and efficiently. You can automate your posts and emails, then use the platforms detailed reporting facilities to see where your campaigns have succeeded or failed.
Adding tools such as these to your structure aid sustainable growth by making sure you never make the same mistakes twice.
Open your brand out to profitable markets, wherever they are
While sustainability is the key to business development, keep in mind that all the steps covered in this blog are aimed to help you grow. Growing is about gaining new customers which means opening your brand out to new markets, such as selling to customers beyond your borders.
China, Australia, South America, and Southeast Asia – these nations and regions have billions of customers spending billions of dollars every year. Though cross border commerce is an enormous opportunity for your company (the logical final step to sustainable business growth), it’s not without its risks. Fraud is something you’ll need to safeguard against, while taxation, regulations, and processing payments need to be planned for.
To take the final step in sustainable business growth, your business needs to leverage a sales channel that will let you reap the benefits and guard against the risks of cross border commerce. A suitable international ecommerce platform converts the currency of your products to that used by your customer, includes fraud analysis that spots risky orders, and comes with tax automation to manage the accounting of global commerce.
In fact, all sellers (whether on marketplaces or on platforms), should invest in tools like TaxJar that help automate sales tax processing while integrating with Square, Amazon, Magento, etc.
While you’ll still need to check the commerce laws of the region you’re selling in, using the right platform takes away a lot of the hassle of border-free trading.
Growth looks different for every business, scaling to suit your unique needs and goals. Sustainable business growth looks pretty similar whatever the status of your company. It’s about planning, structure, and making decisions that are in keeping with your brand identity. The final thing to remember about sustainable business growth is that it can’t come at the expense of what you already have. As you grow your business, your reputation and online presence need to come along for the ride, too.
Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to giving through growth hacking. Visit the blog for articles featuring startups, entrepreneurs, charity insights, content, and artistic topics. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.
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