Monday, 13 January 2014

How to Grow a Sustainable Business

How to Grow a Sustainable Business
“How do you do it?” we keep being asked. 

With a history of over a thousand happy and profitable clients, sound bites have developed into what can only be called a manifesto: an outline of how sustainable profitability can be created in businesses like yours.

Believe in how good you really are

How do you know how good you are? Survey and understand your clients and what they say.

Put your prices up - and your best clients won’t leave.

Most companies shy away from “boasting”, but if you are good – say so – loudly and repeatedly.

Adopt a market-leading positioning that is credible – “a leading” rather than “the leading”, but in the Premier league all the same.

So, how good is your business? And how good does it appear to be from the website? Is there a difference?

Run the business for profit

Sounds silly, but many owner-directors don’t – does your business do so – really?

You do the operations side brilliantly, and are as busy as hell.

So, how profitable are some jobs? The bigger the job, often the less profitable it is.

And how do you know unless you really monitor it?

Many businesses reckon if they are busy, they are profitable, or as profitable as possible.

Nonsense. That’s working so the client can be profitable - and your business unprofitable.

Transform the product offering

What worked when you started the business doesn’t necessarily work now – is this true for your business?

The recession means it’s a new world with new priorities, new demands.

So, how much has your product offering, your packaging of services, changed in the last 2-3 years?

When did you last really survey your competitors? Not just what they offer and their prices, but how they present their services. What they emphasise. What they miss out.

Improve your products, and you improve your chances of successfully winning more and better business.

Think: what do clients really want? And how can you best offer that?

Transform the perception of the brand

You think everybody knows what your business does, what it stands for – but they don’t. Many don’t know you at all.

At best, they know some of what you do – but have pigeon-holed you. They don’t consider you for other work you could be doing for them.

You need to consider what your proposition is to them – why should they use you rather than a competitor?

You need them to know what you stand for – your values, and not just your services and prices.

In a beauty parade of websites, your home page needs to make you look and say the things the clients you are targeting want to see and hear.

Getting the brand right wins you more and better business. It’s not about marketing. It’s about sales and profits.

Get better revenues from existing clients

Key clients may well pay more – you’d be surprised. Satisfied clients don’t walk away.

A lot of our clients have put their prices up nervously, but have had no adverse reaction. They were selling too cheap.


• Could clients be buying more frequently from you? Have you got all their business? What would you need to do to get it?
• What else might they buy from you? Have you presented all the services you offer? Have you offered trials of services they haven’t tried?
• How could you package prices and products so as to upsell them?

Recruit higher-revenue new clients

This is what most people want to do, but it is easier to earn more from existing clients. Optimise that revenue first.

To win bigger, better business you need to look and act like a bigger, better business. So you need to get the products, packaging and branding right first.

To win new clients, you need to take business off their existing suppliers – so you need to be better than them. Are you? How could you offer a better service at a better price – and still make money?

Winning new business starts with getting to know someone. It begins with their awareness of you and what you offer. Then conversations. Finally, business opportunities.

Don’t dive in! You build new business brick by brick on solid foundations.

So, winning new, bigger business is first a matter of getting everything to do with the business at its best.

That will increase your confidence, and the warmth of response you will get.

There are strategies – for example, using research techniques to find out about what prospects want. There is low-cost marketing you can do to get closer to them – using PR to get editorial coverage, for example.

But in the end it is about investment of time, energy and commitment, more than money, in new business growth. Making the tough decisions and then taking action (clearly, decisively, and quickly) is key. Speed is of the essence. And being accountable – someone needs to hold your feet to the fire to check that you have followed through on your plans.

This not a nice academic treatise based on some nice books we have read. This is based on what we have seen to work with growing businesses before and throughout the recession. This stuff works.
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