Many of us in this sector are business owners and I’m pretty sure that I’ve read that we have far more entrepreneurs than most industries. But whilst starting a business is hard, growing a business is, in my opinion far harder, so I am very keen to learn from others who have done it successfully.
Each year I invest some time and money in education and self improvement; my current training is focused on growing a business and it is being delivered by two amazingly successful entrepreneurs, Lara Morgan and Nicola Cook from Company Shortcuts. In the last session, all of my fellow business owner students were asked to list the top five priorities for their company for the next quarter. We all (unsurprisingly) listed “get more clients” as number one, but after we were all shot down in flames, our wise tutor explained that the top five priorities for any growing business should actually be:
1. Reduce risk: Before looking to expand your business, identify the issues or factors that could take your existing business down. Find out what parts of your business are at risk – from both internal and external threats. Take an outward look to see what the competition is doing – and if they are doing it well. What else could get in the way of your growth, and what could hamper you from delivering growth? Then take a look at the bigger picture – is your sector growing and where do you sit?
2. Review: Review your running costs and the way that the company operates – because if you can reduce overheads by ten percent you can immediately add that ten percent to the bottom line. Are you running a lean ship or have costs slowly grown over time? How can your costs be trimmed or cut?
3. Protect your existing income: Make sure that your relationships with your customers are in place and that they are strong. Many companies (including CHS Group) have two or three sets of different clients – and the relationships with those customers are constantly evolving. Get close to your clients and understand what they want to achieve. Our exhibitors may be our paying customers, but we are a buyer led show; if we keep the buyers happy by delivering what they need, then it follows that our exhibitor customers are happy too.
4. Increase each order value: Can your existing customers benefit further from your company? Look at value ‘add-ons’ for each customer. Develop a deeper relationship and find out how you can help your customers get more benefit from what you do for them. Listen to them, learn and deliver.
5. Increase the average order frequency: See how you can encourage your loyal customers to buy more frequently from you. This was a challenge to us because many of our clients book every event that we create, so this has led us to ask and listen to what our clients need now from us and to extend our portfolio to deliver more of the events that they want to attend.
These points really resonated with me and enabled me to step back, re-evaluate the business and to look at how we will expand in the coming years. I encourage all business owners to do the same because sometimes you don’t fully realise what you actually have and how to build on it.