Today there is a near continuous need for companies to keep repositioning themselves and re-work their strategies in the pursuit of success.
According to PWC’s 2017 CEO Survey, nearly a quarter of CEOs singled out innovation as their top priority for 2018 – this outstripped priorities such as human capital, competitiveness, customer experience and technology capabilities. However, this desire for innovation and growth is often easier said than done. Striving to identify new areas of growth, fresh opportunities and establish plans for long-term success, can be a tricky proposition for both new and established organisations, and that is before a company considers its competition.
There are ways to better plan and structure this business growth acceleration process, which I have summarised in these five tips.
1. Hire the right people
It is often said that a company is only as good as its people yet hiring the right people for your company needs careful planning. It’s critical to establish the specific types of skills and expertise you need for your business and indeed the role and team you are recruiting for.
Consider whether you want to bolster your workforce with general skills that can be moulded into different areas of your business, find specialist skills and experience that will plug expertise gaps or help you accelerate into new product areas or markets.
A workforce should be as diverse as the customers it serves. Having people from different backgrounds (gender, ethnicity, nationality, experience, sexuality) will help your business gain better insight into providing products and services to societies that are increasingly diverse themselves. For example, recent McKinsey study, Why Diversity Matters, suggests that gender-diverse companies typically achieve 15% higher financial returns and gender and ethnically-diverse companies return an extra 35%.
2. Be customer-focused
Both short and long-term success relies on establishing new and loyal customer bases. Customer-centric companies are 60 per cent more profitable. When organisations start out, they are very customer-driven, and their sole focus is gaining customers and keeping them happy. However, as businesses grow, it can be easy to lose focus on your customers and let processes get in the way.
There are ways to tackle this problem. Analyse your current customer base to spot strengths and weaknesses on how your company performs when retaining customers. Pay close attention to market trends. Conduct surveys, interview new, current and lapsed customers, and importantly listen to and act upon all customer feedback and concerns. Net Promoter Score (NPS), for example, is a great way to measure customer experience and predict business growth. By adopting NPS, businesses can ask the right questions to track promoters and detractors, producing a clear measure of an organisation’s performance through the eyes of the customer.
Thanks to social media and online forums, there are now more ways than ever to talk to your customers, build two-way conversations, and develop an active user community. That might mean an investment in new options on your website or reworked customer support, but such investments will help develop trust and loyalty from your customers.
3. Adapt to changing technologies
There is a lot of scope for companies to make better use of modern technologies, services and systems to improve their operations and help support growth.
Adopting Cloud-based services, for example, is a way to reduce your company's established IT infrastructure. This not only reduces costs and improves efficiencies but can free up your IT team to explore further ways to use emerging technology that will improve a business rather than just reacting to issues.
The same technology can also give your workers flexibility to work on the move or remotely. This can give them the scope to be more adaptable in how they carry out their day-to-day tasks or pursue new business opportunities. A recent survey puts improved flexibility as the driving force behind 76 per cent of “BYOD” (Bring Your Own Device) solutions.
Advanced systems with machine learning and artificial intelligence features can automate time-consuming administration or data processing tasks. Such technology can free up teams to carry out more innovative and strategic tasks that directly bolster your business growth and bottom line.
Used wisely, technology can help make your company more innovative, productive, and provide the foundations for the next stage in growth.
4. Get ahead of the game
Boosting short-term sales through promotions and new products and services will help draw in revenue, but it is not the way to position your company for future long-term growth. Companies need to look at the bigger picture and have strategies to get ahead of market and customer trends and stay ahead of the competition.
This requires a more holistic, longer-term view of your company's operations and business – your company vision, sales strategies, market positioning, your workforce, your technology infrastructure and processes etc.
For example, could your supply chain be more efficient? Are there markets you could push into that your rivals have yet to enter? Do you have a product portfolio that is too complex? Are you spending enough on marketing?
Such analysis can help you find ways to make your business more efficient and effective, as well as surface new revenue opportunities. But they can also help identify ways to reduce risks in your company’s operations.
5. Focus on your business, not the competition.
Instead of focusing on the competition, invest time and resources to get a better understanding of your own business. Develop and look after your team to drive employee engagement, and this doesn’t just mean pizzas and ping-pong tables. A report into employee engagement suggests that employees rate feeling valued and recognised over quirky benefits and in-office gimmicks. The same report also suggests that a 50 per cent increase in employee engagement equates to a three per cent in revenue growth in the subsequent year.
Boosting business growth is not about gimmicks and quick wins. It’s an attitude that must permeate every department and employee, driving every decision and informing every choice. From people and technology to operations and processes, only by taking this approach can businesses guarantee the long-term growth they all desire.
Jennifer Warawa is the EVP - Partners, Accountants & Alliances at Sage.