Getting your business development strategy in place is crucial to growing your business.
Many people started out in business because they felt they could serve customers better, or they were doing all of the work and getting none of the profits. Maybe it was to try and get more flexibility than a traditional 9-5 job or maybe they just wanted to be their own boss?
Whatever the reason that got you started in business, and made you take the leap, hopefully, you have come to the conclusion that it was the best move you made and you could never go back. That’s not to say that it’s the easy option, far from it in fact. Many small business owners work endless hours, sometimes for less than minimum wage to begin with, but usually, over those first 2-3 years the business grows steadily, you get new customers and things go well.
Hitting a Plataeu
For many though, you reach a point where revenue starts to level off and maybe dip a little and you’re working faster and harder just to try and stay still. You might find that you start saying things like;
- It was much more fun when I started,
- I’m not sure I can pay the wages this month,
- I have no idea what my turnover is going to be over the next three months,
- We keep losing out on price.
So what are you meant to do next? Nobody teaches you how to manage a business, so how are you meant to know.
You will never “find time”. If you want time, you must make it.
For many, the other limiting factor is time;
“How on earth am I going to get everything done today?”
“Where can I find time to write that proposal for Acme Inc”
“How can I pay for the supplies that the business needs”
There is usually something more important that you need to do but arguably, business development should be one of your highest priorities. It should become a regular part of running your business or you end up in the position where you are desperately trying to take on any work you can to keep the cash flow coming in, even though you know it’s going to be a really difficult and tricky piece of work.
If you struggle to find the time for business development, maybe try tracking your time over a week or two weeks to find out where you focus most of your time? It could be on admin (finance, emails, HR issues), business development (planning, tracking performance, marketing, networking), customer work (doing actual work on a customer engagement) or working with staff (hiring, developing, inspecting their work).
Once you see where you spend most of your time, you can find ways to free some of it up to concentrate on business development such as outsourcing the admin or hiring someone to do some of the customer related work.
One Step at a time.
To be successful at business development, the key is to break it down into manageable pieces.
- The first step in business development is to set your goals, to decide where you want to be in three years’ time? Do you want your turnover to double, to open another shop or are you happy with the size it is now but you just want to become more profitable?
- The second step is to take stock of where you are now. Do you know off the top of your head how well you are doing right now?
- What was your revenue last month, last year?
- What is your gross margin percentage?
- Who are your biggest customers by turnover?
- Which customers are the least profitable?
- What is your goal for this year? How are you progressing?
- What are your strengths and where are your weaknesses?
By knowing how your business is performing now and what your goal is over the next 12 months, you can then start to plan how you are going to reach your target. Tools such as SWOT and PESTLE analysis are useful for understanding where you are now and trying to spot the gaps in your business development.
- The third step is to understand your customers and the customer journey from finding you to buying something from you. Try to identify who your ideal customer, what their needs are and what is it you can do to meet those needs. This will form the basis of your marketing strategy and where you start to find those customers. This is not an easy thing to do and finding someone who can help you pull this together may be necessary.
- The next stage is getting down to the nitty gritty and putting together your plan. It’s about putting together the numbers and working out your smart targets. For instance, if you plan to try and grow your turnover, you might plan to attend 5 networking events a month or target 5 new sales leads a week? You should build in some financial targets too to help you monitor how you are progressing, i.e. sales growth of 5% each month or targeting a gross profit of 65%.
- You will then need to build all of these goals into a cash-flow forecast. Whatever your goal, building in these financial targets into a cash-flow will help you to monitor your progress and determine early on if your plan is being met or if you need to make changes. It will give you the tools you need to make strategic changes before you end up too far off track.
Ongoing Performance Monitoring
Once you have your goals, your plan and your performance targets, you need to continually review these against your actual performance otherwise all of your hard work is pointless. Business development is an ongoing process and should be a priority to stop you from becoming a busy fool.
If any of these issues resonate with you and you would like to know more about the steps to developing your business, do not hesitate to give us a call.