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Set your sights on business growth


Growing your business requires thought and meticulous planning. It’s important to take the time to plan and think for the future rather than just reacting to the first  opportunity. Be objective and consider all the ‘what if’ scenarios to really help you spot the opportunities and risks. The following tips will help you along the route to growth: 

Create a business plan

Spend time to define and map out your business plan, ideally on one piece of A4 paper. Create a simple vision of what your business model looks like and create an actionable, achievable business plan. Use a mind map or family tree to define the vision looking at the audience, departments and sales channels. You should be able to describe your entire business in one sentence. 

1) Customers – who is your ideal customer? Where do they live? What do they read? Consider their demographics, ideals and interests

2) Sales channels – how are you going to sell to these customers? What are the requirements of that sales channel? Take a moment to map out how specific sales channels operate

3) USP of your business – use the classic “4 Ps” of marketing to define your brand, production process and provenance. What is the fourth p? Why do your customers buy from you specifically?

Recruit attitude above all

Define the people you need within the business to be able to deliver your brand to your customers. Employ people based on attitude and teach the skills. Remember that everyone, including non-customer facing staff, has a huge impact on the reputation of your brand. 

It is essential to recruit the team with a positive mindset and a can-do attitude if you are to realise your goals. What you don’t know should not hold you or your team back – don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are no such things as stupid questions; just stupid answers. Find someone who knows more than you, and listen to their advice.

Your team needs to buy into points 1-3 within your one-page business plan and be able to pull together to deliver a positive result for sales growth and target achievement. 

The infrastructure challenge

Make sure your physical surroundings and equipment – offices,  communication tools (land and mobile), technology – are fit for purpose. Take the time to assess the requirements for the business – if communication is poor, what are the barriers? Is your technology holding you back? Futureproof your business – invest for the future, not for the right now. 

Do the paperwork

Produce a detailed sales forecast for the next 3-5 years by sales channel with associated costs of raw materials, infrastructure and people. By doing this, you will better understand the resources needed to deliver the growth plan and also see which opportunities are the easiest to realise. 

Producing a forecast allows you to focus on the easy wins rather than trying to win all the sales opportunities or solve all the battles on day one. By putting the legwork into the paperwork, you will also identify the core risks and avoid the pitfalls accordingly. 

Stress test your business plan

Ensure you have enough cash and resources in the business to deliver on points 1-4 above. Stress test your business plan and cashflow forecasts on a monthly basis to avoid the business running out of money before it achieves its growth and profit targets. 

To raise funds, you need a great idea, great people and a credible plan which investors will buy into and provide the necessary cash resources for you and your team to deliver on that plan. Remember the mantra – idea, people, plan, cash.

Nigel Mills is Chairman of The Lakes Distillery and an FSB member