Even for fast growing SMEs, getting the balance right between fast growth and long-term sustainability is a real challenge, as is recognising the right time to grow. Read our advice on what to consider when looking to grow your business.

There is no doubt that in the post-recession / post–credit crunch years, SMEs felt the brunt of economic instability and business challenges. The Government’s rhetoric regarding its support of UK small businesses has always been strong, but recent months have proved difficult for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

We have already looked at ways to help your business survive coronavirus, but this article is about potential growth and the importance of timing. As we start to look at recovery post COVID-19 and UK lockdown it’s worth considering Government initiatives such as the Coronavirus Bounce Back Loan. However, while they provide much needed short-term support and encouragement, SMEs need to be strategic in their approach to ensure long-term success. It is not only about the support received from the Government, but also about leveraging opportunities at the right time according to their long-term objectives.

“Flexibility lies at the heart of the most successful SMEs and enables them to achieve quick, sustained growth. They need to spend resource wisely in key areas which will have maximum impact on their business.” Says John Antunes of SAP UKI.

“For example, facilitate more innovative ways of working, establish processes to manage money effectively, invest in the most appropriate technology, and adopt a leadership and management style which address the current working challenges.” he suggests.

So, flexibility is key, but what else? We’ve broken down the top five growth strategies under the key headings of money, innovation, management, and technology below.

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1. Money

Long-term sustainable growth is driven through making strategic and timely investment decisions , but when and how should investment decisions be made? What areas of the business would benefit from investment in the long term? Recognising the right time to make investments can be challenging.

Cash flow is a key ingredient to sustainable business growth. According to Bloomberg 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs that start businesses fail within the first 18 months of trading, simply down to not handling cash flow correctly. SMEs hold an advantage over larger organisations in that, despite relatively limited cash flow, they can adapt their finance strategy more readily, making faster decisions when the time is right.

Money and growth is more complex than simply looking at the bottom line of profit. You can grow in terms of new products and services, pricing them competitively as times change, or selling them to a different demographic. Take Workspace customers Astrid & Miyu, who thrived during the COVID19 pandemic, focusing less on money and more about adapting. This leads us nicely to our next top consideration for growth, innovation.

2. Innovation

SMEs are encouraged to create intellectual property and be innovative as a facilitator for sustainable growth. It’s simple; those organisations that do, are doing well. There is never a bad time to innovate, providing the resources are in place. However, it’s an area that should form part of an underlying, long-term strategy, allowing SMEs to move one step ahead of the competition, making timing key. Not sure how to protect intellectual property or use it to grow? Professional advice can be found at the Intellectual Property Office or the British Library Business and Intellectual Property Centre (BIPC).

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3. Management

Fast growth requires proactive management and the willingness to embrace new approaches, without getting too carried away. To grow, good quality people are crucial. Smaller businesses especially should ensure recruitment decisions are tactical for the business and fill areas where expertise may be lacking. In a very competitive market, it is easy for SMEs to get lost and fall behind larger competitors, retaining employees through good management and packages are important.

Timing is again paramount when it comes to management. Is it the right time to hire new staff? Will they have time to learn and train so as to best serve the business? Before you make any changes to how you are managing, whether that's staff changes, investing in new tech or services, or taking on new business, think about the bigger picture and what else is going on at that time.

For existing staff, the right support should be in place, with employees able to reach out and discuss concerns. Building loyalty is just as important as attracting new talent. If you’re a manager of a business of any size, growth and culture are no doubt often at the forefront of your mind. Read our guide on company culture to help you navigate those all important next steps.

4. Technology

Small businesses are in a great place; with agile, bespoke technologies at their fingertips, they can maintain a high level of efficiency through quick integration, without the need to develop a complex plan for doing so. 

The right technology can go a long way to improving productivity, but it also encourages growth. For example, technology such as business analytics and mobile applications, support SMEs in maximising opportunities and making quick decisions, therefore allowing timely investment decisions to be made.

Workspace customer Adrian Shedden, Co-founder of fintech start-up Lumio based at Clerkenwell Workshops in Farringdon shared his entrepreneurial story, highlighting how his company saw an opportunity during the COVID19 pandemic:

Fintech app usage has risen by 72% since coronavirus…There's a huge amount of financial uncertainty right now causing anxiety and stress, so those apps and businesses that help to relieve that are seeing a strong uptick.”

This shows that the right tech can be a vital component in growing your business, even at the toughest of times.

Check out Workspace’s dedicated Technology hub, for how to make the right tech work for your business.

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WBI events from Workspace tackle the big issues facing business today

5. It’s not just profits

Remember that growth does not always mean money. Investments can also be made in community and CSR is just as important in business as profit. Our WBI Dinner It’s Not Just Profits: Why Successful Businesses Invest in Their Community saw an expert panel talk all about this topic and it features some top tips on how SMEs can get involved in CSR to boost growth, including collaborations and how to build the right team to deliver.

Get more expert advice from Workspace and our partners

By embracing these focus areas, SMEs can develop attainable growth strategies, but we have plenty more advice to help. Workspace has a plethora of articles aimed at helping businesses thrive, from expert financial advice to sustainability.

We also work with our partner Informed Funding, who can help our customer's access the latest financial strategy and funding guidance. Visit Informed Funding's hub for all the information plus key events for your diary.

Need a space to get started or looking to change up your location? We are ready to support you as we all get back to business.

Come and see what we have on offer at Workspace. With over 60 properties in our portfolio, spread across the capital, we’re sure you’ll find the perfect home for your business.