Anyone who has ever wanted to grow a business knows that it can be challenging as well as rewarding.
The pandemic and various lockdowns have made it more of a challenge than ever.
However, the number of private sector companies has grown by 6.5% compared with 2020, according to government figures.
That translates to another 389,000 new businesses launched – despite all the obstacles that companies are facing in these unprecedented times.
Growing your business involves developing a plan and setting goals. And if you’ve not looked at your business plan for a while, now’s the perfect time to do so and give it a refresh if required.
It can often be worth taking time out from the day-to-day operations to sit down with your colleagues and think about how you’re going to expand and to look at where you see the company going over the next few years.
Investing time and effort in identifying new markets, opportunities for new product development, the recruitment of talent and the use of digital technology can bring worthwhile returns.
Similarly, if you’ve never had a mentor then the start of the year might be a good time to think about working with one.
This article will provide you with some food for thought and support you as you look to grow your business in 2022.
Here’s what we cover:
1. Consider using a mentor
A mentor could help you tackle challenges you’re coming up against as you look to grow your business.
Mentors are usually people who work in your industry or at least have knowledge of it but have more experience than you.
They might be a bit older than you. Perhaps they’re a serial entrepreneur – they’ve built up some businesses and sold them, adding to their knowledge and experience as they go.
You’ll need to think about what support you need from your mentor.
Is it purely business focused or are you looking for someone who can help you in a deeper, more psychological way?
You could also consider a ‘reverse mentor’, someone who’s younger than you and is new to the sector and can therefore offer you a fresh perspective (it could be around using TikTok to promote your business, for example).
It’s a good idea to arrange a regular meeting, each week or at least on a monthly basis.
Do your research beforehand, but even then, you’ll probably need a few initial meetings to make sure you have the right chemistry between you. If things aren’t working between you, don’t be afraid to let your mentor know.
Thinking carefully about your own personality traits is important, according to Phil Drinkwater, a small business owner who, in partnership, grew a business from nothing to end up employing more 20 people at one point and now works as a business coach.
“You need to start by understanding the traits and characteristics of someone who grows a business and, secondly, work to become that person,” he says.
“Two obvious traits are consistency and commitment.”
Beyond that, Phil recommends remaining calm and relaxed as this will allow you to make rational decisions.
Curiosity, he believes, will allow you to evaluate opportunities without making rash choices and you should also aim for a mindset among your team where learning and change are encouraged.
“Ensuring too much ego isn’t connected to success will mean that you don’t fight necessary changes in direction,” adds Phil. “Understanding why you want this business will mean, on the tough days, that you don’t quit.”
2. Try launching new products or services
Thanks to technology and changes in lifestyle, work and shopping habits, even the most conservative sectors are evolving rapidly.
The new year is a good time to think about launching new services and to grow a business by expanding your product offering.
On the one hand, you need to be imaginative.
But on the other you need to ensure that anything new you offer isn’t too far removed from your current range.
Research is essential.
This could involve surveys among existing clients to find out what more they might want from you and among competitors to see what they’re offering.
Can you offer something better? Is there a gap in the market?
Start with a beta version and test it among your most loyal customers as well as your family and friends.
Listen carefully to their feedback and be prepared to “kill your darlings”, as they say. In other words, just because you love the idea and you’re convinced that it’s a winner, it doesn’t mean that your target audience will agree.
If your prototype or concept doesn’t get great feedback or the people you’re testing it on want you to do something that seems like sacrilege to you, take on board what they say and amend your idea or even dump it.
“The key is to keep costs as low as possible,” says Adam Strong, an entrepreneur, business scaling expert and author of Play the Game: How To Win In Today’s Changing Environment.
“A minimum viable product [MVP], a physical product or a service, needs to be something really small and tangible, something that can give a company’s audience a quick win.
“After businesses have found their target audience’s main struggles, their priority should be creating something simple that addresses the symptoms and alleviates some of the pain.”
Adam urges business leaders to seek feedback from customers.
“This way when their MVP earns a bigger market it will be more refined, and likely to be seen by the ideal client as the go-to solution to their problems,” he says.
“Businesses should never skip asking for feedback or testing their products, its essential to the development process.”
Business coach Claire Macpherson advises business owners to focus on clear, powerful messaging to help them to develop new products and, more importantly, to create a distinctive brand.
“It’s essential to practice building clarity into your messaging,” she says.
“It needs to be clear, simple, and to the point. You want potential clients to know right away if they are in the right place – or not.”
Claire offers a simple format to help you to create a clear, compelling message.
It involves completing this sentence: “I help _____ to _____ so they can _______.”
After ‘I Help’, insert your ideal client, and their biggest pain point.
After ‘to’, briefly explain the transformation that you create. In this case it might be to them to discover their life purpose.
Following on from ‘so they can’, you identify what they want to achieve.
“Where most people go wrong with their messaging, is not making it tangible enough,” Claire argues.
“Consider what’s going to stop your ideal client in their tracks and grab attention.
“What do they really want?
“Your business message should be crystal clear across all of your social media platforms and website, as it also forms the base that you will create your daily content from.”
3. Time to think digital
Another change that’s always worth considering involves reviewing your processes to see what can be improved and made more efficient.
Digital technology can help here.
Cloud accounting software, for example, can send and track invoices, improve the chances of your getting paid on time and protect your cash flow.
Many will now allow you to photograph and capture receipts to make them easier to store and to match with bank statements and expenses claims.
Meanwhile, cloud payroll software can help you ensure that your employees are paid securely and accurately, while you can use cloud HR software to ensure your employees are supported and can easily access relevant HR documents as and when they need them.
This will leave you and your HR and finance teams to spend more time doing the human things that technology can’t do.
Dario Bucceri, managing director of Manna House Consulting, advises those who want to grow a business rather than simply manage one to change their mindset around money and other factors.
He says: “Much of the economy is still in recovery mode and it would be a mistake to assume business as usual.
“Now is not the time to be set in our ways and what has worked in the past might not work now.
“My advice is to live in the most agile frame of mind that you can muster. Have an annual goal but plan in quarterly stages, watch your cash flow and update your budgets frequently.”
4. Access government help for businesses
If you’re looking to grow a business there’s plenty of help available from government.
One such avenue is the new Help to Grow scheme.
The Help to Grow: Digital initiative launches in January 2022 to help businesses identify their digital technology needs, assess their options for buying new technology and then implement those new technologies in their operations.
There are discounts available, worth up to £5,000 for up to 50% of the cost of approved software, for certain businesses.
These discounts cover 12 months’ worth of software core costs, exclusive of VAT, and are initially expected to be available for software that can help your business to build customer relationships and increase sales as well as manage your finances digitally.
Alongside Help to Grow: Digital is the Help to Grow: Management Course.
Both are part of the government’s £520m Help to Grow scheme and are aimed at training you and your staff in new skills that will help to drive sales and increase profits.
The Help to Grow: Management Course is an executive development programme, which is accredited by the Small Business Charter and offers support with the help of a one-to-one business mentor.
5. Use social media to promote your business
If you’re not yet using social media to promote your business and sell more products, then 2022 should be the time to start.
Begin by identifying which network is right for you.
Facebook, for instance, is good if you’re looking to generate leads and build relationships with customers.
LinkedIn is best for business networking and Twitter is great for piggy backing off new trends and developments in the news.
Creating videos for TikTok is another useful way of reaching audiences. Make them short and punchy.
Think about your audience – who are they? Where are they? How old are they?
Are the mainly male or female? What are their interests, hopes and fears? What language do they use?
Decide on your tone of voice – are you friendly and funny, or reassuring and helpful (or a combination of all, or something completely different)?
Tailor your content to your audience and provide some useful advice and tips or something that they will want to share on their social media accounts.
Identify influencers and prominent people in your industry that you can follow as they might follow you in return and even share your content. Either way, you can comment on what they say.
Set aside an hour every week in your diary to work on your social media profile (or you could even outsource this task to a social media manager or agency).
6. Recruit new talent
Job vacancies have reached record levels of over a million and so for many businesses in 2022, recruiting the right people is something you’ll want to do well, alongside it being an essential plank of your growth strategy.
And that’s the case no matter whether you’re looking to hire staff for the first time or increase the headcount at your business.
Eliane Lugassy is the CEO and founder of Witco, an app that facilitates interactions between tenants and building managers and provides real-time data and analytics to improve building maintenance and management.”
She says: “My biggest priority in 2022 will be talent management, building up the team where we can maintain a strong brand, scale up and retain our company identity and culture.
“My advice for other businesses for 2022 is to hire the best talent but also consider to what will be the best cultural fit.
“Find and promote the people who bring ideas and enthusiasm and who encourage everybody else.”
Although hybrid working seems here to stay, she advises business owners to consider having their managers present in the office, at least part of the time if it’s safe to so.
“Being in the same building, in person, is the best way to propagate your values, maintain productivity and share ideas,” she says.
“2022 will be an exercise in empathy, however, balancing the needs of your team with the bottom line.
“And this will be enabled by effective internal communication with your team, and your efforts to encourage them and develop their skills.”
Feedback from clients of recruitment consultancy Meaningful Recruitment suggest that 27% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) plan to hire new staff in 2022, after recruitment was put on hold in 2020 due to the uncertainty but the job market.
That’s according to Katie Redfern, founder of Meaningful Recruitment, and author of Working Meaningfully: Your Fast Track Guide To A Career That Lights You Up.
She says: “Employees are increasingly wanting to work for employers that are making a positive social impact in our world.”
Final thoughts on growing a business in 2022
Business confidence is recovering after the worst of the pandemic, with 63% of firms feeling more confident in their growth prospects over next 12 months, according to a survey by the British Chambers of Commerce.
But 2022 will clearly not see a return to business as usual.
The way we work, shop and interact has changed forever, especially as the world prepares to live with rather than after the effects of Covid-19 and all of its variants.
Technological change has been accelerated and working practices have evolved, while supply chains have been permanently altered.
Rather than trying to continue where they left off in the spring of 2020, those businesses that are wiling regard this transformation an opportunity to do something different and reimagine their companies will be the ones that flourish in 2022.
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