Taking your business to the next level 

Here, in an article in association with HSBC, we talk to small business owners about how they took their company to that all-important next level, and show you how you can win £150,000 to invest in your business.

Last year, Michelle Peters, founder of The Business Instructor, faced the same problem many of her clients had – she couldn’t take on any more customers as she had no more time to spend with them.

‘I was working long hours and had hit an income ceiling which wasn’t where I wanted to stop. So I had to change my model if I wanted to move to the next level,’ she says.

Peters had two choices: either hire new people to provide services to clients or change the way she provided services to a more scalable model.

‘So I went from providing clients with primarily one-to-one coaching/training/consulting to a leveraged model where I can work with many clients at the same time. I do this now by providing all of my training in video format accessible online, so clients can learn in their own time the skills and tactics they need to attract more of their own clients and increase their profits.

‘I then answer questions, help them plan next steps, or give feedback on their marketing in an online/group setting, where all clients are invited to participate.’

As a result Peters has gone from a model which allowed her to work with around 12 clients at any one time, to one where she can work with 50 clients at the same time. She says this model will also help her to grow to 100 or 200 clients in time, as she begins to systemise more and more of her business.

Diversification for growth

Originally, Sanjay Aggarwal’s food business Spice Kitchen was only meant to be selling a few spices online to keep his mum busy, but high demand meant the business was in a position to diversify into cooking tools and accessories.

In the first year that Spice Kitchen was established Aggarwal, who also owns and spends his time running his own recruitment business, worked alongside his parents to help make the online family business grow into a 50-order-a-day artisan food business.

This led to major re-modelling of the family home to ensure production and meet sales demand.

Running two businesses at the same time has been a challenge for Aggarwal but he’s learned how to manage both successfully.

He says, ‘I work from home and I changed the market I recruit in at the same time as starting Spice Kitchen to allow me to work from home more so I can run both businesses.’

Darren Fell, CEO of Crunch Accounting says he felt like he’d taken his business to the next level when we took some time to examine the purpose behind the company.

‘Sure, we’re an accountancy firm, but aren’t we here to do more than just that? We ended up realising our mission was broader than just doing people’s books; we’re here to help freelancers and micro-businesses succeed,’ he says.

Fell broadened the company’s services to give better value to certain types of business, and it is now big enough that it’s starting to get involved in lobbying the government.

‘But we’re lobbying for our clients, not ourselves,’ says Fell. ‘That’s our purpose, to help our clients. Everything we’re doing now can be traced back to that process of examining our true purpose.

I think every business should go through a similar process. Once you really know what your purpose is – other than just performing the everyday functions of your business – it makes the way forward crystal clear.’

Lee Biggins, founder and managing director of job site CV-Library highlights that when you are starting up your own business, it’s important to keep focused, and to ensure that your start-up is constantly evolving and expanding to the next level.

‘To make sure that your business becomes the best it can be, a strong mentality is key; I maintain that as soon as you become comfortable with your company, it’s time to mix things up – after all, comfort breeds complacency,’ he adds.

The difference between a business ‘getting by’ and really taking off is huge, says Biggins.

In its initial stages, CV-Library put all its focus into driving sales, as well as a huge emphasis on sales targets.

‘We worked relentlessly to bring in clients and make sure that the business was profitable, and as a result of this CV-Library was making steady progress – meaning that it was time for a change,’ he says.

This assertive approach allowed the company to successfully evolve from a start-up to a prominent UK job-hunter database.

‘To guarantee that the business really took off, we built up new departments, took on new staff, and gave them aggressive targets.

After establishing a solid foundation for our sales department, we expanded the business and brought on board a marketing team,’ Biggins says.

‘I firmly believe that everyone in a business should be held to high targets; this is the best way for staff to reach their maximum potential.’

Pushing your business harder

Biggins adds that any start-up owners wanting to take their business to the next level need to be aware that the solution lies in making sure that the business is constantly pushing itself harder to create rapid growth and innovation.

‘It is all too easy to lose sight of the end-goal and allow your business to become static in its growth; ensuring that you are constantly shaking things up and taking a fresh approach should give your start-up the best possible chance of success.’

Mark Pearson set up MyVoucherCodes.co.uk as a one-man-band and a website. ‘It was down to me to do all the work to prove the business model and to scale the business,’ he says. Pearson used to reinvest all the profits to scale the business month on month.

‘It was after year 1 I realised that this business had much bigger potential and I really started to grow out the strategy and hire more skilled people to grow the business internationally,’ he says.

Pearson says the business grew from £300,000 in revenue in year 1 to £1 million in year 2, £3 million in year 3 and then £10 million.

‘Some businesses have a great product and the sales and marketing more or less happens on it own via word of mouth. Other businesses have to focus on sales and marketing.

Depending upon the business’s target customer,’ Pearson says.

‘If you want to scale your business to much greater heights than can be achieved with your current operation, I would suggest putting a business plan together and taking on external investment.

It is better to own a smaller piece of a much larger pie, than a whole piece of a small pie.’

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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