If you’ve built your own company, you will know when the initial ‘month to month’ stage is over, and things are looking a lot more stable. There’s a solid customer base, money in the bank and a growing headcount.
So, when your new business is growing enough to warrant heading to the next stage, it’s important to take stock and plan ahead. You’ll need a different mind set and action list from when the company was first starting out.
Check over your business plan
What worked when you were starting up might not be serving you well now that your business is growing. If you’re thinking of taking the step from start-up to SME, you need to review and revise your business plan. Here’s our checklist of things to consider:
- Control your costs. You will have outgrown some of your existing contracts. Services that worked when you were just the original few may not make sense as your headcount grows.
- Keep asking for advice. New challenges lie ahead and it’s always good to have help on the way. Consider mentors, joining business organisations or appointing a non-exec. Where are the clusters of likeminded businesses you can tap into?
- Can you outsource? Back when you started your business, you might have been doing most, if not all, tasks yourself. Now you’re ready to push your business on, you’ll need to free up more time and work more cost-effectively. Outsourcing finance, HR or marketing tasks can be a great way to get not only more expertise, but more time for you to focus on driving the business forward.
- Which goals have been achieved? If you’ve been hitting targets and goals, it’s time to reappraise, push your boundaries and set some new goals. If growing the business is on the cards, consider what you hope to achieve from this in a year’s time.
- Get ahead of the curve. Start Up Donut recommends conducting regular market research, even if it’s just speaking to your customers. It’s important to spot emerging trends and see where your growth prospects are.
New office space
A bigger business could mean more employees. For start-ups working out of a serviced office or co-working space, this will get uneconomic as your headcount grows. You will also want your own front door and the ability to personalise your space to put the character of the business into the office, particularly if you have customers visiting you.
The right work environment can increase productivity and have a positive impact on work quality. There are a few things to be aware of when looking at office spaces:
- Understand the difference between serviced office and rented space.. Serviced offices are equipped and managed by an external provider, meaning, furniture, IT are provided, however what is the mark up on these services and are you paying for standard services that you would be better procuring yourself. Renting offices offers far more freedom for you to forge a brand identity in the office space.
- Make sure you know what is and isn’t provided — you’ll need to factor the additional costs of any facilities not provided but may get a better deal on telecoms etc yourself.
- Weigh up the need for flexibility You will get a better deal if you sign a longer lease, but may be concerned about being tied down, particularly if you could outgrow the space. Look for landlords with bigger buildings that give growth options to move into larger units mid-term without penalty.
- Check the rates position. You may get small business rates relief on a rented office that may not be available on a serviced office.
- Create the right impression Both for your visitors and your staff. Pool table, events and free coffee… yes please! Options like Neon at Quorum offer shared facilities, break out space and meeting rooms that mean that you don’t need to pay for these facilities in your own space.
Funding it all
Of course, growth needs funds, whether this is from your own profits, investors, or through government funding.
- Explore external investment opportunities. This will depend on how much control you’re willing to sacrifice from the business at large, but external investment can be a much-needed boost to start down your new path.
- Consider borrowing. Depending on your situation, borrowing to grow your business could be a better route for short term Capital Expenditure. This will keep your equity safe and you can plan repayments to suit your income stream. .
- Government funding. These types of grants aren’t easy to get hold of, but you may have more of a chance if your business deals with technology, science or medicine. There are other funding schemes, though keep in mind that Brexit-uncertainty means they are only stable until the end of Britain’s term as a member state..