If you've read many of these articles, you'll have found plenty of helpful information on how to grow your business - but no overall structure. The amount of information may seem overwhelming. Even though each article tries to be brief, implementing each one may take days or even weeks.


A separate article discusses our preferred way (the rocket)  of looking at businesses, and we use this to develop a unique approach for each business. We have developed detailed steps for each part (beyond these brief articles) but there are so many things to consider in each issue. You cannot possibly take all the problems at once, and even if you could, we don't live in a static world, so it will, sooner or later, be necessary to revisit some or all of them. If you weren't already feeling overwhelmed, you should be now.


Unless you recognise the importance of working on your business and not simply in your business, you will end up going around in circles.


Doing every step for your business will take time - but that's OK. No business ever perfects every aspect - there's always room for improvement. Some steps may not be needed (e.g. if you have no staff yet, there's no point in starting with these - although when you're thinking about staff, planning the onboarding process will pay massive benefits (compared with just taking someone who you "like"). Some parts of your business may provide little benefit in the early days, perhaps because of the strengths of yourself or your significant suppliers. But unless you're a superhero, there will be areas that can be improved.


In researching for this article, I was almost overwhelmed with helpful suggestions on growing an SME. You too can find such articles, so I don't go with those. It's not that they might not be helpful, but they simply can't guarantee success. Instead, I focus on a few of the key ideas that should keep you making progress. If you want to grow your business (not just in the bottom line), you need to make changes that stick.


But where do you start? And perhaps more importantly, how do you keep on day after day, month after month and year after year so that your business is on an upward trajectory? There are many possible steps, but let's start with a few of the key universal ones.


Start with why


Whether you're just starting your own business, or looking to give your business growth some steam, you have to have a clear vision. This is should be brief, but it is easy to undervalue and not put sufficient effort into it. If your vision could have come out of a cereal packet, it's not unique to you and your business.


What is special about your business? What drives you?


The vision itself may be brief, but is the basis for evaluating everything else, and is supported by the strategy, structure and culture.




Perhaps the most significant step is forming a team. It might be just one other person to act as a sounding board. Family and friends are one potential source of free advice, although ideally, they will be independent enough that you can have honest and open dialogue, discussion and even arguments. Failing that, you could talk with your accountant or a business development specialist.


These will cost but will bring in a different experience. It's that different outlook you need, no matter how smart and hard-working you are.


Advisors can (not all do) bring ideas and support, but if your business is to grow, you will eventually need an extra pair of hands - with different skills and ideas from yours. Again there's no one solution to this. You could employ somebody - full time, part-time or casual. Alternatively, you could subcontract the work. This often happens with accounting or marketing and websites for example. I have mentioned them because someone with good technical skills in those fields tends to be too expensive to employ for the limited work you have in their area. Or you could bring someone in to form a new business with them.


Each of these has different pros and cons. As your business grows, you are likely to use more than one of these to meet the demand. In every case, there is one constant for success - spelling out the requirements of the position, for both you and the new person.


Good people and relationships are the most significant single factor in success. Trying to do it all yourself will only result in burnout.




Another step is documentation. If more than just you are involved, this facilitates sharing so everyone's always on the same page. But even if it's just you, keeping records in writing means you can look back on them to refresh your memory. When people join your business, they have written material explaining what you've done so far.


Documentation does not need folders to store papers. Today you will likely use various tools for different tasks. A widely-used tool is Trello, combined with a spreadsheet and word processor. For example in documenting your sales system, you may have the steps in Trello with a few basic points, but the detail of how each task is done might be better expanded in a word processor. There are no hard and fast rules about what is the best to work - you could for example try to keep all documentation in a tool like Trello.




Business is still all about providing excellent products to keen buyers over the long term. However, every aspect of every business can achieve more with the smart use of technology. These days that means not just computers but the internet. There's so much in this fast-changing area that anything I mention here is in danger of being outdated.


And that raises the important point: newer is not always better. You don't have to update your systems every year or two. It is important to keep your tools up to date to minimise dangers (hackers, etc) but implementing new systems requires time, money and adaptability. What's worse, you may find that a small feature you relied on is not in the new system. You must carefully evaluate new options before deciding to implement them.


Mentioning dangers such as hackers brings risks to the table. Hackers and their ilk are just the tips of icebergs. For example, we all know there are only two types of computer users: those who've lost data and those who have yet to lose data. Backups are vital. An oft-touted benefit of the cloud is it avoids the need for backups as it's all taken care of by the provider. But this has its downsides. For example, a cloud-only accounting system cannot be restored to a previous backup point if something goes wrong. Also, you can't download a copy for archival purposes if you change systems or need (as per the law) to access data from seven years ago (perpetual for trusts).


Many small business operators these days are technologically aware - but even the biggest nerd would struggle to provide a comprehensive technology plan - and may well have preferences that end up requiring additional training and support.


Sustaining the effort


One of the biggest problems with business development is that over time interest wanes and the early benefits gained fade. Documentation helps, but for each step you take, you need to have a procedure to make sure this is baked into the business so that whoever does a task knows and follows the procedures developed and documented. Otherwise, documentation will not be followed and the benefits will be lost.


If someone comes up with a better system, that's no problem - just update the documentation and ensure that's how things are done in the future. In fact systems (not computers - procedures) should be reviewed periodically. One thing that applies to all businesses is change.


Sure it's nice if things are done in sequence - but if you find improving an area will bring a 20% improvement in your bottom line whereas the others are only 1-5 %, it's a no brainer where to start. Of course, starting this may reveal another area that needs to be dealt with first. And a lot of small areas may seem insignificant - but the cumulative effect is more material.