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Performance & Growth

Too Big For Your Boots?

How to manage the complexities of a rapidly expanding business.

Greg Morris

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It may come as a surprise to many, but too much success too soon can result in a company’s failure. That’s often because the company out-runs its ability to sustain and control that success, and a decline follows.

Say, for instance, that an organisation reaches increasingly higher sales targets, but its infrastructure doesn’t scale at the same rate. Inconsistencies and weaknesses begin to appear in its management systems. Quality suffers, and, eventually, the positive trend plateaus and tips downwards.

The answer? Don’t misjudge the impact that business and management can have on realising a sustainable growth strategy. The systems you have in place today may not work when addressing new challenges – or, they may make it next to impossible for you to meet them.

Related: The Most Common Mistake with Global Business Expansion

If your organisation is on a growth path, consider these six elements:

1. The right talent

Develop a management system that measures accountability against specific standards and ensures that the quality of your products and services doesn’t waver. As service quality often depends on human capital, you’ll need the right mix of people at every level.

Give non-management employees the autonomy to contribute positively, and recognise them for it. They’ll reward you with good outcomes and ensure that the foundation of your growth is that much sturdier, while developing a robust working environment.

Identify the people in your organisation whose roles will be most affected by your expansion, and enable them to take initiative outside of their standard work requirements. This way, they’re more likely to get involved and help you to create new cross-organisational systems that address tasks in parallel.

2. Controlling quality

It’s easy to lose track of quality when your business is growing speedily, so give the task of maintaining quality to a loyal management team. Assign them the responsibility for overseeing everything from product development to internal systems and manufacturing.

It’s also important for you to remember that service-based organisations face quality concerns as they grow, and that finding the right talent (see Element #1 above) can be as limiting as a blockage in a production line.

Related: 6 Signs That You Should Stop A Business Expansion In Its Tracks

3. Processes that scale

Make sure that your processes and projects are executed in the same way every time. Don’t let your systems become un-scalable; establish which ones are most likely to come under strain as the company expands.

4. Manage cashflow

Numbers never lie. When your company is growing, beware of the danger of spending more than you can afford. More oversight or adjustments may be necessary to increase effectiveness, quality, and sales.

When determining if you’re going to front-load your capital investment, be confident that cash is coming into your account as a result of the investment. Remember that cash profits and accounting profit are very different. Cash profits are your bread and butter.

If you aren’t positioned to finance your own expansion and you require outside funding, carefully consider the pros and cons of getting into debt, as well as the length of the loan and interest rate.

Related: Expansion Funding Options For Your Growing Business

5. Finding investors

Conduct detailed research into potential investors, as each will have sector or industry interests, investment mandates, and value preferences. Pinpoint these, assimilate with them, and make sense of them before engaging.

Then, make the effort to thoroughly evaluate the potential investor. Do this by first determining where your interests are aligned and then uncovering:

  • The source of the investors’ capital
  • Their investment track records
  • The returns that they usually aim for
  • Their traditional risk profiles
  • Their investment mandates.

6. Communicating culture

Spend as much time determining, sharing, and entrenching your company’s current and growing culture as you do addressing your growth strategy.

With each new stage of growth, commit time and resources into making sure that the cultures of different departments don’t implode when put together – impacting on customers, important employees, or worse.

Make your employees aware of what the future will hold, how it is likely to affect them, and what the bigger picture looks like.

In essence…

No matter the size of your business or what your growth plans are, expansion can expose you to a host of risks. These may be existing problems that worsen, or new ones that are uncovered for the first time. Either way, it’s crucial that you identify them, prepare for them, and make plans to protect yourself in the face of growth.

Greg Morris is the Chief Executive Officer of MICROmega Holdings Limited. Greg joined the group in 2000 and was appointed CEO in January 2011. Responsible for the day-to-day operations, management and corporate finance transactions of the Group, Greg holds a Bachelor of Accounting Honours Degree and is a qualified Chartered Accountant.

Performance & Growth

How To Build A Community Around Your Brand

There’s a way to build your market without spending a fortune on advertising and marketing — and it’s called community building. Here’s why this should be the cornerstone of your growth strategy.

Greg Tinkler

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In their first three years of business, social media management tool Hootsuite grew from zero to three million users. It’s an impressive feat for any company, but what’s even more notable is that they did so with virtually no advertising or marketing budget.

Instead, they grew through community building. A team of 18 staff members and 100 influencers grew the company in a grassroots manner — all thanks to community engagement, according to their CEO Ryan Holmes.

Below are five steps that you can use to grow your brand or company using community building as a key strategic tactic.

1. Define what your brand is and what it stands for

Before you can build a community around your brand, you have to know what that brand is.

Related: How To Build A Billion-Dollar Brand

Do you have a mission statement? Do you know exactly who your target audience and community is? Do you have the content ready and armed to engage this community each and every day?

Here’s a classic example: The colour pink doesn’t try to make itself greener, hoping to appeal to everybody who loves both. Pink is pink, and you either like it or you don’t. There are no apologies and no justifications.

So, what’s your ‘pink’? What do you stand for that nobody else does? What type of people do you want in your community and, more importantly, who don’t you want to include?

Move on to the next step only after you’ve answered these questions.

Offer value and exclusivity

The best brands offer their communities:

  • Boundaries
  • Emotional safety
  • Belonging
  • Personal investment
  • Insider status.

2. Find the right way to connect to your community

Once you’ve identified what your brand stands for and who you are wanting to target, the next step is the ‘where’ and the ‘how’.

That means choosing the right platform based on the following:

  • Size of your audience
  • How your audience prefers to engage
  • The features you need
  • Your technical skill level
  • Your budget.

When you’re first starting out, think small and simple. A basic forum might be enough for your website, or my favourite, utilising Facebook groups if your users access it via mobile devices. Remember, Facebook organic reach is dying at a rapid pace, so groups will be the ideal way to interact directly with your customers.

Use these test forums to see how your community members interact. As their numbers and engagement grow, you’ll be better equipped to choose the right platform down the road.

Related: 3 Ways To Build Your Brand Identity Using Content Marketing

3. Make community membership valuable and exclusive

There are five factors that make joining a community valuable for customers:

  1. Boundaries
  2. Emotional safety
  3. A sense of belonging and identification
  4. Personal investment
  5. A common symbol system.

Your community members need to feel safe sharing with others in your group. They need to feel that they’re accepted and that they’ve ‘earned’ their spot in the community. They also need to be able to understand the group’s social norms and how to communicate like an ‘insider’.

How can you build these factors into your community? Possible strategies include:

  • Clearly defining and enforcing moderation standards
  • Limiting membership to a select group who have achieved certain status (perhaps, by buying a product or opting into a challenge or course from you)
  • Encouraging the development of inside jokes and memes
  • Giving top users benefits — even if it’s just icons for use in their posts that denote their status, or free products, discounts, invites to secret events and so on. In other words, make it exclusive.

4. Get the community talking to each other

Every community will go through an ‘awkward phase’ where conversations feel a little forced and people aren’t initiating conversations on their own. It will pass. Keep building your community one person at a time, and it will eventually begin to flow naturally.

Don’t be discouraged by lack of engagement or feedback — If you have customers within the community, they are seeing your content and taking it in, they just need a little time to come out of their shell.

The key? Keep providing value.

5. Give more than you get

Lastly, why would your users remain part of your community if they aren’t getting any value out of it? Invest whatever resources you have into creating a stellar community experience. Provide helpful resources. Answer questions. Offer whatever support you have to in order to delight your community members.

Your efforts will come back to you in the form of engaged followers, future purchases, and possible referrals.

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Company Posts

What’s Stopping Your Business From Growing?

Three masters of scale unpack the reasons why you might be failing at growth – or in danger of doing so.

Matt Brown

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So, what’s stopping you from scaling? If you ask Rich Mullholland, founder of Missing Link, the reality is that most entrepreneurs don’t need to understand what it takes to scale. “Scaling speaks to exponential growth,” he says, “which for the vast majority of business owners simply shouldn’t be a consideration. Growth by itself is okay, and even then, it should be growth as and when it’s required.”

Rich’s key point is that growth for the sake of growth should never be a business owner’s primary goal. Growth should be strategic, and good for the company. Growth without a solid foundation can actually harm – or even kill – your company.

If your goal is growth though, here are three key points to keep top of mind.

1. Too many business owners don’t understand what it takes to scale a business

“Entrepreneurs are so focused on getting through the month with their cash flow intact that they often fail to lift their heads and look to the horizon,” says Allon Riaz, CEO and founder of Raizcorp. “Scale requires strategic thinking, while most entrepreneurs are in operational thinking mode.”

Howard Mann, president at Brickyard Partners and a US-based business turnaround specialist, advises business owners to stop focusing on revenue growth alone. “Scaling a business is about balance and too many entrepreneurs just focus on the speed of revenue growth. When revenue grows without the infrastructure to support that growth, clients leave as quickly as they come in.

“Instead of focusing on top-line growth, focus on maximum profit margins. This will completely change where you focus your efforts. I would rather have a $10 million business with 50% margins over the false glamour of a $50 million revenue business with razor thin profits.”

Related: Raizcorp: Business ‘Think’ has to come before the Business ‘Plan’

2. Without the right systems, process and people, you’ll never be able to scale

Allon believes the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make are:

  • Not arranging sufficient cash reserves for a growth period
  • Believing that the people who brought you to point A are the same people who will take you to point B
  • Having insufficient systems to scale the business

Rich agrees, adding that you need to focus on the business you want to be, and not the business you currently are. “Businesses often commit legacide,” he says. “They allow the legacy systems, put in place for a business of a smaller stature, to hold them back. Not to get too cheesy here, but to quote the Great One, NHL hockey legend Wayne Gretsky, you need to skate to where the puck is going. The systems you put in your business should be systems appropriate for the business you want, not the business you have. Sure, you’ll possibly be paying more in the short term, but it will be a fraction of what you lose trying to play catch-up later.”

Howard believes that losing track of managing the expenses required to manage growth is one of the biggest stumbling blocks entrepreneurs face. “To intentionally over simplify it, you want to figure out the most efficient and effective way to rapidly attract and close new clients while being able to serve and delight them at the lowest possible cost,” he says.

“Another mistake is taking on too much debt in the name of growth. We are all mesmerized by VC backed start-ups that put out press about their massive growth. You do not see how much cash they are burning through and that most of these companies have net losses that are growing as fast (or faster) than their revenue growth. Again, protect your profit margins. That is your growth fuel and protection against shocks in the economy.”

Related: [PODCAST]: Listen To Rich Mullholland Share Tips On Building Your Personal Brand

3. Growth for the sake of growth can actually kill your business

Before you embark on your growth journey, understand that growth, without sufficient structural foundations, can often lead to a business collapsing. “Some scale has the opposite of economies of scale, and actually becomes more expensive as the business becomes more complex,” says Allon. “It’s important to restructure the model as the business grows to ensure the highest possibility of economies of scale.”

Howard warns that a business structured to lose money as it grows is a poorly structured business. “Making the switch back to strong profitability after a growth phase is difficult to pull off,” he says. “Yes, we all know Amazon.com eventually did it. You are not Amazon.com. Growing with a net loss is a straight road to the business graveyard.”

Rich disagrees with the notion that growth in and of itself will lead to death. He believes that growth is, generally speaking, healthy. “I’ve seen businesses grow too quickly and not know how to deal with it, and I’ve seen businesses that out-grow the maturity of their management teams and get strangled by the firm hold the management team try to keep,” he says, but for Rich, this is the product of a business ill-prepared for growth, rather than a product of the growth itself.

“This is why slow is often better, as opposed to scale,” he says. “I remember when my son was young, and I was still his hero. I couldn’t imagine him shouting at me the way I did to my folks as a teenager – I’d be destroyed. So, I asked my dad about it, he smiled and said, don’t worry kiddo, they ease you into it, it all happens over time. By the time they start screaming, you’re ready. That’s true too for business growth. Most entrepreneurs are running their businesses as a real-time business school. You can’t always rush that education.”

Related: [PODCAST] Howard Mann, President Brickyard Partners – How To Survive The Struggle Of Running A Business


TOP TIPS

Allon: One top tip for business owners on scale is to remain strategic by knowing what you want to create and by ensuring a healthy balance of capital resources, sufficient people skills and the appropriate support systems.

Howard: Famed business owner Ricardo Semler said “Only two things grow for the sake of growth: Businesses and tumors.” Get crystal clear on why you want to grow. Once you do, find your balance between accelerating new business and the cost to manage that business.Scaling, like a scale, needs balance

Rich: Stop thinking about scale, and start thinking about solving an important problem that world has, even (especially) if they don’t know it yet. It the problem is real, and big enough, you will have a scale-able business.


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See Allon Raiz, Rich Mulholland and Howard Mann live at the first Secrets of Scale event, which will be taking place at the MESH Club in Rosebank on Thursday, 24 May. Buy your tickets online here: www.qkt.io/secretsofscale

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Performance & Growth

You Too Can Grow A Successful Subscription Company. Here’s How

Dog toys? Baby stuff? Puzzles? Makeup? How can you think ‘outside the box’?

Matthew Gallagher

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Subscription companies have a unique opportunity to connect with their customers. By offering a recurring product, they get multiple chances to interact. Products range from razors like those sold by Dollar Shave Club to wristwatches like the ones we offer at my company, Watch Gang. Then there’s BarkBox, which treats your dog to a monthly shipment of toys and treats. These companies are vastly different but share a common goal: Curating a high-value experience for members.

Thousands of businesses have adopted the subscription model. We’re seeing new companies launching all the time, in every niche, from Sock Work, which sends monthly socks and donates some of its revenues to veterans, to iFind Seekers, sending monthly puzzles.

What may be surprising to some is that businesses offering a recurring product have been around since the dawn of commerce: The Romans sold and delivered food and newspapers on a repeating schedule 2,000 years ago. In this country, weekly milk deliveries were common even before the Constitution was written.

Related: Dr Greg Fisher’s 5 Key Principles For Executing Your Growth-Driven Strategy

Interested in establishing a subscription business for your product? In my experience, I’ve come to recognise what I call the “five pillars” for the foundation of a successful and sustainable subscription business. Those pillars – community, value, discovery, service and integrity – are exactly what you should focus on:

Pillar 1: A thriving community

Having a community of enthusiasts speaks volumes about your company. It’s a sign of trust and brand affinity, and proof that people are genuinely interested in what you have to offer. They are willing to share their experience with others.

Your community is a trusted group of peers who are more than ready to authenticate a product, provide feedback on the service and help create a sense of belonging for like-minded members.

Your community drives your business forward, motivates you to improve and helps you craft service improvements. You have to be dedicated to growing and nurturing your community, because ultimately it is the backbone of your business.

Pillar 2: The delivery of value

Consider this: Why would customers want to “set it and forget it” when they can just order when it’s convenient for them? Why would they agree to a recurring payment every month for your service? The answer is value.

People have to get a product far more valuable than what they are paying for, which means you as the company founder have to go above and beyond to deliver added value.

Watch Gang, for instance, has price levels to fit all budgets, from $29 to $999 a month, and the watches members receive have a value that’s higher than their membership fee. At Barkbox, a $20 box is valued at over $40. Bluum, which offers a box containing the best-reviewed baby, toddler and mom products, has a monthly subscription fee of $34 with the box’s guaranteed retail value at $45. These are tangible savings, and for customers they provide convenience.

Related: How You Can Over-Deliver To Gain The Advantage

Apparently, customers agree. A Gang member recently sent a testimonial that stated, “My Watch Gang subscription is the only bill I actually look forward to paying every month.” A bill that’s welcome? This tells me that we have honored our commitment to delivering value.

Pillar 3: Opportunities for discovery

Subscription companies need to serve as a point of discovery. One of the reasons why subscription businesses continue to be so successful is because of the element of surprise — people love to open a box without knowing what’s inside. Subscription boxes give members the opportunity to discover new brands and styles.

Companies today are engaging members beyond just the monthly shipment. Birchbox offers loyalty points and money back for purchasing the full-size version of samples. At Watch Gang, we launched the “Wheel of Watches,” where members can spin a virtual wheel full of watches they may be interested in.

Related: Elon Musk’s Formula For Successfully Growing Companies Faster

They earn points to apply to the wheel every month they remain a member. This has become one of the biggest draws at Watch Gang, because it provides an entirely new kind of discovery experience – and it’s fun.

Pillar 4: Amazing customer service

While not a subscription box, Zappos has repeatedly been recognised as a shining example of how to treat customers. The often forgotten, but arguably crucial, benefit you can provide to a member of a subscription company (or any company) is world-class customer service.

Of course it’s easier and cheaper to outsource customer service or offer email-only support to cut costs. But you have to remember that every call, every customer and every situation is unique. Your customers deserve exceptional service from real people whom you’ve empowered to solve their problems.

Some of the most important changes your company can make may revolve around your customer service department. A single phone call can have immense impact. Having a well-trained customer service team gives your company the opportunity to learn from valuable feedback.

It’s crucial to give your team members a voice in your business and encourage them to share what customers are saying, both positive and negative. These team members are on the front lines with your customers every day, so they need to be adequately supported and compensated.

Pillar 5: A high standard of integrity

Without a sincere commitment to the above four pillars, your subscription business may never be profitable or sustainable. That’s why maintaining a high standard of integrity means you put people over profit. You need to take a stand to help your customers and deliver on your promises – even when that might cost you.

Every time a customer reaches out for support, you have an opportunity to demonstrate your integrity. It’s not an opportunity to make more money from the customer or even to deter him or her from canceling. It’s an opportunity for you to shine, as a beacon of good morals.

Set an example for all your employees and team members from the top, and it will trickle down to all day-to-day dealings within your company – with your customers, with your shareholders and with the public at large.

Today, anyone can launch a subscription business and start selling memberships; however, the businesses that will stand the test of time and truly become successful are those built with a solid foundation using these five pillars.

Related: 4 Ways To Make Your Business More Authentic And Successful

Investing time and resources into these five areas will help you not only grow quickly but also stand out as a company committed to taking care of its customers and employees.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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