Business development 16 December 2016

Why a growing business should never stand still

A business in stasis won’t be in business for very long

No matter how established a business is, it must keep moving to maintain its position. As soon as a business stands still – becoming complacent with its current levels of success – it loses its ability to innovate, to inspire, and to keep up with an ever-changing world, writes Peter Linas international manager director at software company Bullhorn.

For your business to progress, you need to take risks and challenge your own status quo, and never stand still. You may choose to shift your business focus slightly, or drastically alter your entire business model.

Either way, before moving in a new direction, assess the market thoroughly for relevant trends and opportunities to capitalise on. Once you have identified them, move quickly – or your competition will beat you to it.

As a business leader, you should never be satisfied, but the pursuit of growth can be back-breaking work. Here are three issues you might come face-to-face with when expanding your business to promote growth – and some guidance on how to overcome them.

A difference of opinion

Your business should be guided by an over-arching vision. It needs to be clear, focused, and – perhaps most importantly – shared by all your stakeholders. However, when a shift in vision is proposed, very rarely does it meet with full approval. Any dissention in the ranks can cause varying degrees of harm to your business.

A slight delay in action could mean missing a potentially lucrative opportunity and losing out to a more agile competitor. Internal politicking could distract valuable senior executives from seeing to business-critical operations. A “dropped ball” could unsettle confidence and cause significant reputational damage.

To avoid these problems, your business vision needs to be adaptable and willing to evolve along with changing market conditions. But before shifting your focus, you need to get your employees, investors, partners, and your core customer base on-side. This is where transparency and communication are critical.

Make sure they all understand why you have chosen to alter the direction of the business and present them with a plan – even if it’s just a preliminary work-in-progress blueprint. Develop a campaign to track your expansion strategy and ask your stakeholders to contribute ideas and opinions at each stage.

Emphasise that none of their needs will go amiss. The sooner you include your stakeholders and customers, the more informed and useful their involvement will be.

A lack of understanding

Before expanding into new markets, do your due diligence and consider market maturity. You may discover that the new market you had set your sights on simply isn’t ready or suitable for what you’re offering.

Maybe demand is already completely saturated, maybe it doesn’t exist at all, or maybe it sits somewhere in-between. Without this insight, your new venture is at risk of not aligning realistically with market needs and thus will be received with limited enthusiasm. It’s a costly mistake that could sully how your business is perceived for years to come.

To avoid this, you need to develop a challenger statement that outlines how your product or service adds new, unique value. What makes it different? Why should customers care about it? Your opinion is not as important as your customers’, so really tap into what the markets are telling you. By conducting thorough research on all your target markets, you are better placed to develop a challenger statement that pinpoints true differentiation.

The sell-by date

To successfully evolve your offering, you need to be aware of its shortcomings – and be willing to acknowledge them. Sometimes all that is needed is a simple update or adjustment to improve its relevance in a certain market.

However, there may come a time when radical innovation is required. Very rarely does a product or a service last forever in its original form; without regular review, it can become obsolete very quickly.

To breathe new life into your offering, you need to listen to the needs and demands of the market, and encourage your existing customers to provide feedback. You might not always like what you hear, but the information is infinitely valuable, and will put you on the path to making real improvements.

It’s inadvisable to affect any slight or drastic changes without listening to your customers first, but your new offering doesn’t need to be perfect at launch. Once it is in the market, its user experience can be tested “live” among a small, targeted group, and you’ll be able to gather useful data on what works and what doesn’t – before initiating a wider product release.

A business in stasis won’t be in business for very long. To survive and thrive in an increasingly competitive environment, you need to review your products and services constantly, get to know your markets, and stay close to your customers. Simply put, always keep moving.

Peter Linas is international manager director at Bullhorn

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