Business Development

What’s the secret sauce for small manufacturers’ growth?

Stefano Maifreni | 24 February 2021 | 3 years ago

Sooner or later, most small or medium-sized companies reach a major crossroads. Business has been good in previous years — but how do you take things to the next level? Is there one change you can make to guarantee successful growth?

How could this happen if you have the double challenge of being small and in manufacturing? How can a small manufacturer grow into a fast-moving, global player when they may be doing business across Europe, the Middle East, Russia and Brazil?

It’s about much more than having a website in different languages. Deeper changes are essential if you want to expand your presence and ensure your client base grows rather than stalls. In order for growth and business expansion to be sustainable, manufacturers need to become more flexible, scalable, streamlined and focused. Let’s look at some of the key changes that can be made in order to achieve this:

I’ve worked with various firms across Europe. Some were historic family businesses, while others were maturing companies or ambitious start-ups. Each grew. Some spectacularly. But the answer wasn’t one thing, it was four things, which I call the key ingredients for growth.

Ingredient #1: How you bring products to market
Some companies had successful products or services. New ones were being launched. But what looked exciting at the ‘engineering’ stage failed to translate into sales. The breakthrough came when we adapted the proposition. In many cases, we turned dry product features into mouth-watering product benefits that connected with customer needs. The marketing spark returned, the audience ‘got it’ and sales lit up.

Whether you add a new product management function or restructure your marketing and sales capability, any new product or service needs to be brought to the market in a way that focuses on customer benefits and not product / service features.

Ingredient #2: How customers do business with you
Sometimes you’re so close to your own business, so familiar with its quirks and nuances, that you don’t realise how ‘doing business’ feels from the customers’ perspective. But what if there’s something going wrong at the process level and you’re missing it?

How would your company cope if business took off massively in multiple countries? If the answer isn’t effectively, one way you can address this is by introducing new customer relationship software and management tools to help streamline business processes, enabling your team to deliver a great customer experience and cope with a surge in demand. Most times, it takes someone from the outside to see what’s going adrift in the customer journey — and help you fix it.

Ingredient #3: How you track and report key information
Do you want customers to tell you when problems exist — or do you want to fix them before anyone notices? Placing key performance indicators at strategic points across your business will tell you where today’s logjams and other issues need attention. This can be the secret to unlocking productivity, being able to scale up rapidly, and where to spend most effectively.

There is always a danger to growing quickly as, more often than not, a business can become a victim of their own success. However, by implementing a managerial reporting system you, and your colleagues, will be able to spot logjams and other problems early. So, if extra workers or equipment is needed, they’d know exactly where to put them.

Ingredient #4: Refreshing your vision and team
Most of my clients’ success has been due to the talent of their people. But sometimes a great team starts to misfire, people clash and effort is wasted. The answer is to refresh your company vision, mission and values — turning this into objectives, deadlines and priorities. Then get everyone to align behind your common goal, so they can move ahead confidently. If they refuse, then maybe your company isn’t the best place for them — and a few new faces could improve everything?

By updating your vision, mission and values you are able to translate these into clear objectives for both yourself and your team. Try opting for a performance evaluation system to help everyone to stay focused on the tasks ahead.

So how does this make a difference when put into practice?

Megatron Sensors, founded in 1992 and based near NapolI in Italy, designs and manufactures temperature sensors for coffee, vending, and slush machines; boilers, HVAC, refrigeration and temperature control systems; food and medical equipment.

The family-owned company and its 10 employees were turning over a healthy €1.5M per year. But new CEO Luca GrimaldI recognised that revenues had flattened out and the firm needed to sell beyond Italy. Megatron knew that expansion was about more than simply winning international orders. For growth to be sustainable, the company needed to become more flexible, scalable, streamlined and focused.

Working with pan-European business expansion experts Eggcelerate, the Megatron team made key changes in the four key areas above.

What happened next?

With these fundamentals sorted, Megatron re-branded itself, launched a new website in six languages and crafted a company presentation to pitch to prospects world-wide.

The approach worked. Revenue grew by 40%, thanks to new international clients. A sales pipeline of €350, 000 took shape within two months. And the company achieved a 10% gross margin increase on its international sales.

Crucially, the growth is sustainable. New orders haven’t caused the company to over-promise, over-extend and overheat. Instead, Megatron has been able to play in the global league by thinking in a different way about its own company, its products and its customers.

CEO Luca GrimaldI says: “We knew where we wanted to go, and what we wanted to achieve. This gave us all a new mindset and eased the discussions with international prospects – many of which are much bigger than Megatron. Most of them are now our best clients.”

What about the secret sauce?
What I’ve described might sound like a shopping list for growth success. But you probably need a business expansion expert (rather like a chef!) to add more some ingredients and less of others — and then to mix them into a winning recipe!

Finally, there’s one extra ingredient we haven’t mentioned. And nobody can have it but you. It’s whether you have the right mindset to grow. Are you ready for change — and do you have the drive and determination to see it through? Only then will your vision take shape.

Stefano MaifrenI is Founder & Director of Eggcelerate, the business expansion experts

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