If your company seems to be in a sweet spot, it's the perfect time for some growth strategy planning. Spend a little time projecting into the next quarter, the next year and the years to come. That way, you'll be better positioned to weather tough storms -- they'll eventually show up, even if the sky is blue today.
Having a business plan that strategizes growth may help you succeed over the long haul. A 2016 Palo Alto Software survey found that business leaders who had drawn up business plans were almost twice as likely to see business growth or receive capital as leaders who didn't write a plan.
The difference between startups that win and startups that lose is that the former have leaders who recognize the need to systematically plan growth. Growth may seem like an organic event, but steady, reliable growth is backed by pure, unsexy strategy. If you're struggling with where to start, consider the following three areas to shape your plan.
1. Build the tech foundation you need to grow in the digital age.
You can't grow your organization until you invest in the proper tech infrastructure. The financial industry, for example, has typically depended on face-to-face interactions to maintain client relationships and word-of-mouth praise from brand advocates to grow. But that's not enough anymore.
"In today's fast-changing digital world, financial advisors must compete not only with their competitors, but also against the vast amounts of information and investing options available to customers on the internet," says Alissa Lovens, who leads Zayo Group's global marketing strategy for the company's finance and professional services sector, in a blog post. Financial companies that want to foster engagement with current and prospective clients must be flexible in the ways they interact with them.
For wealth managers and financial advisors, that means being able to securely connect with their customers across all channels and around the globe. Replace any limiting IT infrastructure with more robust solutions to keep up if you experience a major growth spurt or need to adapt to industry changes. For instance, Singapore's DBS Bank, which early on adapted the use of AI chatbots in its mobile banking app, again updated its infrastructure with an API platform. That move was the bank's way of adapting to industry shifts and customer needs.
2. Look back to your 'aha' moments.
After you determine your top strengths, explore avenues to positively exploit them. That's what Stripe did, and it allowed the company to land a top spot among payment-processing technologies. What was Stripe's big "aha!" differentiator? The company's founders realized that the web's outdated, cumbersome financial infrastructure was a drag on e-commerce.
If they could make it easy for developers to connect apps and websites with credit card and banking systems to process payments, Stripe could snag a large chunk of that e-commerce pie. That focus on developers worked: Today, the company handles online payments worth tens of billions each year for companies like Amazon, Target, Instacart, and Lyft and is currently valued at $22.5 billion.
Outline all the aspects of your business that give you one-of-a-kind positioning. For example, you might compete on individual item price, like Walmart, or bulk pricing, like Costco. Of course, you don't have to be the least expensive option to do well. Plenty of high-end retailers rely on brand reputation or status to differentiate their products from competitors. The point is to identify what sets you apart and examine all the ways that differentiator can drive growth for your business.
3. Open your mind to franchising.
Through franchising, you can expand your business with less capital investment or assumption of debt. And because franchisees are owners who are financially invested in the business, they're highly motivated to maximize their operations' success.
Make sure potential franchisees' credit scores, cash on hand, and prior management experience are in line with your expectations. Then, create an application and franchise disclosure document, which outlines the responsibilities of franchisees. You'll also want to include growth projections and other facts about your current business that will help franchisee prospects obtain the financing they need.
You may even want to test the waters as a franchisee if a related existing business appeals to you. Do some investigating to figure out which franchises could be a solid match for your growth strategy--franchise websites like FranchiseDirect, Franchise.org or BizBuySell will aid your research. Not sure you want to go the franchising route? An acquisition in a related market can help you stay relevant for the next generation of buyers.
Growing a business takes more than heart and hustle: It takes strategy and innovation. Get creative to examine all the routes you could take to move to the next stage. A quantum income leap could be closer than you think.