Although I want to warn you of the seven landmines you could step on when your business starts to grow,
I do not intend to discourage anyone from taking advantage of any opportunity to grow their business, just as I hope to see mine grow,
but I want to see you on a journey to continuous success, not just a temporary lurch forward followed by a crash as you drive into a wall. ( Yes! I have changed the metaphor, just to make the point!) So let us look at each of the landmines and see how it can be avoided.
1. Money. The more money there is in your business the more interesting it becomes to thieves and fraudsters, even within the business sometimes.
Have a good look at your physical security arrangements and at your procedures for receiving, managing, and paying money. You might have been lucky so far, but now you need more than luck. There is also the problem of Cash Flow.
Money usually goes out before it comes in. If you expand too fast you might run out of money even if you are making good profits on paper.
Have your accountant or financial advisor look at your cash flow and avoid early bankruptcy. And don’t forget our favourite creditor, the taxman. He often turns up late but is relentless in his demands. Be ready. Excuses don’t wash. Trust me.
2. Property. Is your property still fit for purpose? Think about overcrowding, access, car parking, security, and Health and Safety.
If more people are coming and going the risk of an accident, or just inefficient working, is increasing. You may find you need to move, or you may find a new layout, traffic flow, and signage will be enough.
3. People. If you take on new people do not forget to train them, and include basic induction. (Who is going to do it?) Many employers take too much for granted.
Another reason to review Health and Safety: new employees will not necessarily have the same “common sense” as existing ones. Then think about your contracts of employment, procedures, and instructions, or you may find you cannot get rid of people who turn out to be unsuitable, however good your recruitment process is. (Is it?)
4. Systems. Most business owners review their IT systems when the business grows, but often forget to review the manual systems which even nowadays are an important element in the mix.
I can rely on my memory for appointments and for finding documents, up to a point, but the more of everything there is the less confident I am in this, and the more systematic I need to become.
I know other people who are so reliant on their mobile ‘phones, that I do not know how they would survive if one was lost or damaged.
5. Outsourcing. You may already be outsourcing certain functions, but as the business grows you need to review this.
It may be that you and your staff are trying to do to much, and especially too much of what you are not good at! Outsourcing could be the answer.
However, remember that failings by your supply chain can affect your productivity and your reputation. Pick the right suppliers and look at their risk management. Set up a system of performance monitoring.
6. Clients. Growth usually means more clients. The new ones are likely to be different from the existing ones, with different expectations, and possibly less tolerant of your shortcomings.
(We all have them you know!) So upgrade your customer care arrangements, possibly getting some training for your staff and even yourself.
7. Yourself! A friend of mine has recently been lucky enough to see his small business expand rapidly and has just realised that his biggest obstacle was himself.
He has started taking advice on time-management, cash flow, customer care, and other aspects of managing a business rather than just doing a job. I hope it will not be too late for him. What about you?
I hope your business is going to grow and that nothing I have written will put you off. Just watch out for the landmines and ensure your growth is going to continue – profitably.
John Harvey Murray offers risk management and claims handling services to businesses and other organisations in Warrington, Merseyside, and the North West.
He gained his experience by managing risks and insurance in local government and is a member of CIPFA, ALARM, and is a Specialist Member of the Institute of Risk Management
e-mail: [email protected]