Where to next?

Generally, a business's rate of growth over time and the changes that go with it will reflect the way the business is managed. Most businesses grow in a haphazard manner. Problems are solved as they occur, and if they occur often enough procedures are introduced to deal with them. The company learns to cope as it goes along. Sometimes, when growth is rapid, the company becomes too big to adapt, and serious problems arise.

For growth to be effective, it must be controlled and done in planned stages as the result of determined management action. However, for some reason, many business-owners are not satisfied with modest and controlled growth that makes a comfortable living. They think it far more exciting to go for accelerated growth. This is acceptable, but it has to be managed carefully.

Growth usually needs an increase in working capital (the money you need to run your business). A good rule is to fund at least 50% of your growth from profits that you have kept in the business rather than from borrowing. One lesson learned from the 1980s is that borrowing more than half the money needed can be dangerous. Many small businesses have failed because they attempted to grow from a very weak base. Sometimes, growth plans should be postponed until you have put your problems right and introduced more effective systems for controlling the business.

Unlike a large company, the average small business cannot aim to control the wider issues that affect its business or to influence the direction of whole industries that it depends on. However, it can at least be fully aware of what is happening and predict as many changes as possible, knowing that it is more flexible than most larger firms. Take full advantage of this.

It may well be that your business has grown to a size that matches your capability and that you are comfortable with. At this point, keeping up your current level of profit is the main goal.

However, it is nearly impossible to stop a business growing. A business which is not going forward is likely to be going backwards. If the rest of the world keeps moving and you stand still you will find yourself out of date, falling behind, and eventually out of the running.

To be a successful 'growth manager', you will need to:

Even if you do not want your business to grow, do not be complacent. The world is becoming increasingly competitive and there will always be someone looking to attract your customers.