My hard won 10 tips to grow your business
In doubling the size of our events company over the course of just a few years, I’ve learned - sometimes the hard way - what to expect, as well as experiencing many issues outside of our commercial control.
Whether you’re unsure how to move a start-up forward, bogged down in a tricky phase of growth or mustering courage for a restructure, here are ten tips I hope will help on your journey.
1) Know what to give up
Looking back, I was guilty of trying to do everything, everywhere, all at once. I should have focused instead on my key strength: broader event strategy, not granular production detail. It’s a mistake to handle too much yourself, whether that’s born of control, or simply diligence and supposed fairness to others. Take a step back and let go of what’s bogging you down. It will greatly benefit your business.
2) Don’t expect epiphanies
Not every business founder is lucky enough to experience a ‘Eureka!’ moment when everything falls into place. Don’t expect one big break to make a difference or help you turn a corner. It usually happens not through serendipity, but sheer hard work and strategic thinking.
3) Take the wins
While the previous point might be true, it’s worth celebrating successes that fall into your lap. I was lucky enough to be referred to work with a major museum in one of my early roles as a lighting director. I was then able to seize this opportunity to extend our services to other major event venues across London. Learning to leverage opportunities is key.
4) Learn to rely on others
As I alluded to earlier, you can’t do everything. In fact, there are tasks you might think you’re great at when that isn’t really the case. Examine internal resource; who has the skills and the gumption to eclipse your efforts in a certain area? Or perhaps you need to recruit? Whatever you decide, spreading responsibility and empowering your team can turbo-charge growth. It will also boost talent retention, which is far more efficient than constantly having to replace your best people.
5) Stop standing still
This is true whether business is booming, or you’ve reached a roadblock. There’s no excuse for resting on your laurels. Joining Cranfield’s Business Growth Programme at a time when I felt our company was stagnating gave me new tools and the bones of a three-pillar restructuring plan. It increased our revenue by 100% and seen us grow to more than one hundred employees.
6) Step up your systems
As your organisation grows, you’re bound to hit barriers. In the early days we were issuing quotes based on fag-packet maths. Always have an eye on what systems you’ll need, when you’ll need them, and when would be most appropriate to streamline those systems. Whether that’s accountancy needs, health & safety considerations, people processes, or some other piece of the business jigsaw.
7) Get some grey hair
When times get tough don’t be too proud to seek help. External advisers can make a huge difference, poking at the body of your business to find weak spots but also other areas you can exercise for new growth. Seeking wisdom from an ex-McKinsey acquaintance was one of the best commercial decisions I’ve made. Consider also networking with peers to discover new strategies from companies in other sectors.
8) Count your blessings
You will inevitably make mistakes. Things will go wrong. How you react and adapt is crucial. Big or small, mishaps catalyse change when you try new solutions and apply learnings. Cut yourself some slack, look at everything you’ve achieved, and call on your greatest advocates (in my case my wife) for support.
9) Seven year hitch
When Harold Macmillan was asked to name the hardest aspect of being Prime Minister he replied simply: “Events.” And we’ve all faced plenty of late, whether your business is in events or any other sector. Our company has survived through multiple recessions, Brexit, Covid, and the war in Ukraine. You won’t always see these things coming; it’s said on average Black Swans happen every seven years. But how you react - with agility and some planning for twists of fate - can see you through. Reach the other side and you’ll have new growth opportunities while cumbersome competitors fall by the wayside.
10) Keep going!
Business success is a long and hard slog. Unless your organisation sells a truly unique product or service, has access to endless capital and lacks any rivals, you’re in for a hard time somewhere along your path to growth. Recognise this, embrace it and persevere. The rewards can be huge and occasionally outshine even your greatest goals.