Working Knowledge October Help Mail for Small Businesses
This October Help Mail includes:
Guest blog: Nick Cramp, author of Better Before Bigger, on how businesses can rethink growth for 2022
Review: Kickstart vs apprenticeship funding
Podcast: the best interview we’ve heard in a while, and we listen to a few! The Melting Pot quizzes Beck Power on how small businesses can regularly generate quality content with limited resources
I hope you find it useful.
MD, Working Knowledge
Guest blog: Better Before Bigger
We have long been fans of Nick Cramp’s business thinking, and his latest book Better Before Bigger, is an important discussion on how adolescent businesses can get out of the success trap.
It really resonated with us and we thought it might resonate with a lot of the businesses we work with too. Here’s more from Nick himself on why focusing on getting better can ultimately be more profitable.
As we enter the final quarter of the year, it is traditionally a time when most leaders start to think about putting together their business strategy for the next year. Whilst it is great that this process happens, in my experience too often this process gets simplified into a discussion around the amount of growth that can realistically be expected. More often than not we start with the second question in the process, and we don’t ask the more fundamental first one: “Do we need to grow next year?”
Businesses are meant to grow each year, right? Yes and no…it depends how we define growth. If we define growth as getting bigger (higher turnover, more customers, increased headcount) then no, if we define growth as getting better, then yes.
Bigger is not always better. Better is always better.
Often leaders’ default to building their strategy around bigger without considering whether they actually need to get bigger or indeed have the capacity to get bigger.
The more fundamental question that needs to be asked is “Who does bigger benefit?” Let’s consider the 3 key stakeholder groups:
Does it benefit your customers/clients? – often it doesn’t as service levels and response times normally don’t improve in line with growth and often the opposite occurs. Can you honestly say the level of service you offer has gotten better as you have gotten bigger? If you can, then great! You have obviously built a scalable company. If you can’t, then you need to consider the potential impact of more growth on your existing customers.
Does it benefit your employees? – again often it doesn’t as unless you have built in extra capacity (more people, better processes, more resources), more customers just mean more work for your existing employees and a need to focus on quantity rather than quality. And right now, an extra consideration is the energy level of your team and toll the last 18 months has had on them.
Does it benefit your shareholders? – we would automatically say yes to this one, but again, often that is not the case, as sometimes we are guilty of adding extra customers without considering the profitability, the acquisition costs, and the impact on existing customers. We ‘forget’ that it is more profitable to grow the value of our existing customers (more sales, more frequency, more referrals) and become pre-occupied with finding new ones. Unless we have high retention rates and high repeat-buy rates, then why would you logically focus on adding new customers until you have maxed the return from the existing ones?
I am a firm believer that companies need to adopt and embrace plateau periods at regular times during the journey. These are periods where we give ourselves the opportunity and time to improve. More training, a focus on improving our offerings, updating systems and process that aren’t future-fit. These elements are very difficult to do if you are growing continually at the same time.
Interestingly, these plateau periods often are followed by better profits, more sales, and happier customers as you have had time to focus on improving your margins, your processes and your offerings.
So, before you trot out another growth focussed business plan for 2022, I encourage you to spend time considering the alternative.
Is 2022 the year you should be focussed on getting Better Before Bigger?
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented government funding, grants and loans for UK businesses. We’re going to look more closely at both the Kickstart and Apprenticeship schemes, the two we are most often asked about.
We’re big fans of business podcasts, and The Melting Pot with Dom Monkhouse is one of our favourites. This episode with Beck Power of Power Creative Media is a really practical discussion about how small businesses can quickly build a content library using the owner’s voice without putting too much pressure on the owner’s time. As Beck says, “it’s ridiculous for a CEO to be messing around on Canva”.
Beck explains how owner-managers can easily spend two hours each month talking about what you do and why you love it – whether being interviewed, on a sales call, on a podcast or simply talking into a voice memo. The key is to capture it, then get someone else to break it up into 40-60 smaller pieces of content for two months’ worth of social post.