How can an ambitious SME go about balancing agility and responsiveness to their market with a solid long-term business growth strategy? Here are five key areas for consideration:
1. Focus on your customers
Stay close to the value your offering has for your customers, and appreciate how both that and their needs may change and evolve over time. Keep your customers in mind at all times, and don’t pursue avenues that won’t add value for them. Remember that your customer base itself may change over time, with new buyers emerging as you find new problems to solve and solutions that can help you do that.
2. Adapt, learn and network
Stretch your culture through diversity. It is vital to bring in new people that offer new ways of thinking and fresh ideas. Engage with all the different views and opinions of people around you. Markets are shifting and changing all the time, and you may need help from colleagues with a different perspective to see the opportunities on offer as they emerge.
Build your network. There are all kinds of ways SMEs can extend their capability through partnerships and alliances with others. SME owners and leaders should balance their desire for control against the opportunity to work with others for faster, cheaper and safer success.
3. Be systematic
Key to a good business strategy is having a rigorous and systematic approach to thinking things through, whether in analysing new potential products or services, or in implementing new actions. If you go through a clearly defined process each time, you will end up with something you can really believe in and can accelerate growth.
4. Imitation is ok – just do it better
Often companies struggle to innovate because they are too proud to use ideas that other people have already come up with. But it is worth remembering that many of the world’s most successful innovations were not the first of their kind. The iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone. Google wasn’t the first search engine. And Facebook wasn’t the first social media platform. Those businesses just found a better way of doing things and a better model for delivery. Sometimes just trying to improve what someone else has already done can create valuable innovation for a company. By rejecting ideas that have already been done, you might be missing out on opportunities for growth.
5. Don’t be afraid to fail
If you don’t try anything out, you will never know when you’ve struck gold. But, if you do fail, do it quickly, learn from it and move on. Successful SME leaders balance humility with tenacity, the confidence and arrogance to keep going but the ability to also take the time to learn and understand why something isn’t working and how to adapt your ideas.