“The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.” – Rupert Murdoch
There are many challenges in growing an SME. We live in times of extreme and rapid change, especially when considering aspects of business. One example of this is the change in marketing, not just the methods either, but within a single generation entire new channels have been opened up with web and social media. In order to remain a contender on this new global stage, businesses are having to adapt and figure out ways to invest and utilize new technology.
Nobody can be an expert at everything, this wasn’t necessarily always true if you look at it as an internal thing, not that long ago a successful business could be created with even just one person and a telephone, all you needed was a good service or product, the will to succeed and a lot of time and a lot of effort. I’ve seen a fair few businesses become successful this way and I’m sure there are countless more than just the ones I know about or have been involved with in some way.
No matter what it is that you have created, if it’s successful there will come a day when you have to face facts and relinquish some of the control. It’s not a case of not being capable of doing something, it’s a case of not having the time to do something because you are too busy doing multiple other things. This is another one of the challenges in growing, and another of the big issues small to medium businesses face. Wearing too many hats always lead to areas being neglected or de-prioritized, some things do naturally stand out as being the most important. The reality is that it is all-important, if it wasn’t, then it wouldn’t be a problem to start with. You simply wouldn’t do it at all and it wouldn’t be taking up any of your time needed to be focusing on everything else.
Hiring the right people is no small task, choosing the right location is important too, both for the customer base and the pool of potential employees. Marketing is a must for any business and it’s almost certain that multiple channels are going to be needed and maintained correctly. With growth you’ll require human resources, training and development, insurance, inventory management and storage sites where need be, improved telephone and IT systems, accounting for all internal activities and ultimately accounting for taxes and that’s just a few examples.
Time is the most valuable commodity of any small to medium business. With so many goings-on bombarding you day in and day out, it is amazing that any of the vital things get done at all. Time management is therefore a crucial aspect for all businesses and a pivotal obstacle to overcome. The main issue here goes back to the change in times, many of the higher-ups in business started their journey to the top some time ago and are heavily invested in antiquated solutions, it worked then so why shouldn’t it work now? At the very beginning of the venture, outdated solutions can be useful, they do accomplish some of the needs and they are often cheap or even free to implement, they do however leave lots of room for error and are not at all resilient when it comes to growth.
We just signed up a huge client who didn’t even have a paper system in place for purchase orders, they simply shouted across the room at each other, now that they have 300 staff there is just no way that the shouting system could ever be feasible, they recognized that adapting to a telephone or paper system would allow them to continue in a similar manner, but had the foresight to look at automated solutions too due to the time it takes to complete the tasks under their current system or one that was adapted but similar. The amount of time saved by automating the mundane and unnecessary is truly phenomenal, it frees up countless man hours so people can focus on other things, this particular client is still intending to grow to 600 staff in the next few years, but now they can spend more time looking for the best candidates as those that they have already will be able to achieve more due to lengthy processes being eliminated. They also have the added bonus of the system being able to cope with such growth, new users are added with a few keystrokes and the system is so simple that a quick introduction to it is all that is needed, removing the need for extensive training every time a new user is added.
The trouble with antiquated systems is that when issues arise with them people tend to try to add parts to them in order to solve the issue and the trouble with that is with all the extra add ons and activities the process as a whole becomes more and more complicated and time-consuming, opening up new areas for new errors to occur, compliance is hindered as well as tracking and reporting becoming more cumbersome and generally more time-consuming and less accurate. It’s far too easy for people to fall prey to the traps of putting a plaster on something that seems minor at the time, after all an internal adjustment is quicker and cheaper, but is it really? People often find that plugging up a hole here and there as a temporary solution leads them to forget about the problem until those holes all start to open back up at the same time and the bigger picture of how serious the problem really is suddenly exposed in all it’s glory. I would strongly recommend that if a problem of any sort arises within an organization they should look at the solutions available on the market, even if they know they can’t afford to implement something they’ll at least be exposed to some of the ideas that modern technology has available for them and possibly even present as a short-term solution they can implement themselves, after all, even a very small step in the right direction is still in the right direction. We all experience challenges in growing.
“Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.” Warren Buffett