Right now, there are many small but growing businesses, who may be contemplating taking that next big leap. Whether it’s taking on an extra member of staff, moving out of the home office or launching a new product, there can be sleepless nights over these decisions. Equally, there is much hope and excitement surrounding the decision to take a business to the next level. After some initial conversations with small business owners, who’d all recently grown their companies, we discovered it was a real mix of conflicting emotions. It seems there’s plenty of information out there on starting up a business, but the advice on growth is sometimes less easy to navigate. So we decided to get to the bottom of small business growth and explore the topic further with a more in-depth study. In an effort to answer those burning business growth questions, we reached out to 350 UK small businesses and sole traders, all of whom had grown their business in the last two years. So, for anyone currently deliberating ‘should I grow my business?’, or wondering how to fund this, how it feels, or what the benefits and sacrifices are – we hope this study makes your decisions a little easier.
Starting vs. Growing
We found opinion was divided over whether starting or growing a business is more challenging. A little over half of those we spoke to said starting a business was harder, whilst over a quarter felt that growing was more difficult, and the remaining 22% felt the two decisions were equally challenging.
Excitement is by far the most common feeling associated with growing a business, followed by a conflicting mix of pride, nerves and feeling confident. Fear plays a part too, with almost a quarter of business owners reporting feeling this way during the growth process.
Failure and losing money were found to be the biggest fears surrounding growing a business. It’s not surprising then, that the financial strains were found to be the hardest, with almost a third of small businesses reporting this.
Facing the finances
When it comes to funding business growth, we found the majority of business owners favoured saving up until they had enough to afford the next step. This was followed by over 40% of business owners saying they used their own personal savings to grow their business. Options like grants, loans and external investors were less popular, with 15% of businesses choosing a bank loan to fund their growth.
Marketing and branding
Over a quarter of the small businesses we spoke to said they planned to increase their sales and marketing activity in the next two years. Networking, new websites and increased social media activity were cited among the most popular tools for marketing a growing business. However, more traditional tactics were popular with over 20% of small businesses, who all said flyers and direct mail were part of their growth marketing plans. When it comes to branding, over a quarter business owners believed it was important to evolve their branding as they grew. Even more felt that having the right branding helped to attract the kind of customers they wanted. At Avery WePrint, we couldn’t agree with this more!
When and how
Taking steps towards business growth typically happened after one to two years of trading for the majority of small businesses we spoke to. Anyone wondering whether they’re ready, might find the only person with the real right answer is themselves. When we asked business owners what made them decide to take a growth step, over half of businesses said they ‘just felt that the time was right’. A third said that the timing was right for them personally in their lives. So it seems business growth is very much a personal, emotional decision as opposed to a rational one.
Sacrifice and success
It seems there is no success without sacrifice, the most common being having to work longer hours in order to grow a business. That said, the mood amongst Britain’s small businesses was positive, with over 80% saying they had no regrets at all about their decision to grow. This positivity is perhaps the reason that the most common piece of advice small business owners would give to others thinking about growing, was to ‘go for it, you might regret it if you don’t.’
So, although it’s hard work, there’s no feeling quite like growing your business. We’d like to encourage anyone at this stage to celebrate how far they’ve come. If you’re a passionate small business, it’s worth communicating this in everything you do, from your business cards to branding and marketing materials, your packaging, presentation and your customer service.
See the full findings from our study here.
By Fiona Mills, Marketing Director at Avery WePrint.