Growing Your Business and Staying True to Your Values
When you’re running a business growth has always got to be a priority. Even if you don’t want to expand your operations beyond the manageable customer base you’ve established, there will always be attrition as people’s circumstances change or they move away, there will always be changes to the prices you’re paying, there will always be changes to the economy that prospects for you and your customers. Under these circumstances, you have to run just a little simply in order to keep still: you need to look for ways to grow and develop your business in order to build your stability against changing times and replace lost customers.
Unfortunately, while it’s a necessity, growth also comes with risk. It’s possible to overextend yourself financially and operationally by growing too quickly, putting your entire business at risk. It’s possible to damage your brand by not considering how your growth projects affect the perception of your business, and it’s possible to do lasting damage to your own ability to run your business by seizing on growth opportunities in haste that undermine the values you founded it to express. Today we’re looking at this risk, and what you can do to limit its effect on your business.
Crystallise Your Values
The first thing you should do, ideally as you’re starting your business, is set down what your values actually are. How do you want to run this business, not operationally, but conceptually: what is good about business that you want to encourage, what is negative that you want to avoid?
You might want to think about how you relate to your customers, the impact of the way you buy and sell on the environment or on producers, the culture you want to create in the office: are you looking for a group of highly committed workers willing to pull all nighters to get the product to the market or to build a working environment where people prioritise balance and are able to log off at 17.30 every day?
With the help of one of the small management consulting firms London hosts you can encode those values into your growth strategy, so your decision making incorporates protecting them.
When you know what your values are you can usefully check your future plans for choke points that put them under stress. Expansion plans might pressure you to spend money in ways that are against what you’ve put on paper – to borrow from sources you wouldn’t normally consider, or opt for cheaper options that go against your ethical or green commitments. The stress of a busy time – a new sale or adding a new product or service – might push you to require more working hours from people than your usual rigidly enforced working days.
The key to avoiding damage to your business is to recognise the scope and potential for harm from these temptations to push against your values. One of the most important things is how long they might last: if they’re short term with set end date the damage is limited: asking your staff to pull longer shifts briefly to get a key project out the door, using a non-preferred supplier with lesser green credentials to help you maintain supplies during a busy period.
The danger to customer confidence, to your brand and to the business you yourself have built and love to work for comes when you’re making the easier, cheaper choice every time, when every time is the exception and your principles are no longer meaningfully expressed in the way you do business.