Ask the experts – Systems Check

Question:
I’m in the wellbeing industry and I am looking to expand my business by taking on more practitioners. I read your articles that talk about getting the processes and systems in place to manage growth, but what do your experts recommend I should be looking at – what are the areas that have been most important in your businesses? And did you get outside help?

Jason Baker: general manager (Australia), IBISWorld

Before expanding the first and most important thing is to understand your industry. You need to understand the direction it is going. Is it growing? At what rate? In which products and segments? In which geographic areas?

You will not be able to properly make decisions about how many practitioners, what time and in what location (your existing practice or a new site) if you do not know this information. If your own knowledge and research cannot answer this then use research reports from other providers, or engage a local consulting practice to do the research for you.

You also need understand your competitive advantage—what it is that sets you apart from the competition—and emphasise this in your marketing and planning. Remember to employ prudent financial management through the growth phase, set yourself targets and limits, and be prepared to retreat if the plans are not working rather than persisting and getting in too deep.


Gavan Ord: business policy adviser, CPA Australia

You should take advantage of engaging more practitioners to help you run the day-to-day operations of the business while you concentrate on business growth strategies. Therefore, you should focus more on working on the business, and less in the business. Don’t forget that your practitioners have a broad range of skills and experience, and can be a resource for ideas to help you grow your business. And make sure you recruit the right staff requiring less supervision time from you, enabling you to work on your business strategy.

It’s also important to ensure you have the right financial information to help you make decisions to expand your business. Financial management processes such as cash flow management and budgeting provide business owners with data on the business’s internal and external environment that is essential to making informed strategic decisions. Entrepreneurs who make strategic decisions based on gut instincts may prove successful however, such fortune is less likely to occur as the business becomes more complex and the market within which they operate matures. In other words, the better the information, the better the decision-making will be.

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Nicola Mendleson: director Mendleson CommunicationsActive Image

Ensure that your communications and brand grow with you, so you keep all your important audiences up to date with your news and achievements, such as impressive new practitioners, services and even clients.

One of the key growth issues is that people often think you are still small, even when you’ve grown and changed. The perception of your business needs to grow with you.

Make sure that your image and communications clearly communicate who you are now. The key is to have a strategic and planned approach to all your marketing and communications that clearly identifies your objectives, positioning in the marketplace and audiences. It’s important to know what you want to say to each audience and how best to communicate to them so you make the most of every dollar spent.

Your marketing and communications plan should be updated at least annually, and should be regularly evaluated to ensure that it is working. It should include everything from your logo and stationery, to uniforms and signage, brochures, websites, newsletters, advertising, promotions and even thinking holistically of the experience that clients have when they visit. This experience should reflect your brand—who you are and what you do—and should be consistent no matter who your customer deals with in your organisation.

 

Active ImageSarina Russo: managing director and founder, Sarina Russo Group

Strategy is so important when it comes to growing your business. You need to plot what steps and know exactly what is in your mind before you start.

You must hammer out an understanding of where you would like to take the business: How will we achieve the growth we seek? Where will the growth lead to? How much is it going to cost? What's the consumer going to want? Will it fill the consumers' needs?

There’s also the power of visualisation, seeing something complete before you actually start. Unless you visualise, in your mind and on paper, it's hard to communicate the `how to' part of strategising.

Early in my business career I realised I needed to learn how to be a leader and not just a manager. I wanted to charge the business with the energy and the only source for that energy was from me—so I had to channel it effectively.

I took every opportunity to make contact and develop relationships with successful business people. I began to see the difference between them and the not so successful. They were more expansive in their thinking; they seemed to see wider, further and deeper. They were not afraid to honestly express their judgements of anything that was sub-standard and they seemed to have vision.

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Richard Evans: CEO, Franchise Council of Australia (FCA)Active Image

If your business is growing, franchising can be a very successful way of expanding. It is not a panacea for the ills of a 'sick' business, but rather a business model used by some of today's largest businesses to finance and accelerate their growth into world brands. The growth of the network is achieved using the financial and manpower resources of the franchisee, enabling the franchisor to service national (or even international) customers without being concerned with the day-to-day operation of each outlet.

The establishment of a franchise has to be undertaken with skill, patience and capital. The time scale for establishing a franchise system and preparing it for marketing can be as long as three years, and it can take another three to five years before the franchisor begins to see net profits and cash flow. However, once the network moves into net profit and achieves relative maturity, the return should make the effort and investment worthwhile.

It is critical that intending franchisors get the right advice from the very start of their franchise journey. Experts who are skilled and experienced in franchising can give you competent advice relevant to your franchising plans. Be sure to seek out these specialists.

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