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Business development plans

Growth expert Russell Streeter on the benefits of business development plans

If properly researched and put together, a business development plan can help you to scale up your business and take it to new heights. Business growth expert Russell Streeter of Excelsior Business Development explains what’s involved.

What is a business development plan?

RS: “Many business owners who have successfully launched a business get to the point where they’re not sure where to go next. A business development plan drives the process of scaling up. This is often as much of a transformation for the business owner as it is for the business. They go from being a ‘solopreneur’, involved in the day-to-day running of the business, to being the leader of a bigger, more complex enterprise.”

What is the best way to approach business development?

RS: “I encourage business owners to take stock; when you stop and analyse what the business does well and where it needs to improve, you are often able to spot opportunities that you might not otherwise have seen. You also need to recognise what success looks like. It’s easy to get dispirited when some aspect of the business doesn’t go the way you wanted, but individual setbacks don’t necessarily mean you’re not making good progress overall. By the same token, for some small firms there is a lot of activity but not all of it profitable. When it comes to growth, you can’t just focus on one area, such as making more sales; you must look at all potential growth strategies. Then you need to set out a path with achievable targets and a system of measuring and reporting.”

What are the key steps you need to take?

RS: “Business development is about making multiple improvements. I advise businesses to look at seven elements - what I call the ‘Seven Keys’. These are: regeneration [ie attracting new business]; lead conversion; transaction value; transaction frequency; profit margins, pricing and costs; customer referrals; and customer lifetime. Even with modest targets for each of these, such as a 5-10 per cent improvement, when added together they could increase the value of the business by 50-100 per cent.”

How can a business achieve long-term transformation?

RS: “ Systemisation is critical. As the business owner, you need to ensure that the business can run without you having to be there all the time. The good news is that it has never been easier to systemise a small business. I’m amazed at the number of affordable tools for SMEs there are, everything from customer helpdesks to marketing automation systems. All these can be had at a modest cost and can help small firms to achieve sustainable growth.”

What are the dangers of not planning for business development?

RS: “The biggest risk is that expansion happens faster than you and your business can cope with. When this happens, you risk constantly having to fight fires. If you are not prepared for the financial pressures of expansion, you run the risk of being engulfed in a cash flow crisis. Listen, creating a business development plan doesn’t mean you’re not going to make mistakes, but the more thought you put into your strategy, and the more research you carry out into the various options, the better your chances of success.”

What skills do you need to manage business development?

RS: “You need the discipline to stick with your strategy in the face of any ‘turbulence’, but also the flexibility to change course if something is not working or if a compelling opportunity presents itself. You must be able to spot potential risks and take action before they become serious problems. You also must be able to motivate your staff, manage partners, manage your finances and do your own work. You also need to be able to delegate. This can be one of the most difficult aspects for the founder who is used to being involved in everything. Above all, business owners need to be able to step back and dispassionately analyse the performance of their business.”

How should staff be involved?

RS: “In my experience, the most successful businesses involve their staff right from the start. Employees can help you to clarify your vision, values and mission and they often have valuable insights that inform the strategy. And by involving them in the decision-making process, you’ll get better buy-in when it comes to implementing the plan.”

What are the benefits of bringing in an adviser?

RS: “External consultants can provide a healthy challenge to the business owner; more often than not they haven’t been challenged in that way before. For the business owner, it can be good to have to defend their strategy. In addition, business development consultants have learned from working with other businesses and bring that experience with them. Above all, there’s the discipline of actually doing it. It can be lonely running a business and many owners want someone to hold them account.”

Russell Streeter is a business growth expert and the founder and CEO of Excelsior Business Development. He inspires businesses to achieve greater success through his workshops and programmes based around his Seven Keys Formula.

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Plan and budget for growth

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Read a guide to managing change when growing your business