How to overcome growth challenges

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BY NIKKI SUMMERS

Most business owners have a goal to grow their companies consistently and sustainably. But with growth comes growing pains, and the bigger you get, the greater your challenges become. While it is important to stay focused on the opportunities and experiences that growth offers to your business and your employees, it’s also important to be prepared for any obstacles that might trip you up on your way to success.Here are some challenges you might encounter as your business grows, and some advice on how to tackle them.

Managing more people – As your business grows, you’ll need to hire more people to help with the additional workload. While it’s a great opportunity to bring in new skills that can take your business to the next level, an expanded workforce has its own challenges. These include increasingly complex HR and payroll administration while maintaining personal relationships and engaging with staff individually. Buy back some time with cloud-based, automated HR management and payroll solutions so that you can focus on nurturing a happy, productive team. Choose a system that’s already legislatively compliant in your country and  can follow your business journey from start-up, to scale-up, to enterprise.

Changing customer needs – A bigger business means a wider range of customers, each with their own needs and expectations of customer service. The only way you can meet these needs is if you know what your customers want. You can do this by collecting as much data about them as possible and analysing it to uncover trends and patterns in their behaviour. Equally important is to establish open communication channels that can help you engage with and build relationships with your customers. The best way to find out what they want and need is to ask them. While you’re at it, ask for feedback on your service so you can uncover areas for improvement.

Unlock your business’s intelligence – A bigger business naturally produces more data that, when analysed, can help you get a better understanding of your own organisation, your people, and the markets you serve. But this can be challenging if your data is scattered all over the organisation.Business intelligence solutions help you centralise all your information, which makes it easier to analyse and govern. With a holistic view of your information, you can make fast, accurate business-impacting decisions that either help you take advantage of market developments or avoid the risk associated with them. This, in turn, makes your business more productive and efficient.

Keeping the supply chain well oiled – Without an agile, well-functioning supply chain, you’ll find it difficult to meet customer demands, especially as you scale up your operations. As the lifeblood of your organisation, your supply chain needs to be able to accommodate your growing business and changing customer demands. Supply chain solutions help you forecast sales patterns and better prepare for busy shopping periods, like Black Friday, Christmas and new school terms. During these peak times, you may need to temporarily expand your fleet and hire more people to ensure service delivery is not disrupted.Supply chain software also helps you stay in touch with diverse networks of suppliers, partners and vendors, so it’s easier to find a replacement service provider when you need one.

More competition -Kenyans are known for their innovative thinking, which reflects in the products they create. Yet these products can be replicated by competitors in China, for example, where labour is cheap and advanced technology allows them to create higher volumes at lower cost. This makes it cheaper to import these products than to produce them locally. Small businesses in Kenya, for example, also face competition from street vendors and hawkers who are willing to sell their goods for little profit. While it’s important to know what your competitors are doing and what their differentiators are, you also need to create your own strategies to keep your existing customers happy while attracting new ones. Focus on your own unique selling point and how you can use it to delight new and old customers.

New laws and regulations – As you grow, so too do your compliance responsibilities. You may also need to comply with laws from which you were previously exempt. For example, if your annual business turnover exceeds Sh5 million, you’ll need to register as a VAT vendor and start collecting 16% VAT on behalf of the government. If you expand outside of Kenya, to Tanzania or Uganda, for example, you’ll need to collect 18% VAT for those governments.With more people, you’ll also have to comply with increasingly complex labour and tax laws. Luckily you don’t need to keep up with these yourself. Cloud-based payroll solutions are immediately updated with legislation changes, ensuring your business is always compliant.

Keeping a grip on your culture – One thing many business owners realise when it’s too late is that, unless they’re deliberate about designing and maintaining their company culture, it can spiral out of control.Your culture must be communicated and embodied by everyone to ensure they’re working towards the same goals and with the same purpose. In fact, some experts say you should hire for cultural fit before you hire for skills and experience.Keep communication channels open to allow people to speak up when they feel like the culture is going off course. Incentivise and reward those who fully embrace your culture and contribute to your achievements.

Writer is regional director, Sage in East Africa