10 Growth Tips for Small Businesses to focus in 2023-24
The new financial year has begun and new growth plans are being made and implemented. It is imperative that the promoters and senior executives of small businesses would be looking at increased turnover in the new financial year.
# Deep dive into FY2022-23 with honesty
The past is where we learn from. To build a stronger business, it is important that we deep dive into the previous year and identify the gaps that need to be bridged in the new financial year. We need to analyze the sales data for all our customers, our products, and our people. This will give us insights into defining robust corrective actions. One of my clients, in the business of decorative paints, after analyzing the previous year’s sales data, could identify that 42% of their dealers are not purchasing 50% of the product range. This helped them to build a specific and focused ‘Range-Selling’ program and they could achieve growth in the first quarter itself.
# Prepare the Roadmap for 2023-24
Identifying the gaps and picking up the learnings from the previous year opens up the space for creating possibilities of growth and allows us for creating a specific, well-defined roadmap for the next year. This exactly needs to be done for FY24, if you have not done till now; and make sure that the roadmap is well documented. That should cover the specific targets and goals and the routes to achieve the same. That should also identify the possible challenges and barriers that may stop us from achieving our goals and put together the possible solutions to manage those challenges.
I must add that the while the roadmap for FY24 shall be prepared but we must have an eye on the next three years as that will help us to have a long-term vision and will allow us consistent growth.
And not to forget, we have Lok Sabha elections in the year 2024, and we all know that they impact markets, and money situations and generally it gets noisy. Please include this aspect, while preparing for the roadmap for FY24.
# Track your business
Preparing a roadmap, implementing it, and getting the desired results are all different things. As SMEs, we may all have observed and realized that in our own businesses, and we have reasons to justify the difference between the plans and performance. Therefore, I recommend that we must have a process for tracking our performance, by customers, by products, and by people. In FY24, make sure that a tracking mechanism is in place in the first quarter itself as that is a sure-shot way to ensure consistency in growth of performance and picking up learning, and taking corrective action, throughout the year.
# Adopt and Accelerate Digital Transformation
Begin the process, now; if you haven’t done already! Remember, in the times of AI and machine learning, we will be left behind if we do not digitize. And I am not talking only about accounting software and digital marketing. Every function should be digitized using IT, whether CRM for Sales & Marketing, HRMS for HR function, and order management & Supply-chain management software. SMEs must deploy IT to their benefit, one by one. Initially, it will be difficult to implement them as they pull us out of our comfort zone. But, the final results of digital transformation, make up for the initial hitch and costs.
# Document Policies & SOPs – automate
While working with SMEs, I have observed that the policies are in place, but mainly those, which are required on monthly basis, such as the TA & DA policy for the sales team or the Leave policy declared at the beginning of the year. All other policies like Hiring & Exit Policy, Review Meetings, Contact norms for Sales Managers with the dealers, etc. are generally missing and if they are defined, they are not documented. Same goes for SOPs, the Standard Operating Procedures. Being promoter-driven companies, everything depends on the mindset of the Promoters. It doesn’t mean that work doesn’t happen or it all goes wrong, it means that the promoter runs the company, forever creating a barrier to growth. Well-defined SOPs help businesses to automate and the executives run the organization, while the Promoter focuses on growth.
# Review your Online Visibility
In these digital times, our online visibility is one of the most important aspects of marketing. Most of the SMEs, in the cities, are present online, whether for e-commerce or for information and engagement. But we must review our online visibility as we enter the new FY24. Most of the time, SMEs make a website, host it on the net, and then forget to update it on regular basis. Or they make social media pages, but don’t handle them well, there is no regular content posted on the pages and there is no interaction. The main reason for this – the promoter doesn’t have time to manage it or to ‘tell’ the team what to put on the net. It is strongly recommended, that SMEs review and update their online visibility, at least once in a month and add information & marketing content. There are many digital marketing agencies that offer quality services at value-for-money charges.
# Invest in employee training & development
People are the biggest assets, and their performance is the cause of success. By investing in their people, SMEs remain competitive and use their skills and knowledge to create success. Hiring a new employee is a difficult and costly affair, therefore training and upgrading the existing people is the most effective formula for growth for SMEs. SMEs must allocate budgets for training and engagement of employees in FY24, as they budget for marketing and manufacturing expenses.
# Adopt a Social Cause
This is very close to my heart, and I believe the most important choice that SMEs have to make in the new financial year. I am happy to share that most of my clients are working for a social cause and are inspiring their teams and customers to participate in their respective choice of social work. Not only it helps make a better society, for SMEs, but it also gives a different listening for their network of customers, teams suppliers, and associates that is beyond commercial transactions. SMEs don’t need to invest large amounts of resources, whether money or time, they can contribute, participate and engage themselves with smaller NGOs, that don’t have government funding. They can pay for education and health initiatives, and energy conservation and can also take an income tax benefit by sharing a very small part of their income with the NGOs.
# Use tactical marketing to enhance business
SMEs do have a marketing strategy in place and the goals are clearly defined. However, the plans are not implemented because of a lack of action. And that is where the concept of tactical marketing helps. The strategy is the direction toward the goal. Tactics are the action taken to support the strategy. Simply put, strategy refers to the plan to achieve a goal while a tactic is how you execute the plan. It is, therefore important that SMEs must put together a tactical marketing plan which should outline all the initiatives and actions to be taken in the FY24.
One of my clients in the Ceramic Tiles business has taken up a Key Dealer Partner Program to engage and grow with key customers in FY24. This has been the outcome of his analysis of the last three-year sales data. Tactical Marketing may also include customer engagement campaigns, promotional advertising, and participation in multi-city exhibitions.
# Build your personal network
This is the big one! The promoter is the face of the SME business, it is therefore imperative that he creates his own personal brand and his personal network. A personal network can be built by becoming a member of trade and industrial associations, if possible taking a place in their key committee, and participating in seminars and other industry-related events, that allow one to meet other SMEs and professionals. Building your community from the same fraternity opens the possibility for collaborations, mutual referral business opportunities, and adding to knowledge and exchange of ideas.
To conclude, I would say, that if you are a part of SMEs, and if you are not doing any of the above, FY24 is the year to take some action and open the gates to growth and success.
I asked many promoters and heads of businesses of businesses in my network, about the ‘Growth-tip’ that would give to fellow SMEs, this is what some of them had to say:
Work culture among SMEs has changed a lot since last one decade.To me now the Growth definition has simply changed, help your co-workers to grow , help your customers to grow with better technology and reasonable price and dream to add some value to society , through your enterprise , all these will create magic.
A change inmind settowards these thoughts helped me double my business in the previous year.
ORIENT MULTIPRODUCTS WORLDWIDE PVT. LTD.
“To be successful, it first needs to identify what you are passionate for. And then develop your skills and resources to accelerate the business by churning all available opportunities and make it your mission with certain defined timelines.”
INDOGULF CROPSCIENCES LTD.
SMEs sometimes do a huge mistake of relying on word of mouth for scaling the business because they have a good product. But sometimes a company making not so good product scales up and beats the better one because they marketed themselves.So my mantra for FY24 is – Market Yourself!
HILLSON FOOTWEARS PVT. LTD.
My tip would be India is at multi decade growth trajectory, be positive and invest in the future. Your people are your best assets and key growth drivers and assets. India moment has come and we must all go for it.
HOYA LENS LIMITED
I think growth tip for SME is Delegation. Normally SME do not grow because they want to do everything at their own.
2024 is going to be a tough year, full of uncertainty following global clues.
I my view, SME shall spend their time and energy to innovate new way of working… Product innovation, supply chain innovation, marketing innovation, whatever way.
Choosing to run with winners (those who are going with future trend) could be way of working.
Sustainability is one theme running across value chain.
Founder & Managing Director
Explore new markets and diversify your customer base. Creating new verticals for growth and adding new customers will be my growth-tip to SMEs. And this is not for FY24 only but a continuous process forever.
In FY24, SMEs need to be very focused on what exactly they want to do as funds, manpower and other resources may be limited. I would make three recommendations. One, social media marketing is the key to unlock huge opportunities. Two, create systems which will help for future growth, and third they must enjoy and love what they do.
B R Ceramics