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Top 8 Upscaling Tips for Sussex SME Owners

Many small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners would agree that the business landscape never truly feels set in stone. SMEs are considered the backbone of the UK economy. The number of UK-based private sector SMEs at the start of 2022 totalled 5.5 million, which was 1.5% lower than the population in 2021, equating to an estimated 82,000 businesses.

Every business is experiencing unforeseen challenges in 2023 already. Skyrocketing inflation, economic uncertainty, the cost of living, Brexit-instigated supply chain unpredictability, growing cybersecurity threats, climate change, the knock-on effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the list goes on.

Having said that, business owners should always keep their eyes focused on growth. Getting over the initial hurdles of starting a small business is an incredible milestone, and even in turbulent times such as these, growth is still possible. 

Ambitious business owners in Sussex have access to programmes such as the Create South East Investment Readiness Programme to help with their growth plans. However, in many cases, the first step towards long-term growth is to undergo a period of sustainable scaling. Upscaling means that you are methodically approaching any forthcoming challenge, guaranteeing both controllable and steady growth. This short article will walk you through how you can craft a solid upscaling plan.

Is there a right time to scale a business?

If you are planning to scale your business, you must keep a few essential factors at the forefront of your mind. Scaling a business involves allowing it to grow - by increasing production, improving sales, expanding into new markets and so on - thereby improving its profitability. 

Scaling effectively is impossible without a clear strategy in place. For instance, you, as a business owner, may need to recruit, invest in better resources, implement additional processes, or make adjustments to existing systems, to make the scaling operation more sustainable. 

Scaling is the difference between processes being stable or incapable of handling an increase in sales, for example. On average, nearly 20% of new businesses in the UK fail in their first year, with only one in three small businesses lasting longer than a decade. 

Scaling too quickly can lead to higher and unfeasible expenses, disjointed supply chains, or an excess of employees. On the flip side, your team could be inundated with a backlog of overdue orders, incomplete tasks, and heavier workloads if you don’t scale at the right time. Therefore, it’s a tricky balancing act.

Questions to ask in preparation for upscaling

To help you navigate your current situation and what phase you are at in your growth journey more accurately, here are a few questions to ask yourself. 

  • Is your business prepared to handle the next stage of growth?

  • Will you be able to dedicate more time to your business?

  • Is there sufficient demand for your product or service?

  • Do you have the right team in place? 

  • Are you currently able to handle work volumes?

  • Will you need to hire more people to handle the increased workload?

  • Do you need to outsource some responsibilities?

  • Do you have sufficient financial resources to cover the upfront costs of expansion?

By answering the above questions, you’ll be able to more closely decide if it’s time to upscale.

8 tips for scaling your business

Scaling takes a lot of work, and can be very expensive and emotionally taxing. So you need to ensure that you have enough of the right personnel, optimise your processes and systems, and have sufficient cash ready to make such a move. You can get an estimate of the costs involved with iwoca’s business growth calculator.

There is no one magic formula for scaling a business, especially because business environments are constantly evolving. However, by following these eight tips, you can set your business up for success in 2023 and beyond.

Develop a growth mindset and strategy

First and foremost, you have to be firmly behind your scaling operation. Half-hearted endeavours will not get you very far. By developing a sustainable growth strategy, you can identify areas where your company will succeed the best, and make the most difference. Consider what kinds of resources, tools, or systems you need to allocate to make growth attainable.

Identify gaps in current market(s)

As said earlier, business sectors are constantly evolving, particularly with the emergence of new technologies and disruptive products. This isn’t just true in East and West Sussex, but way beyond these regions as well. 

You should define any areas that your competitors have not yet pursued, and whether you can feasibly gain a stronghold there. Some companies may benefit from an increased focus on geographical expansion, while others are less constrained to specific locations. 

Alternatively, look at your current markets and see if there are any new or emerging opportunities that lie within them.

Invest in marketing

Marketing budgets are often hit the hardest when business owners try to navigate turbulent economic times, with six in 10 SMEs seeing slashed budgets in 2023 alone. 

However, marketing is vital, and the right strategy for any business will depend on its sector, target audience, and goals to attract new customers. This could be done in a multitude of channels, ranging from print and radio ads to digital marketing through social media, email, and search engine optimisation.

Investing sufficient sums into a well-thought-through marketing strategy will ensure that any advertising efforts are effective and efficient. Marketing strategies need to scale at the same pace as your business, and your efforts are often integral to increasing brand awareness.

Embrace technology and automation

Technology has never been more important for businesses. Automation is also growing increasingly accessible, freeing ‌people from many arduous and time-consuming tasks. It’s incredible how many hours can be saved every single week with technology and automation, so it’s imperative that companies utilise them properly.

There are many facets of a company that can be automated with innovative technology. To name just a few, website analytics, conversion tracking, invoicing, e-signing, automated accounting, cash flow analysis, network security, vulnerability testing, patching, cloud computing, the list goes on. Even artificial intelligence and machine learning can give your business a competitive edge. 

Investing in technology can make processes easier, more efficient and provide your business with more tangible data to track customers, sales, and leads.

Prioritise company culture

It’s always vital to create an environment in which staff feel appreciated, valued, and heard. By creating a culture that recognises their accomplishments and hard work, and one that encourages feedback, team building, and continuous development, this will go a long way in fostering a loyal and dedicated team.

Valuable and hardworking staff are hard to come by, particularly in highly competitive sectors like tech and IT. However, by investing time and development into your team, you’ll only inspire them further. Their passion and commitment will only grow stronger if you are willing to support them and help push them to achieve their professional and personal targets. 

Make sustainable choices

It’s no secret that costs can be high with businesses reassessing how processes can be more efficient. However, many are also prioritising the need to be more sustainable and eco-friendly. 

When reviewing processes, not only must you consider where gaps can be filled and redundancies can be eliminated, but you should remember that you have a moral duty to be as environmentally conscious as possible. According to one report, 40% of UK adults choose to buy from brands that have environmentally-sustainable values. Therefore, it is in your best interests to think about sustainability in your everyday operations.

Train and delegate appropriately

In line with establishing a strong company culture, as your employees upskill, their responsibilities will increase. As your company scales up you will need to ensure that they are suitably equipped for any new duties or tasks, which you may ultimately need to delegate. By doing so, you’ll be able to make your company's operations run much more smoothly and efficiently.

There are many barriers to effective delegation and it can be difficult to know when to do it. However, it’s important to remember that by removing certain tasks off your seemingly never-ending to-do list as a business owner, you are training and delegating strategically to someone equally as capable.

Hire or outsource efficiently

Speaking of hires, if recruitment is part of your scaling strategy, you need to identify the most effective time to bring an extra person on board. If you make a hire too soon, you could be spending far more than you bargained for. Alternatively, waiting too long can also put your existing team under pressure. Employees are a major financial investment, so they should be brought on when a tangible return can be made.

If recruiting is unfeasible at present, it may make more sense to outsource certain tasks to agencies or other third-party companies. This can help you streamline your operations as you scale. Decide what aspects of your business would benefit from third-party input and expertise, and you can decide accordingly. For example, many companies outsource marketing and IT solutions to third-party agencies, often because they struggle to find the time and resources to execute strategies in-house. However, it’s different for every business, so you should consider where you need help the most.