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How to spot when your small business is at a tipping point

By Steve Noble, Chief Operating Officer, Ultimate Finance

Pretty much every entrepreneur starting up a small business does so with dreams of watching the enterprise grow and expand. No one goes into business expecting to fail, after all.

Of course, there is also the realisation that to establish and grow a business takes time and (endless) patience. You need to build up a customer base, show them the quality of what you do, win repeat business, and all the time be looking for ways to bring new customers on board.

Growing pains

Some business owners are happy to keep things quite small and carry on as a sole trader, or employ one or two people on a part-time basis to support the day-to-day. Others are hungry to take their business to the next level.

But, it is so easy to get caught up in the running of your business, with so many decisions to be made every day, that when the signs actually start coming you either just don’t see them or indeed ignore them because you’re too busy to think about it.

So, what are the signs that a business may be ready to expand – and sometimes actually in need of expansion? Here are some common growing pains symptoms that could be a sign that your business has reached a tipping point and is ready for growth:

  1. Not a spare moment in the day

This is very common. Your business is doing well but what should be a positive time is full of anxiety because you’re struggling to keep up with demand. This can become stressful and even affect your physical or emotional well-being. It’s crucial to have the headspace to be able to relax outside of ‘working hours’ and find ways to distinguish between work and home life.

  1. You’re turning work down

It may seem like a nice problem to have, but if you turn down work for existing or new customers, you could regret it later on if the pipeline suddenly dries up. This can be a trigger to assess your business. Do you need to take on more staff? Change your business model? With other companies more than happy to poach your customers or clients, no business should be standing still.

  1. Customers want other products or services

Let’s say you own a business which makes leather handbags (just like our client Woodbridge Bags), but your customers want leather belts or accessories. Maybe it’s time to think about expanding what you offer and how else you can meet the needs of your customers – otherwise they might find someone else who does both. Branching out may mean taking on more staff, finding a new supplier or developing new storage or delivery solutions – but growth is positive, and should be embraced as a sign of success.

  1. You’re outgrowing your office (or back room!)

Another classic scenario – the business that starts out from the kitchen table or spare room and then slowly spreads over the whole house! Maybe you need more storage space, or a quieter space away for those phone calls or Skype meetings with your overseas supplier. If you’re already in an office, maybe it’s become too small or the location just isn’t right. These are all things that shouldn’t be put off indefinitely – they’re a sign that your success means you are outgrowing your initial formation.

  1. Too many hats

You’re CEO and CFO – and head of marketing, HR, finance and office cleaning! You can’t be all of these things and do them properly, long-term. As your business grows, you can’t be a specialist at everything.

What’s more, as the owner and CEO, you need the time and headspace to stand back and think about the more strategic questions facing your business. You’re supposed to be leading the business, not just administrating it. When you reach this point, you might need to begin looking for options to either outsource certain functions or take on a full or part time employee (or even employees!)

Moving the business forward

If any of these ‘tipping points’ feels familiar, then perhaps the time has come to think seriously about expanding your business. This can seem daunting, but there is plenty of advice and help out there, particularly when it comes to financing an expansion.

Funding can be the key to growth. Finding a package that’s a good fit can ease the pressure and help you move the business on to the next phase of its lifecycle.

Find out more about how we support over 1,800 SMEs to grow here: https://www.ultimatefinance.co.uk/