12 November 2014

Are your customers outgrowing your business (and leaving you behind)?

Businessman in a tight cardboard

There is an old saying that if a business isn’t growing it’s dying. I believe this to be true. There are many ways to measure growth, it’s not always just about turnover. It can be about expertise, technology, skills and capability. When dealing in the business to business space, every small business needs to be growing otherwise their customers may be outgrowing them.

I have certainly experienced this in the past, when I have worked with a medium size business that underwent a rapid growth spurt, increasing annual revenue from $35 million to $150 million in two very short years. As a small business supplying marketing services to this company, it became very clear that as my client grew, my business needed to grow with them. If I didn’t, I would be left behind and they would end up using an alternative supplier.

I made a very strategic decision to ensure that I invested in my business and my staff to ensure that we were more than capable of meeting the needs and expectations of this rapidly growing client. This entailed:

  1. Investing in technology – I was determined to ensure that my business had the latest in computers, printers and all of the related technology and hardware. I also made a point of investing in training to make certain that we could use this technology to its full capacity.
  2. Investing in our skills – within the business I made a point of upskilling everyone, including myself. This investment was in training, coaching, personal development products and specialised consultants, all of which ensured that our internal capability kept growing at the same pace as our big client.
  3. Investing in research – I made a point of investing financially in research, to ensure that the advice we were offering was at the forefront of our industry. In other words my researcher was charged with finding case studies, new industry practices, new resources that were available etc.

The end result of this was that although my business was relatively small (we had less than ten people on the team) the services, skills and capability we could offer were on par with much larger marketing companies. This ensured that we retained our rapidly growing client for many years and at the same time, our approach to continual growth and development attracted other larger companies and clients. This made my business much more resilient.

The moral to the story is, if we are not careful our customers will outgrow us and when they do, they will look for someone else to provide them with the services and products they need. Our job is to make sure this doesn’t happen, which means we have to be committed to growing our business (and ourselves) however we can.


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