The secrets to success: growing a small business

The secrets to success: growing a small businessSome businesses are small, and want to remain that way. Others have loftier ambitions for growth – which is great, but only if you’re prepared for it.

Many small-to-medium businesses try to mirror their larger counterparts, but this isn’t always the best path to growth. While you can learn from your competitors, what’s important is getting really familiar with your business goals, your points of difference, and how you can make your customers’ lives better.

The secrets are not so secret. It all comes down to careful planning, surrounding yourself with great people, and tuning into industry and technology trends.

Plan for success 

Any growth plan worth its salt starts off with a step back. You need to start off slow and develop a solid, sound, comprehensive plan for business growth.

Some questions to ask as a starting point:

  • How will we grow? Will it be through exports, developing new products, or selling in new markets?
  • How much money do we need to invest in new people, technology and premises?
  • When will we implement the growth plan? Is our timeframe realistic?
  • Do we have the necessary tools, systems and infrastructure to grow?

You also need to think proactively about potential issues so you can find ways to prevent those problems before they happen. It’s all about getting systems (and people) in place, and forming some solid foundations.

Above all, size does not make a business profitable – efficiency and productivity do. Many businesses can grow successfully, but if you’re haemorrhaging money in the process there are bigger risks at stake.

Get advice 

Don’t expect that you’ll know the best path forward, even if you have grown your business to its current stage right from the start. Seeking advice can help you see other perspectives and consolidate your goals.

If you don’t have the resources internally, consider hiring a business consultant or coach to provide big picture insights into your plans. A good consultant draws on expertise from a range of industries, and can help you develop (and even implement) strategies that work for your business.

When you’re running a small business, you can’t always afford the luxury of learning from your mistakes, so getting independent advice can make all the difference.

Find (and keep) great people

When you start up a business, you’re expected to do everything – and you might have to, even if you’ve never been so run off your feet in your life.

But as your business grows, you’ll need to bring in other people and delegate responsibilities. This can be difficult – your business might feel a bit like your baby! However, if you grow too fast without resources to support it, the quality and timeliness of your work will suffer.

Seek out people who are experienced, but also have a good fit with your ‘values’ – you can always train them to acquire the specific skills you need, but it’s harder to change things like their work ethic or professional behaviour. It takes time to find the right people, so develop good working relationships to maintain their loyalty.

Always be tuned in

Some of the most successful businesses (think Microsoft and Apple) may appear to be so because of luck – being in the right place at the right time. But getting to be in that place at that time involves a whole lot of behind-the-scenes work. You need to be able to ‘read’ the public mood, technology trends, industry insights and changing consumer demands.

The secrets to successful business growth are a mixture of skills and luck – and that’s really all about good timing.

Are you prepared for growth in your business? How are you doing it? Let us know about your experiences below.



  1. This is wonderful advice for someone like me just beginning. It’s kind of hit and miss but your great questions will give me something to think about and a good place to start.

  2. Beth Niebuhr says:

    Thanks for all the good points you made. I don’t really think luck has much to do it although sometimes I do say, “Oh that was lucky when something good happens just when it should.”

  3. Leona Martin says:

    Lots of great tips that I need to implement. I started my business 14 years ago with the intention on not great growth due to kids being little and not sure I wanted to be in business for over 10 years. Well here I am now and yes now I want to grow and am ready!

  4. You are so right about building a good solid foundation. Just like a house, if your business isn’t foundationally strong, it is going to topple over. Thanks for the great article!

  5. Just started this conversation with my coach. We looked at similar questions and are exploring answers and strategy.

  6. So true! Success can come and bite you in the butt if you’re not prepared for it. I’m working on a plan…now if only my finances will allow it!

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