To grow means to change. That may be a growth in sales, widening your products or services because of demand or wanting to open up new markets.  When you initially set up your business, it was very likely that you had given some thought to how it may grow, but at the point of your first business plan, you may not have dared to look past the first few months after launch.

Once the initial phase passes, you may then seek to grow or indeed need to grow to meet demand, and good practice should see that you give these considerations at least the level of planning that went into your initial business plans. To plan for growth, you will need to change. After all, change will affect those working within your business whether directly or indirectly and the better you understand and manage the process, the better the change and growth will go.

You will need to plan to stand the best chance of success.  Growth should be an exciting time for a business; however, it can and will present challenges, no matter how much you have planned, considered and accounted for the growth you want, there will be emergent changes that you may have not foreseen. Having a well-defined business plan, one that has a development strategy that you follow, and will adapt as necessary will give you an agile business that is better prepared to cope with the emergent changes along the way. It is impossible to plan for every eventuality sadly, however the better you prepare the less likely you will be derailed on the way.  No one likes surprises, so be as prepared as you can be, know where you want to get to, and have your strategy to achieve it documented, along with any hurdles you may have foreseen and how you plan to manage those hurdles.

Planning time

Taking time out to review your business plan on an ongoing basis is critical. A business plan should never be a one-stop document that saw you start up and that you never revisit.  The more agile your business from the outset, the more your business ethos is accepting of change, whether planned or unplanned the better for both you, your team and business and the more successful your change programs will be.

Yes, it will take you away from the day-to-day business for a time, but this should be viewed as time well spent.  It is easy to become complacent and simply deal with what actually happens, deal with the consequences at the time and then move on.  To plan for growth requires a more focussed and proactive approach and regular monitoring and adapting your business plan.  The larger your business grows the more and more important this step is.  It is important to review your business plans with a clear timeframe for its relevance known and then monitor your progress towards your targets.  Set your business plan cycle. This may be an annual plan broken down into quarterly operational plans or if you are a heavily sales driven business, you may want to have a monthly plan and perhaps weekly targets, so you can see quickly and easily your strategy effectiveness against growth.

Sustainable growth

Whilst planning for growth it is important to ensure that such growth is sustainable. Again, a plan that sets growth objectives, showing defined goals and setting clear objectives will help you to focus your growth in the areas that will actually matter to you and ultimately your business.  The objectives should look to identify the feature of your growth, whether it is through greater sales of your existing ranges, extending or new ranges, increasing your account numbers, premium accounts or upsells or extending your customer lifetime value or increasing gross margins, whatever you identify as your goal set a timeline to achieve them.  Using milestones and setting timelines are some of the suggestions for managing business growth, which all further reinforce the need for change.

Change management

Growth will often cause potentially challenging changes within your staffing levels. This is where the benefits of working with change consultants. A business seeking to grow can certainly benefit from change management training.   Their experience will manage the staffing issues that may result from your growth.  Your employees have the ability to make or break your business, no matter how good your growth plan is.  Change will always create a level of fear and uncertainty even when caused by success.  New staff required to facilitate the growth can upset the balance of existing teams, so you have spent time planning to add staff as the business demands, but the reality of new team members causing a disruption that you did not plan for; a resistance or change in productivity from your existing workforce.

If you include the change management process as part of your business plan, as you plan for growth you will have given prior thought to potential obstacles and hurdles along the way.

The importance of planning for business growth is critical whatever size your business, and the suggestion that small businesses would benefit from embarking on change management training is equally valid for larger companies who struggle to achieve positive results when they seek to change. With around 70% of changes hitting difficulties and failure, at times when your business needs to grow to meet demand, you will certainly want it to happen with the minimum of disruption to your existing teams.

Growth leads to change

It is inevitable that the more successfully you grow your business the more changes there will be.  Whether processes or people, it is impossible to have one change without affecting the other.  Continual assessment and evaluation of your growth plans, reviewing the areas you feel are affected and identifying how growth in one area may force growth in others requires a clear plan for change.

The continual review of your business structure may see different departments created, new management levels and even further need for change management experts to become involved to handle the inevitable resistance and concerns that appear along the way.