Every once in a while, something magnificent happens. A company, through no fault of its own, finds itself in a situation of unexpected growth: that uncharacteristically large order, email inquiry from markets afar, or perhaps media coverage that yields a rush of customers. As enticing as such growth can be, there is an important question that must be carefully considered: can this level of demand be sustained?
It’s easy to find joy in times of success, wanting little more than to sit back and savour the moment. Having said that, it’s important to not fall into the trap of taking short term growth as a given for the future. This is a dangerous approach that has been the downfall of many companies, who banked on the money before it arrived and made decisions on this basis, many of which involved outlays of cash. Too often, the “can’t miss” opportunity is anything but, with the key unanswered question being whether or not the increased level of demand was sustainable or just a bump in the road. Paired with this is often a lack of appreciation of what’s required to create sustainable growth over the long term.
Business leaders can take matters into their own hands to increase the likelihood of a better outcome, to effectively stay ahead of the growth curve and beat it. The approach is built upon fundamental, good business practices; here are some tips to get you started:
- Research always rules—when demand rises, it’s a great opportunity to find out why. This can be achieved by engaging with customers and keeping an eye on the marketplace for developments of interest. Published research sources, industry associations, and economic analysts can bring information about key trends and how demand could be impacted. Utilize this information to understand changes in demand for the short and long term and how your business strategy might be impacted.
- Focus on what makes you special—every business must be able to tangibly articulate why customers should choose them, as opposed to the competition. It’s important to communicate what your company has to offer, not just in the present but also on a sustainable basis. Focus on areas such as proprietary expertise, products, service levels, and other areas that set you apart.
- Keep an eye on external developments—which includes emerging trends and happenings in the industry and marketplace where you do business. Look for opportunities to offer new products and services in your area and pay careful attention to changes in consumer preferences. Too many business leaders focus the majority of their time on internal matters and can quickly find themselves out of step with opportunities in the marketplace, as well as displaced by savvy competitors who didn’t make the same mistake.
- Accentuate the positive—increased demand can be tempting, in terms of quick decisions to scale up, buy, hire, and other expansion related steps. Conversely, a good strategy is to leverage what you already have and minimize new cost outlays. Accentuate the positive by building on what you already have; longer business hours, a greater online presence, and making use of existing capacity are all options. Strategic partnerships can also expand your product offering without significant costs.
- Build the brand— ideally, it’s important to create an identity that positions your business as the “go to” provider of choice; this is key to sustaining demand for the long term. Most communities have such examples, so utilize your efforts to make your name a recognizable one.
Recognize these efforts for what they are: an investment; to take control and grow on a proactive and prolonged basis, well into the future. Your business (and your bank account) will thank you for it.