Success in a low growth market

09 May 2016

Kishen Vijayadass , Partner, Business Services |

The annual Fast Movers survey of South Australia’s fastest growing SMEs never fails to impress. These are businesses that innovate, have commitment to their business strategy and belief in their unique offering, and don’t shy away from necessary investment.

Companies might look at growth as part luck, part hard work – but growth is a matter of choice, and one that requires planning, decisiveness and great execution.

What stands out this year is the number of companies which are experiencing strong growth in a lower growth environment. They’ve done this mainly through taking market share from competitors, product & service innovation and looking to fresh markets interstate and overseas.

In a low growth or no growth environment, sales increases will mainly come from:

  • New products and services that create a niche,
  • Taking market share from others, and/or
  • Expanding to interstate and overseas markets

The economy moves in cycles, so it is a matter of choosing how your business will proceed at particular points in that cycle – for instance, if turnover slows in a downward cycle, how will you create more demand and edge out the competition? Will you innovate with a better product or in the way your business seeks and services customers? Export to markets with stronger economies? If you choose to stay local, how quickly can you move to stay ahead of the competition?

A touch of optimism helps; the 2016 Fast Movers are confident about their plans and prospects, with 54% planning on a major capital expenditure in the coming year and a similar proportion expecting profits to climb at least 20 per cent higher than last year. A further 74% of respondents expect to increase staffing levels to support their continued growth.

Strategic planning is fundamental to business success. Without a plan, a business can be distracted, disorganised, and lose alignment in thinking amongst its executives and/or owners. The best businesses spend quality time undertaking strategic planning, and spend an equal amount of time communicating the strategic plan to their people. The benefit of planning is when the entire business is executing its plan as one very aligned organisation.

Success also requires strategic ‘people planning’. Good people who are skilled, committed and engaged are the foundation of any successful business – but finding them is a perennial challenge. As many of this year’s Fast Movers have told us, their team is one of their greatest strengths but finding the right staff is also a major challenge.

To ensure you have the right people for now, and for the future, you need to plan for the skills that key staff will need and then invest in their professional development. The right people, doing the right things at the right time, are a critical success factor in growing every business.

If you need to recruit, be prepared to offer the right incentives, such as the best remuneration and incentive package – and rather than looking at the bottom line cost of a high wage, look instead at the possible return on this investment. Don’t be afraid of “paying too much” for a high-calibre hire, if it helps take your business in the right direction.

What we are seeing, and Fast Movers demonstrates, is that companies with a clear vision, great talent, high energy and strong financials will continue to dominate and grow in their market segments - especially those which embrace change and the opportunity it can bring.