In our Scale-up series with sponsor Smith & Williamson we've been speaking to experts in rapid and sustainable growth on their tips for those looking to do the same.
NBA: Hi Jeff, tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
JS: My name is Jeff Selden and I am head of audit and assurance at Smith & Williamson’s Guildford office. We have a team focusing on audit and advising business owners and managers. A second team provides outsourced services to growing businesses who don’t yet have in-house finance people to look after the bookkeeping, VAT, payroll etc, which allows the owners to focus on growing the business.
NBA: Can you give us a real-life example of Scale-Up working in your area, and what makes it stand out?
JS: Yes, a company supplying B2B services in a sector with a number of national firms and lots of small very local ones. What is different about this one is that it started locally, but is expanding successfully across the country, applying the principals of its initial success to new locations, despite the existing local competition having more local knowledge, and the national players having more resources.
NBA: What would be one learning we could take away from that company?
JS: If you have identified a competitive advantage and you have the drive to make the most of it, obstacles which may stop others can be overcome.
“Don’t assume that because something is working now it will continue to do so in the future.”
NBA: What would be your top tip for companies looking to achieve sustained growth?
JS: Always be aware of the need to adapt your business’s approach to make the best of new opportunities and respond to new challenges. Don’t assume that because something is working now it will continue to do so in the future.
NBA: What are the dangers or pitfalls a company looking to, or currently growing should look out for to stay sustainable?
JS: There needs to be a balance between (a) getting to new markets before the competition and (b) spreading yourself too thin. When you move into new areas, make sure you can give it the focus it requires to succeed and it doesn’t distract from the areas that are currently successful.
NBA: What are the biggest factors influencing sustainable growth in your office’s region currently?
JS: We are lucky enough to be in an affluent area with easy access to the City, as well as being between Heathrow and Gatwick. This attracts a large number of foreign businesses to the area as well as providing great opportunities for businesses that focus on private wealth.
“The winner of the Scale-Up award will have convinced a distinguished judging panel of [their] potential and it’s a great message"
NBA: What message would being the Smith & Williamson Scale-Up Business of the Year tell investors, potential clients and partners about that winner? Would this badge distinguish them from competitors? Show experts have been impressed with their planning and potential for continued growth etc?
JS: The winner of the Smith & Williamson Scale-Up Business of the Year will have to demonstrate not only historic success but that it has the potential to go on to even greater things. The winner of the award will have convinced a distinguished judging panel of this potential and it is a great message to be able to take to clients, investors and business partners.
NBA: Thanks very much for your time Jeff.
JS: You're welcome, and good luck to those looking to share their growth story this November.
NBA: Hi Krista, can you tell us about yourself?
KW: My name is Krista Woodman and I am head of private client tax at Smith & Williamson’s Cheltenham office. This involves managing the private client tax team here, as well as looking after my own clients, who tend to be mostly business owners, and often non-UK resident or non-UK domiciled.
NBA: In the economy’s current climate, what do you think are the biggest challenges for scale-up business?
KW: It doesn’t matter what the current climate of the economy is, the biggest challenge for any scale-up business is always the same; getting the timing right. If you scale beyond your company’s abilities, you will end up in trouble; if you scale too slowly and you risk losing both momentum and opportunities.
NBA: Do you have an outstanding example of scale-up, and what was different about them?
KW: One great example is a company in the nutrition industry who have managed to pull off the trick of scaling up at the right rate. Despite scaling in terms of resources and production, they have maintained employee happiness throughout, resulting in a positive team who have achieved growth of more than 20% each year.
"Adapt, review and change as swiftly as possible whilst managing the risks"
NBA: So you would say that employees are an important factor?
KW: Definitely. Maintaining employee satisfaction throughout the scale up is key to having a team who want to grow the business with you.
NBA: Any guidance for companies looking to do the same as this nutrition company?
KW: From my experience, the companies that achieve the best sustained growth are those that adapt, continually reviewing their business plans and implementing changes swiftly while minimising risk.
NBA: And from the other side, what are the dangers or pitfalls should scale-ups look out for?
KW: Be prepared and do not to scale beyond your abilities, unless of course that is what your business model requires!
NBA: Where in the South West is booming for growth businesses?
KW: Gloucestershire is an outstanding area for business. Spending by consumers (including many tourists) is good and businesses benefit from a vibrant and collaborative business community, which is full of useful networking and learning events.
NBA: What would you say to those looking to enter the Scale-Up category at this year’s Awards?
KW: Winning the Smith & Williamson Scale-up Business of the Year would strengthen trust from investors, potential clients and partners of that business, give brand recognition, increase confidence to go out there and shout about yourselves and increase team spirit within the business; all factors that contribute towards your scale-up scaling up even further!
NBA: Thanks so much for your time Krista.
KW: You’re welcome, and good luck to all those entering!
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