There are many pieces of advice about how to get ahead in the business world, but one of the most famous is ‘grow or die’. Having first been coined in the mould-breaking book written by George Land in 1973, it’s become something of a maxim for corporations everywhere. By standing still, your market competitors will see ways to innovate. They’ll catch your business up and steal your share of the market.
Naturally, there are a number of ways that a business can grow. For example, acquiring or merging with competitors or even complementary businesses make it possible to grow immediately – however, the issue then becomes how to mix together two previously separate entities under the same brand or group. What’s more, it’s hard to prescribe a particular strategy or approach to mergers and acquisitions, as the possibilities vary from sector to sector.
The alternative route, which is available for all businesses, is to aim for organic growth through innovations in products and services, wise investment decisions and a focus on efficiency. This will gradually increase the size and profitability of your business. To achieve this there are certain principles or activities that will create the ideal environment. Let’s look at what these are – and take stock of some of the firms that are doing it best.
Set clear objectives and targets
How do you judge the success of a business if you don’t know what your goals are? Having goals in place – as well as a clear strategy for setting them – is essential to any business’s ongoing success. It both provides targets to achieve sets a way to measure how the business is performing against them, thereby measuring its success.
A good example of a business which entered a highly competitive market and is using targets to act as a catalyst for its growth is Jet.com. Set up in 2014 by Marc Lore, Nate Faust, and Mark Hanrahan, Jet.com set the objective of taking on rivals Amazon by offering better service, as well as lower prices. That galvanized its 5,000-strong workforce behind a clear vision, making it simple to see how the teams and divisions of its business could work together to achieve this goal. Jet.com also made this objective as clear as possible, focusing on winning 15 million customers, and making $20 billion in sales, by 2020.
Jet.com was so successful that it was acquired by Walmart for $3.3 billion just two years after it was founded.
Build your brand
The biggest businesses in the world have one important thing in common – a brand that is instantly recognizable and whose values and principles are clear to see. From Coca-Cola to Apple, and from Google to General Motors, a company’s brand is its DNA. But a brand doesn’t just happen overnight. It has to be nurtured and protected right from the earliest days of a business, a lesson learned very early on in his business career by Richard Branson.
When he first started Virgin in the early 1970s, operating out of a phone booth, he named the company as a reference to his own inexperience in business. But as it moved from selling records to producing them and then gradually expanded into other areas as diverse as airlines, gyms, financial services and even healthcare the power of the brand gave all of these activities a distinct identity. As Branson himself said: “uniting all under one roof is one of the best advantages a business can have. Customers relate to brands and the values it stands for more than the tangible aspects of a product.”
As well as sticking to your founding principles, as Branson clearly has, the moral of the story here is that if you take care of your brand, it’s going to take care of your business.
An established business might find it easy to rest on its laurels and continue to strive for success in a relatively narrow field of activity. However, a successful business must adapt and evolve with their industries and economies to diversify their offerings and move with the times.
As the owners of some of the first and best-established online casinos, 888 Holdings could have continued to focus their attention on games like roulette, blackjack, and slots that they had seen such success with since the company’s birth in 1997. But when the opportunity arose to acquire a leading online bingo site in 2009, it was a logical next move. Bingo players represented a whole new customer base for the company compared with online casino fans and this has undoubtedly helped the business to grow into new markets and territories – particularly in the UK, where bingo is a popular game, and online gambling comprises a third of all gambling revenue.
In results for 2017, 888 Holdings reported revenues of $541.8 million, up 4% on the previous year, as well as a 15% increase in adjusted earnings per share – evidence, if any was needed, that diversification sometimes pays off. What’s more, the success of Wink Bingo can be also put down to having a unique brand – and by checking out their colorful, pop-art-inspired website, you’ll soon see how it stands out from the crowd.
Find a unique product and market
The business world has never been quite so competitive, with retail firms, in particular, chasing the same broad swathes of customers with very similar products and services. So if you really want to take your business to the next level, you need a unique selling point (USP) and a unique market. Looking at the market at a glance, it might seem tricky to know what’s not already been done before, but sometimes finding a unique market can be right under your nose.
For example, The Honest Company was founded by the actress Jessica Alba when she discovered that ecologically-sound baby products she wanted for her own children simply weren’t available. And there’s more than a grain of truth behind this because three years after it was founded in 2015, her business is worth $1.7 billion.
Of course, entering a niche market does always introduce an element of risk, so it’s a good idea to start out with a small scale experiment first. Depending on the success of this, you can soon see how your idea might fare when it’s rolled out more broadly.
If you’re serious about building your business up and taking it to the next level then these four steps will definitely help you on your way. More generally, it’s important to flexible, adaptable, and seize every opportunity that arises. While we can’t promise success, following this advice will set you on the right track.