Former Dragon Den investor Piers Linney gives five tips to maximise growth and expand your company
What is the secret to building the ultimate growth strategy for your business during the pandemic?
Former BBC Dragon Den’s investor and serial entrepreneur Piers Linney took to the stage for Day 1 at Elite Business Live on 11 March, as the first keynote speaker to kickstart the incredible two-day event. He led the day with the commercial business talk and spoke about how business owners can grow and expand their firms in the current climate. He kicked off his presentation speaking about the five areas businesses must focus on to grow – planning, operations, people, technology and finance.
Piers emphasises the need to plan their journey in a strategic way, and truly understand what their ‘point B’ looks like to take your business in the right direction. Not having a plan is a ‘bad plan’, Piers said. I’ve been involved in quite a few competitions for various brands where I’ve seen lots of entries come in where they’ve had to pivot and change their plans and I’m not talking here about having a sort of massive business plan, Piers told viewers at home. I’m talking about having an idea of what a point B looks like from your point A. And this is really important for several reasons. One is, it allows you to draw a road map…If you’re trying to build a business it’s going to meander. You might want to find the path of least resistance, that’s why rivers meander. So, you want to look at your point B and work out how do you get there.
Secondly, Piers touched on why it is important to integrate software and automate systems, so business owners can focus on actually running their business ensuring smooth operations. The front of the end starts to detach from the back end, yes you’re selling, you’re doing well, you’ve got customers, you’re generating revenues but your systems, processes and policies are not up to scratch, Piers said. And what that often means is that at some point you’re going to have a massive issue. And it’s going to be more expensive to fix that down the line than it is if you put all those systems, processes and policies in place at day one. What that allows you to do in terms of operational effectiveness, means that people in the business understand what the rules of the game are, especially if you’re regulated. People need to know how they get stuff done. How do they get things through commercial or how does your marketing work in terms of making your ROI most efficient and effective so operational effectiveness is really important? No matter how big your business is to automate everything.
Thirdly, Piers talked about how people are the ‘engine’ of your business. However, employees who managed to scale up your business at the start may not be the right people to go continue growing with, and may no longer serve your company further down the line. If you are a start-up, you put two people in a room and what you realise very quickly is you’re developing a culture. Realising what your culture needs to be, how you want that to work internally, how you want to reflect that externally is very important. And the lesson to learn about people is that as your business grows, you may find that the people and the skills you need begin to change. Though it is a hard decision to make, Piers suggested reflecting on this to understand if they are the right people to take your business next level, or not. Piers also touched on how important it is to manage people closely to increase worker morale and create a positive work culture.
Piers spoke about how the pandemic has ‘accelerated’ the use of technology, and how video conferencing and flexible working has changed the game. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption and use of technology in business. Piers said. This is a fantastic thing and it also relates to operational effectiveness, automate everything and also people. I’m a big believer that work is something you do, it shouldn’t be somewhere you go.
Piers explained why small companies must embrace technology to make their companies more efficient and more effective, reach new customers and reach new markets. Utilising technology effectively can help reduce the cost base and create profit. And if businesses don’t understand technology, businesses should bring in talent to fill those skill gaps. “Larges companies embrace technology, Piers explained. They have departments of well-paid people that make purchasing decisions on how to embrace, adopt and use technology. And what that does is give them the competitive advantage. Whereas small companies should have a competitive advantage. They should be able to embrace technology, integrate it, deploy it a lot faster and use that. You can now deploy systems in your business… a system that a large FTSE100 company would have struggled to adopt and deploy three years ago. The power of technology is immense.
Finance is extremely important when it comes to accelerating your business. Piers talked about the importance of understanding your financing options and how technology has transformed the way SMEs can utilise this to their advantage, with more finance options available now than ever. The point about raising finance is that what you need to do and what most companies don’t understand… is their financing options, Piers said. You talk to one organisation about finance, and they say no perhaps, and that’s the end of the conversation.
Piers talked about how investors do their due diligence when it comes to selecting businesses to invest in, and that companies can have an added advantage in attracting investors if they follow these five steps to improving their business model. The money is out there, what we have to do is go through my five factors actually, Piers said. Anyone looking to put money into your company is going to do due diligence. And they’re going to go through the preceding four things I’ve talked about, Piers added. They’re going to look at your plan, they’re going to look at your operational effectiveness. They’re going to look at your team and people, they’re going to look at your technology. Either the technology that you’re selling or how you’re using it internally. Raising finance is something that can take longer than you think it’s going to. It can be more complicated. And trust me, it can be hard work. So plan to raise finance. Venture can take anything up to 12 months… but what you have to do is to understand your options so that you’re not trying to force a round peg into a square hole. You have to understand where you fit into that financing landscape. There’s no point having a fantastic idea in the shower, some new tech start-up and running off to some west coast VC fund to try and raise 50 million dollars, it’s probably not going to happen. And if you don’t have the cash flow or assets or someway of providing security, then it’s probably difficult to raise loans as well.”