While there are many components which make up a successful business, serious growth relies on the owner. Negotiating this phase in your company’s life will test you in new ways, demanding creative solutions to problems and no small amount of personal input. Giving yourself the best chance of success will require some personal development, and a focus on improving your own abilities as a leader and a person.
1. Trust in your own decisions
Expanding either nationally or internationally will test your resources and control, as it becomes more necessary to delegate and take risks. You can’t be in two places at once so it’s always going to be necessary to have a leadership presence on each site, regardless of how frequent your input is or how often you’re checking in.
Ideally, you should learn to trust yourself in the decisions you make, and be resolute in pursuing your goals. If you’ve appointed someone to lead a new project or division, you should trust that decision-making process enough to leave them to it, and not interfere too heavily. Constantly jumping in or looking over their shoulder may serve to undermine their confidence, and cause them to play things safe, harangue you with unnecessary questions or second-guessing their own choices.
You may also have moments of doubt if - or rather when - your business expansion hits its first roadblocks. For these moments, it’s helpful to have a dossier which outlines your pathway and plans in the long and short term. This should help to reassure you that your planning will ultimately see you through, and let you focus your attention on day-to-day concerns.
2. Create a network you can rely on
It can be almost impossible to succeed in a new location without connecting with local contacts. Local talent you can rely on or contacts you can consult on major decisions, will help avoid mistakes that could quickly snowball, as you struggle to understand the local business environment, culture and habits.
Contacts are also vital in order to get funding, secure distribution deals and cooperate with local businesses. This may require work on your interpersonal skills and investment in your personal brand, putting yourself across as the amiable and trustworthy face of your business - or finding someone who can represent these qualities for you.
Doing some fact-finding online and in person before you expand should lay the groundwork, and help you to form relationships which will guide your growth. Suppliers can be found through various online marketplaces and directories, but you should always visit their site first to get a sense of how they work, and whether they’ll be a suitable and trusted partner.
3. Adopt a more flexible attitude
If you want to successfully expand outside of your home country, it will be necessary to step outside of your comfort zone. As well as spending time in your destination, soaking up the culture and getting used to the daily routine, it could also mean investing time in learning a new language or new customs. The more you appreciate the patterns of daily life in a location, the better you’ll understand the market, and be able to communicate with locals.
Learning enough to introduce yourself and then using a translator can be a good compromise; this will gain you some respect, while also ensuring that your messaging is being fully understood, and that you aren’t being taken advantage of. Hiring local personnel and giving them an important place in your business will also help, both in terms of understanding your new audience and endearing yourself to the locals.
It may be necessary to adapt aspects of your business to fit in, from the way you conduct yourselves to the products themselves. This can sometimes be difficult to accept, but keep your eyes and ears open, listen to what you’re being told and accept what you’re seeing. By being flexible and agile, you can anticipate issues and head them off in advance.
4. Learn to better organize yourself
As your empire takes shape, it will have to grapple with the issue that has felled its historical forebears: being too big to manage effectively. Dealing with this may involve tackling any issues with how you organize your own work, as well as how you organize and structure your business.
Circumstances often force us to be dealing with ten things at a time, and it can be hard to step back and take the time to improve our processes. Expanding your business is the perfect time to do this; look at how you’re spending your time, and how tasks are being forwarded on to you, as well as your approach to completing them. Employing a personal secretary may be a good step.
Improving your own organization could be as simple as using a calendar app or a personal planner. But you may also need to explore more structural changes. Whenever you receive an email with a new task, find a way to catalogue it and add notes, ensuring that it has either been fulfilled or delegated to someone else. Online productivity tools such as Google Docs and Slack are a good way to collaborate and talk with employees over distances, and will help to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks.
5. Keep on top of health and wellness
Growth, however rapid, inevitably brings with it a cycle of perpetual stress. Whether it’s moving premises, hiring new staff, bartering new deals or stockpiling resources, the demands of business expansion can bring about logistical and financial worries that may impact your mental and physical health.
Even if you don’t think you are susceptible to these problems, it’s important you take this possibility into account, and put safeguards in place ahead of time. Simple practices such as mindfulness and meditation can reduce and manage stress without taking up a lot of your time, with a range of apps breaking the process down into small chunks. If you’re more dedicated to improving your mental health, yoga or some form of therapy can be extremely helpful for restoring balance to your life.
It’s also crucial to not ignore the basics of good health; eat well, exercise and get plenty of sleep. A lack of sleep has been proven to impact our cognitive function, while poor diet and lack of exercise are major contributors to depression and other mental health conditions, as well as exacerbating physical ailments. Keeping yourself in peak condition will benefit your business, even if it takes up a little portion of your working day.