If you've been planning to grow your business, a business growth plan is integral to creating an actionable path to achieve your goals. In this course we will discuss what business growth plans are, why they are important, and how you can write one for your business. We will also explore the main growth strategies, top tips for writing your business growth plan, how you can turn your plan into an executable roadmap, and look at some helpful software for managing growth.

KEY LEARNINGS

  • Understand what a business growth plan is for
  • Examine why they are important
  • Explore key strategies for growth
  • Learn what should be included in a business growth plan and how to create one
  • Understand how to leverage your business growth plan as a roadmap for success

Read time:

26 mins

Chapter 1

What is a business growth plan?

Read time:

2 mins

Growth plans explained

In contrast to a business plan (which focuses on a 3 to 5 year timeframe), a business growth plan is a methodical way of prioritising your organisation's ambitions for the near future and tends to cover a shorter period - from 3 to 24 months. It sets out business growth goals and targets on a timeline, and details clear strategies for reaching them.

Armed with these clear growth objectives and timeline, organisations can then produce an actionable roadmap that schedules tasks, delegates responsibilities and introduces systems to achieve their growth outcomes in the desired timeframe.

At the end of each quarter, your organisation should review its plan and look at the goals met and missed, taking into account any changes in the marketplace. This will help you to stay on track with your plan.

 

Reasons for growth

There are a number of reasons for creating a growth plan. You may have identified increased competition, or you may have several growth ambitions that need to be prioritised and managed sustainably. Perhaps the most important and common reason for creating a growth plan is increasing sales. To do this, it's important to look ahead and plan how to convert potential customers and leads into solid business outcomes. This may include identifying and developing skills or processes, or seeking to leverage trends and opportunities in the marketplace.

So, for example, a growth plan could help you achieve sales targets by introducing a valuable new service to a new target audience, having implemented a marketing strategy that generates the right kinds of leads.

 

Enhancing or improving existing products and services or entering a new market are the most impactful growth strategies for small UK businesses, but 1 in 4 small businesses don't have any strategy in place to support their business growth.

Source: Talk Business Opens in a new tab

Chapter 2

Why write a business growth plan?

Read time:

2 mins

Your plan should be an actionable strategy

In order to achieve your growth goals, it's essential to have an actionable strategy that defines your objectives, and details how you plan to manage these changes.

The benefits of creating a business growth plan

Growth is fundamental to a business' survival. With 20% of new businesses failing during the first two years of being open, 45% during the first five years, and 65% during the first 10 years, we can see how important it is to evolve a business plan for growth from day one, and capitalise on opportunities.

 

Clarity for the steps ahead

A business growth plan provides clarity for the steps ahead, helping organisations to prioritise and plan for success. Creating this solid structure means you can evaluate your current performance and uncover further opportunities for growth. It can also help you foresee and manage external risks, like market volatility and inflation.

 

Aligning goals with actions and assessing capabilities

A business growth plan provides support for strategic choices - it helps an organisation to understand its unique capabilities and back them up in a plan that clarifies mission, insights, integration, processes, technology, and talent. Managing everyday operations sustainably, and communicating growth objectives and responsibilities to the wider organisation, is essential for achieving targets with focus and efficiency.

Investor confidence

When investors and stakeholders look at your organisation - especially when navigating a turbulent time - you can give them the confidence of a clear road map for expansion and the management of risk. Having a considered vision and steps for progress will attract and retain talent too, affording further opportunity for meaningful growth.

Activity

Now you've read about the importance of business growth planning, write down your ideas. Consider the places where you can see opportunities for growth or expansion.

Chapter 3

Why write a business growth plan?

Read time:

4 mins

Four strategies for growth

There are four main growth strategies with different areas of focus that will help you build your brand, and expand in the marketplace.

 

These strategies are:

  1. Market strategy - This is about identifying who your users are and how you target them. Perhaps it's time for a new ad campaign that raises brand awareness, a new marketing platform, or perhaps you need to adjust your prices to add value for the customer. Rather than entering a new market or creating new products or services, market strategy is focused on leveraging what you currently have to offer, and communicating it with more impact
  2. Development - If you are struggling to grow in your current market and have identified a new opportunity elsewhere, development strategy focuses on helping you break into a new market. Perhaps your services or products could benefit from exposure in an entirely different sector or industry. Expanding your offering to a new market requires market research, so your campaigns can align with your new clientele's needs and buying behaviours. Take Google for example: in 2016 they capitalised on their strong brand image and software expertise to grow into a new market and started making smartphones
  3. Product strategy - Sometimes referred to as product development, this strategy is about developing a new product or service for your current audience. Instead of entering a new market, the idea is to enhance your existing offering with products or services that your current audience would benefit from. Consider what your customers are asking for. You might introduce a complementary service that adds value to the customer's journey, a new software, or bespoke support. Think about what new solutions you could provide to boost product value and maximise customer spending with your organisation
  4. Diversification - Diversification focuses on the expansion of products, services and target markets. This is about not putting all your eggs in one basket. For example, in 2001 Apple diversified by introducing the iPod, followed by iTunes in 2003 and the iPhone in 2007. To achieve this, they leveraged the operational and manufacturing capabilities of their computer offering. This meant Apple could use similar resources and design principles whilst adding value to their current audience, and attracting new customers

Top tip

Sharing your plan for growth with key employees will help the workforce understand their part in the bigger picture, motivating everyone to work together toward a common goal.

Please note:

Depending on your objectives, it's important to review your financial position and plan your strategy before committing to growth.

 

Key information to consider:

  • Market share and penetration - If costs increase but your market share remains the same, you may start to make a loss. A business growth plan helps you to avoid this
  • Recovering losses - In its infancy, an organisation may lose far more than it earns. Growth planning is vital in order to recover losses and pay off debts
  • Future risk - More established organisations also benefit from growth planning. They can make their sales processes more efficient, meaning greater liquidity. Extra revenue allows an organisation to future-proof their actions and save for a rainy day
  • Investors - Whilst a business growth plan is beneficial to the organisation as a whole, investor confidence is key. Investors will want to see an outline of how an organisation plans to build up and expand
  • Revenue - Every organisation is different, but when it comes to making a business growth plan, the simple question is: How do we plan to make money this year/quarter?

Chapter 4

What to include in your business growth plan?

Read time:

6 mins

Key elements to include

To ensure you are covering all bases when building your business growth plan, take a look at the following key elements and how they contribute to your overall strategy.

 

Marketing objectives

A marketing plan maps how you will communicate with your target audience. It will help you to identify who your product or service is for, the market needs it meets, and how you differ from your competitors. Marketing plans are a key part of business growth planning; integral to brand awareness, sales strategy, and brand direction; they help you to refine and convey your message effectively.

Your marketing plan will be customised to your business, but should contain: your goals and strategies to achieve them, how you will quantify your success and report progress, how you will execute the plan, and the human resources, departments, and software that will be involved. Your business growth plan should use and include the aims and objectives of your marketing plan.

 

Expansion opportunities

Identify and detail the areas in which expansion may be possible and make sure to plan. Take UK start-up Habito for example. They started out as a comparison site for users to find and apply for mortgages, and now offer lifetime fixed mortgages and a home-buying service. Expansion for your organisation could mean creating new products or services, targeting a new audience, opening new locations, or even going global. Bear in mind however that expanding too fast without a strategy in place can result in any meaningful stake in the market being undermined.

Expansion doesn't simply mean doing the same thing on a larger scale, but if you keep monitoring and updating your processes as you grow, expansion will ultimately be good for your organisation. Just be mindful that it can throw up a number of challenges. In his book, The Complete Guide to Running & Growing Your Business, Andrew J. Sherman advises that:

“The need of the organisation to grow must be tempered by the need to understand that meaningful, long-term, profitable growth is a by-product of effective management and planning.”

Be ambitious in your vision, just make sure you plan for each stage effectively.

Operational information

Your growth plan should include an assessment of your operations, logistics and computer networks to determine if they can accommodate growth. Consider where your business is based, who your suppliers are and what equipment you need.

If you are planning to engage with leads in a new sector or industry, you might - for example - design a new customer acquisition process using an online lead generation tool to help you engage with a large number of leads in a scalable and automated format.

Failing to assess operational elements effectively could result in your infrastructure being overwhelmed. So, plan ahead and avoid operational issues stunting your growth.

 

People power

Your plan should include a breakdown of your staffing requirements and responsibilities. This will give you a clear picture of the road ahead for current and future personnel. By nurturing your current personnel as they adjust to the changing environment, you are minimising the risk of losing them in the expansion process. It's worth acknowledging however that although business growth can afford employees great opportunities, it can sometimes trigger the departure of staff that are unable to adjust.

Going forward, growth will likely mean hiring more staff, so be prepared and expand the reach of your search in order to recruit a diverse and effective workforce. For new or smaller businesses not in a position to hire full time staff, outsourcing can be very cost-effective.

You might need specialist support with the creation of a new service, an expert eye when designing your marketing materials, or you may wish to seek partners or associates who can support in promoting your new offering. Outsourcing allows you to complete projects successfully without hiring expensive skill sets that you won't need full time.

 

Financial information

Detailed financial planning will help to manage your assets and resources effectively during expansion. Make sure you know what capital you will be able to access during the growth period, including profit and loss forecasts, cash flow forecasts, sales forecasts, and audited accounts. You may also choose to request funding, and providing financial information to lenders will be essential.

Considering the current financial liquidity and assets of your business in the creation of your growth plan can help you to understand how it's financially possible to achieve your goals. Finding expansion capital at the last minute can be frustrating and could undermine your efforts, so avoid the pitfalls by revising your financial plan regularly.

Business objectives

It's helpful to summarise your organisation's objectives in your growth plan, including targets and target dates. There may be a larger objective you wish to achieve through implementing new growth strategies, so think about how your growth goals contribute to your long term business plan.

For example, the company mission might be to expand from the UK into mainland European markets in the next five years. Consider how this long term goal is centred through your growth plan and the strategies you will be implementing.

 

Personal objectives

For example, if you own your business and are thinking about selling or moving away from the top job moving forward, you may want to include an exit plan for yourself. If your expansion does include an exit plan, it should be focused on maximising your company's value prior to your exit, and ensuring you are personally and financially prepared.

Top tip

Customer service can face challenges during expansion - be sure to keep on top of interactions and maintain high standards, to avoid losing valued users.

Chapter 5

A roadmap for success

Read time:

6 mins

Creating a business roadmap

Now we've outlined what a growth plan is and how to write one, let's look at turning it into an actionable plan.

A business roadmap is a visualisation of an organisation's major objectives. This is a strategic document that lights the way to success. Your business growth plan is pivotal to your roadmap, as it allows you to explore the intricacies of your big picture goals.

You may have heard this terminology used in relation to project or product management; the concept is transferable and provides a succinct and flexible document which factors in key goals, dates and plans of action relevant to all stakeholders.

 

How to use your growth plan to build a roadmap for success

Detailed business growth plans are vital, but they can be difficult to pick through - a roadmap will illustrate an overall, cross-departmental strategy that sends a clear message. Here's how to use your growth plan to build a roadmap for success:

 

Identify key milestones

Break down the big picture goals. Think about what you want to achieve in 1 week, 1 month, 6 months, a year. A good place to start is to determine your end result and then work backwards, identifying the steps that will help you get there.

Once you've identified these milestones, set targets against them. For example, you might decide that your key milestone is to achieve £1m in sales in the next financial year. Now you can allocate this into monthly or quarterly targets along with your chosen strategies to meet them.

 

Break down your milestones

Your growth plan should offer detailed, short-term strategies broken down into smaller actions and steps, so you can see exactly how to achieve your long-term goals. For example, to achieve your key milestone of £1m in sales in the next financial year, you'll need to raise £100,000 in Q1, £300,000 in Q2 and so on.

You can now align these targets with the promotion and sale of new products, or the implementation of another growth strategy. The roadmap helps you to see the end goal, break down actions, manage time effectively, and organise resources.

Assign responsibilities against your targets

Delegate smaller actions and steps to spread the weight of the big picture, ensuring things get done to a timeframe. Having a clear timeline will provide a concise overview of projects and deadlines team by team. For example, the marketing and sales teams may need extra support, training and empowerment to work towards their expansion target of £1m.

By plotting each department's growth strategy over a predetermined period, your organisation will be able to assess each team's time, resources and input in relation to an overall initiative. Each department needs to know how their work is contributing to the growth of the organisation.

 

Schedule regular check-ins

Communicate with employees and ensure you are all working toward a common goal - your business roadmap is really useful for teams to understand their role and how they are contributing to the big picture.

Once the overall goal is understood, departments can work toward it and check back in if they feel their work is veering off track. It may be beneficial to schedule additional check-ins. You can also leverage project management tools and applications to enhance that communication.

What's more, employees can offer an important perspective in the evolution of your organisation's roadmap by providing insights 'on the ground.' Listen to feedback and be prepared to adjust.

Define features and requirements

Give coherent and transparent definitions of what is required, so everyone is on the same page. The strategy is your 'why' and the features - the characteristics that set a product or service apart - are your 'what.' Once those are defined, you can work together to find out 'how.' For example, when introducing an enhanced sales process to convert more leads to customers, the associated features might include a sales funnel tool or a new customer relationship management system (CRM).

Determine your key measurement criteria

Pay attention to how you measure your progress. Perhaps you are using smart data, key performance indicators (KPIs), feedback, or a combination of these things. There are a number of tools and software available that can help you track your performance on the way to achieving your growth goals. Whatever tools decide to use, be sure to have clear cut criteria to measure against.

 

Not sure where to start when it comes to measuring your progress? Use this handy checklist:

  • Examine your stakeholders' needs and expectations
  • Decide on the metrics that will be used for each project
  • Decide on the target values and threshold values for these metrics
  • Review the metrics and their values with your stakeholders for approval and buy-in
  • Select the tools and techniques which are best placed to measure and monitor these metrics

 

Implement and review regularly

Use your data insights, feedback, market research and other reporting mechanisms to review and update your roadmap on a regular basis. For example, if you are aware that a specific marketing strategy is not working or bringing the desired results, it may be necessary to change the style, communication method or even the platform used to reach your target audience. The structures you put in place to measure your progress should be leveraged, not just left on reports. Don't be afraid to adjust your plan as you grow - your roadmap will become more precise as you move forward.

Here are some tools that help you to implement your growth goals:

  • Asana is an excellent collaboration tool. It organises work so teams know exactly what to do, why it matters, and how to get it done. With built in timelines, reporting, and app integration features, Asana can help you streamline the breakdown of tasks to realise your big picture goals
  • Trello is a project management tool that automates tedious tasks and offers teams the chance to collaborate more effectively. It's a digital whiteboard of sticky notes that tells you who is working on what and when: a straightforward platform that's ideal for straightforward projects
  • Microsoft Excel takes the legwork out of organising your data by learning your patterns. It's a popular software for business analysis and is useful for creating budgets and forecasting future performance
  • Notion is a customisable all-in-one workspace that combines your everyday apps. Daily work and big picture knowledge live side by side, so you never lose context. You can also make use of community-made templates, and find resources and support from a global ecosystem of creators

Chapter 6

Creating Your Roadmap: Do's and Don'ts

Read time:

4 mins

Do's and Don'ts when creating a roadmap

Now we've looked in detail at what's involved in creating a roadmap, let's explore some of the key Do's and Don'ts when building your organisation's roadmap for success.

Do:

  • Be specific - Decide exactly what you want to achieve and what success will look like. Then set goals and targets that are clear and measurable. Larger goals should be broken down into a timeline - this will provide an overview of projects with set team-by-team deadlines
  • Be ambitious - Your goal should be challenging, motivating, and stretch the organisation's capabilities and potential. If the goals are inspiring, your team is more likely to buy into the vision and give their best. There's nothing more demotivating than working on a task because you've been told to; laying out an ambitious roadmap means employees can see the big picture, giving them their 'why?'
  • Set clear timeframes and stick to them - Be realistic about when you will complete tasks, in order to stay on track. Once you are clear on your overarching objective, make sure you are setting time frames for each milestone on your map to ensure the realistic realisation of your goals
  • Be practical - Think carefully about whether you can realistically meet your objectives and if you will need extra support. Once you've broken down your goals and set your time frames, look carefully at your staff and resources, factoring in any further support you may need. It's better to do this at the beginning and be prepared, than to take a chance and get caught out later without a plan and budget to seek help
  • Be flexible where possible - Run your projects with a methodical approach, but be ready to reassess and adapt when required. Your plans will evolve, but that doesn't mean your meticulous strategy was redundant. Make peace with letting go of aspects that no longer serve you along the way
  • Test and learn - Part of your plan's evolution will rely on rigorous testing of your strategy. Use your findings to understand where you need to improve and how you will address issues. It may take time to rectify challenges, so be patient. If you have to change something, give it time to embed before making any other changes and assess the impact it has
  • Carefully manage risk - Although risks need to be calculated, you can still be courageous in exploring new strategies. Calculated risk means considering the risk against the pay off. Change doesn't come without some risk, just make sure you balance it and protect yourself
  • Assign budgets to specific purposes - Put restrictions on your funding so that it can only be used for a specific purpose on your growth plan. Ring fencing your funds in this way will help you protect your assets and ensure every penny is specifically invested
  • Track and measure your success - Determine what systems to use for effective project management, ensuring project outcomes, targets and progress are clearly communicated and measured

Don't:

  • Be vague - Avoid indefinite and unclear wording of your goals and targets, such as 'increase growth' or 'improve our marketing'
  • Put yourself under too much pressure - Remain patient and realistic, and avoid getting into the habit of working around the clock
  • Try to achieve too much - Big goals are achieved in smaller steps, so plan and manage your growth with realistic deadlines and ensure all steps between the big goals are manageable
  • Create a rigid, long-term plan - The marketplace is dynamic and forever changing, so maintain flexibility in your plan and the strategies you have chosen to use

Chapter 7

Summary and next steps

Read time:

2 mins

So far, we've covered:

  • What makes a good business growth plan, and why they are so important for an organisation's healthy expansion in terms of market share and penetration, recovering losses, managing future risk, financial planning, and investor confidence
  • The four main strategies for growth: market strategy - how you target your users; development - breaking into new markets; product strategy - what new products or services you can offer to target your current market; diversification - expanding products, services and target markets
  • Top tips for writing your plan like thinking ahead, identifying opportunities, evaluating your team and leveraging advice
  • How your business growth plan can become part of your roadmap for success - a big picture strategy that encapsulates the organisation's goals and objectives
  • Helpful software to assist you in building your roadmap in terms of collaboration, budgeting, and the breakdown of milestones into smaller tasks

 

 

But, this is just the start of your business growth journey

By taking this module, you will have started the process of driving growth and expansion within your organisation. Although there may be a number of things to consider, the best way to get started is to simply begin writing your business growth plan. You will learn a lot during the process and will likely identify opportunities you can leverage sooner rather than later.

Activity

Why not capture your thoughts? Before you finish, take 5 minutes to write down your top 3 key takeaways from this course and make some personal pledges that will help you begin your business growth journey.

Additional resources

Now that you have a better understanding of your capacity and capability for growth, you can begin to focus in on some of the key growth areas like your marketing strategy and your customer relationship management:

 

Bank of Scotland Academy is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Bank of Scotland does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 13th March 2023.