8 ways to grow your business – Abigail Ahern

Abigail Ahern's new blog

8 ways to grow your business

It’s a long one just to warn!

You’ve survived start-up (gold star) but now what? How do you take what you’ve got to the next level?  After the first few years of my business I can remember feeling super frustrated and in a quandary about how to push it on further. I knew I didn’t want a lifestyle business as such I wanted a brand but how to make that brand global. A lot of what I’m about to tell you depends on resources obviously but more importantly the amount of time you are prepared to invest in your biz. If the answer to that is a lot read on!

Physical expansion

Often times you will get told that physical expansion is the fastest way to growth and often times it is.  You’ll obviously need to have maintained a consistent bottom line profit in order to think about expanding not forgetting administrative systems and warehousing and management teams all in place and god knows what else. Exhausted already! Plus you’ll need a bottomless pocket – opening stores is not cheap.

If you are not ready for a whole new store consider a concession, you’ll need less financing therefore its less risk. Sort of. We had a concession in West London for a while which I found challenging and as a result have deviated from my original plan of opening a ton of stores around the world to designing instead a large collection of own label products that will get sold around the world via us exhibiting at trade shows. In the early days I wanted stores everywhere after that insightful concession period I’ve changed my mind.

Being a bit (correction a lot) of a control freak I found not having the power I usually have with my store a big hindrance. I couldn’t design the space for example; our area nestled amongst clothes which I felt was an odd juxtaposition and didn’t set the products off so well.  Because I wasn’t based there and our staff weren’t on the team I had no control over what was replaced with what when something got sold.

You won’t know it but when you see a collection of objects in my own store they are in the exact, repeat exact spot. It’s not happenstance its orchestrated.

Having that concession made me review my whole business plan I didn’t want numerous stores everywhere where all I would ever do was go from one to another and freak out about vase placement!

Licensing

This is one of the most exciting things I’ve gotten involved in with our business. Working with a brand such as Debenhams means I get to design twice yearly collections that are showcased in over 140 stores.   I don’t have the headache of manufacturing the pieces myself or checking the quality. You receive upfront monies and royalties and you get to take your brand to a whole other audience, which generates a whole new bundle of cash. Nice! The downside is it’s a bit chicken and egg as big brands won’t partner or approach you unless you ‘re known in your industry.

Align with another business

Get buddy with other business and all the benefits of their customer base – it’s a quick way to success. If you write a blog then maybe guest post, I don’t take guest posts on mine (but lots of other people do). Collaborating with other brands is a great way of getting a load more people knowing about  your brand.

Diversify

The more different strands you have the more successful your business will become I talk from experience here!  Lets say you discover a cool brand in France how about becoming their UK agent (you’ll typically make up 20% from any of the products) and other retailers will have to come via you to buy! I’m making it sound way to easy I realize that and it’s not.  You would be responsible for warehousing, sending out, late deliveries etc. etc.

Run classes, write columns, pen a book diversifying has been an excellent growth strategy for us as it allows us to have multiple streams of income and any streams that dip (and they will) the others always pick up the slack.  In January we’re rolling out our label products, which other retailers will buy into (I’m hoping that will be the case) which is a whole other stream a big one at that!

Target foreign territories

You don’t need to roll out a global expansion bricks and mortar plan just get your brand out there.

The world is your oyster when it comes to selling to other people. Our biggest markets outside of the UK are America and Australia – the two territories actually where I would like to open stores. Send out press releases to those magazines, engage with those communities.

Focus on the Internet

These days  over 30% of our sales come via the Internet, which is huge. I can remember a few years back when it was 3%. Your website is vital to your business. Work out a strategy; make sure the content is relevant and exciting,

Measure the number of people who visit your site and make sure you tag each of your pages with key words depicting what that page is all about so then Google knows what it is looking for.

Put a magnifying glass on your sales

You should know your top 5 sellers off the top of your head and the least 5 sellers. Devote time to understanding your sales,  your business will fail if you don’t. Increasing revenue only happens when you spend time on sales not pontificating about products or getting too bogged down and involved in the minutia.

The people who make money in retail do not necessarily have better products than you its how they get those products to market and how they sell them that makes them money. No sales no business. The best advice we got was this exercise. Work out how much time your staff spends selling and how much time is spent on improving the selling process. Once you’ve worked out how long that time is double it. From next week double the time you spend or your staff spend on sales, you will notice your revenue increase.

Do more of what’s working

Rather than spending time on lots of new ways to grow you business figure out what’s working – it’s the easiest and quickest way to grow your business. Push those best sellers further.  Sounds simplistic I know but if Google Ad words are working or mail shots are working or advertising is working keep doing it.  Just do it more often.

Maintaining a growing business can be a challenge but it’s also I have to say one of the most exciting aspects of my job!

Check out the weekly biz column archives for more tips and business advice.

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