By Alex Blyth
Business owners have much to contend with in the everyday running of their firms. They face competing demands for their time ranging from complying with ever-increasing regulation to bringing in new customers and looking after existing ones. Clearly, these are issues most if not all brokers will empathise with.
The momentum involved in starting up a business can carry it through at first but once it has been established for a number of years there is a danger that the drive for growth could take a back seat to simply keeping it ticking over.
How to Grow Your Business For Entrepreneurs explains why firms should take the time to investigate how they could take their business further.
The For Entrepreneurs series aims to be a kind of business coach in book form and hand-holds managers through the process of running a company including starting up, expanding, marketing and accounts.
Alex Blyth, author of How to Grow Your Business, is a freelance journalist specialising in the business sector, and draws on his experience as a director of a small company in central London, where he managed a 20-strong team and was responsible for a client base worth around £1.5m.
The book concentrates on practical tips that business owners can use to advance their companies rather than academic theory. It is based around four stages – planning the business’ strategy and growth, staff development and training, keeping and growing customers, and help with the financial and legal side of things.
What’s nice about to How to Grow Your Business is that it is user-friendly. With these kinds of books the expectation can be that advice comes off as patronising, but Blyth neatly sidesteps this potential pitfall.
It uses tie-ins with the For Entrepreneurs website, which are plugs for the book’s brand but used to good effect with extra interviews, online forms and toolkits. One slight criticism is that these so-called ’web bonuses’ suggest video content and interactivity to me, whereas when you go on the site they are simply downloadable Word documents.
Meanwhile, the advice parts of the book are separated, with ’time saver’ headings pointing out the quickest way for firms to implement the relevant steps.
There are also ’danger’ headings which explain some of the obvious mistakes that can be made when trying to improve a business. The book also recommends relevant websites throughout. These provide information on things such as government support schemes and how to stay on the right side of employment laws.
Of course, the kinds of changes that Blyth suggests may seem difficult or intimidating at first. Change of any kind can be scary.
And not every section of How to Grow Your Business will appeal to everybody – chapters on delegation and staff motivation clearly aren’t going to apply to the sole brokers among us. But it’s up to readers to see how much relates to their business and what they feel comfortable implementing.
It strikes me that something as straightforward as a business plan could trigger a business moving forward. And if that shakes off the sense of stagnation that has plagued some brokers in the past two years it must be a good thing.
Book review by Natalie Holt