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Sara Howard
Smarter Writer

As a business owner and writer, Sara Howard has first-hand experience in marketing, cash flow management and technology

Sara Howard
Smarter Writer

As a business owner and writer, Sara Howard has first-hand experience in marketing, cash flow management and technology

Here are some ways to ensure your business thinks outside the box and prepares for growth.

Traditional business growth strategies focus on getting more customers, or at least getting your current customers to buy more from you. But that’s not always profitable or sustainable growth. Rapid increases in demand require rapid increases in resources – time, people and money.

As Gelatissimo’s CEO once told us, “It is easy to lose sight of the ultimate goal: making a quid and getting an acceptable return on investment. In the early years, we were expanding so quickly that the investment mounted… we took a huge hit.”

However, profitable growth doesn't have to mean slow growth. It just takes a few breakout ideas and some creative thinking, and you can take the lead. Here are five out-of-the-box growth ideas to consider.

cartoon lightbulb brain box

1. Turn services into products

Whether you’re an architect or web designer, when you sell services you’re constrained by the number of hours in a day. But is it possible to also make revenue while you sleep? 

Perhaps there’s an untapped market for an online course in your area of expertise. Or you may be able to turn your technology into an off-the-shelf subscription-based software (SaaS or software as service). Or, create an online directory that taps into your own network, and get paid per conversion rather than a one-off ad. 

Consider the flipside too – follow up a one-off product sale with ongoing services, such as garden maintenance to keep a new landscape design looking fresh.

2. Find profitable partnerships

Sometimes it pays to team up with your competitors. That’s what hotels do when they create a destination campaign. Or consider an alliance with an adjacent industry – accountants could team up with financial advisers, hotels with event producers, hairdressers with day spas. For example, home improvements directory hipages.com.au has just partnered with Ikea to make it a whole lot easier to get your flat-pack kitchen installed.

3. Hack your own growth

‘Growth hacking’ is the latest trend start-ups are embracing to go viral and grow exponentially online by using simple, low-cost digital tools and social media. For example, camera producer GoPro challenged its fans to post their extreme sports videos on YouTube – generating hundreds of millions of views and giving them instant credibility with next to no marketing cost.

4. Get ready to franchise

Franchising is not always easy, and it’s not for everyone. But if you can launch 100 shops in 100 days, as 2013’s top Australian franchisor Specsavers did , it certainly creates growth. If you have good systems and support in place, strong leadership and credibility, and provide attractive lifestyle (and profitability) benefits to would-be entrepreneurs, you may have a potentially successful model on your hands.

5. Growth across borders

Thirty-four per cent of Australian SMEs already trade with China, and Australia has free trade agreements with Singapore and other South East Asian nations. If you’d like to go global, think first about whether that country has a demand for your product or service. 

For example, winemakers and baby goods manufacturers are likely to do well in China, and there are also opportunities for fresh food, pharmaceuticals, and even services such as accounting and insurance.

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