5 growth tips to turn £1m into £10m

Co-founder and CEO of IglooBooks John Styring reveals the formula that helped his business scale fast

The idea of growth has an elusive appeal to anyone in business. Especially to anyone who has ever had to stand in front of the board or a new client to present next quarter’s growth figures.

IglooBooks grew from turnover of £1m to £10m between 2006 and 2011. I’ve outlined five tips which in the early years really helped us grow.

1. Make successful allies

Sometimes it just takes the right connection to kick start your business. When it comes to growth, a little networking can go a long way. We made close connections with the UK’s best known supermarkets which gave us greater visibility and allowed us to take the next step in our expansion.

Your business partners play a big part in your success so look at your network and aim to deal with a mix of large, blue-chip companies as well as start-ups. This ensures the perfect balance of stability and risk.

Network whenever you can because that great new business contact might be only one phone call (or LinkedIn message) away.

2. Export more, export smarter

Finding a gap in a foreign market really can transform your company. To continue growing our business we always look at every single possible channel, assess it and then chase it.

Ask yourself a few questions. How far can I afford to travel? Are there any language barriers? And which regions are well connected? Just remember to prepare the necessary infrastructure when expanding overseas.

For IglooBooks this meant understanding our customers’ requirements and how these differ from our home markets. For example, we now ship to 47 countries and needed a freight forwarding infrastructure that could support this.

Of course, with books, we need to take into consideration that the book also needs to be translated as we publish in 37 languages.

3. Keep your business as lean as possible

This is a tough one but you’ll do better if you cut costs, shrink spending and prioritise the parts of your business with most potential to grow. Staying lean helped us remain agile enough to quickly find alternative distributors when some of our regulars were hit by the recession.

So it may sound like a paradox but growth really can result from shrinking. Decrease expenses where possible by asking, do I really need this? Can my company still run successfully without it? If the answer is yes, then consider letting it go.

Streamline your business and you’ll find it easier to make profit even when times are tough. Our business is in constant change, looking to maximise efficiencies whilst achieving the best costs possible.

We regularly review all our suppliers and alternatives to ensure that we are working with the best in the business and receiving the best value for this service.

4. Have clear objectives

First, I would say have a business plan – and second, review it regularly. We’ve had to adapt our strategy to take account of new opportunities as and when they arise.

Ideas are cheap and a well thought out plan will give you a set of clear objectives to work towards. You might find it easiest to set your financial objectives and then work back from this point.

The IglooBooks business plan is a comprehensive 48-page document looking at all aspects of our current business and containing action plans for the following three years.

5. Stay ahead of the curve

Always be on the lookout for new ways to innovate. If a competitor is catching up, ask yourself why. Observe what those around you are doing and do it better. Much of IglooBooks’ growth came from changes we made to our product mix.

We constantly explore new product areas while staying close to our core market of books, books plus and digital books. For instance, our Brand Licensing division which concentrates on creating books with the latest exciting brands is our latest large growth area. This year, we are expecting turnover in this area to triple.

And finally, remain true to your vision. Listen to advice and be aware of the risks but remember, speculation is the key to growth. There is a saying that goes you only regret what you haven’t done. So, in short, go out and try it for yourself.

John Styring is co-founder and CEO of IglooBooks. IglooBooks publishes adult and children’s books which are sold nationally through some of the UK’s largest commercial outlets. 

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