Why growth businesses are crying out for better advice

If the horrible SME acronym was more nuanced the gap in the market for growth advice would be patently obvious, argues Robert Craven

Various-sized businesses all lumped together under the dreadful SME designation. However, I cannot emphasise enough: business owners (or ‘small businesses’) are not the same as business directors (with some scale and resources).

Different issues, challenges, resources, experience. Totally different. My arbitrary cut-off point is around 10+ staff.

The start-ups, micros and owner-managed businesses are the most vulnerable. They are the ones that get fed with a relentless diet of The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den.

They don’t know what they don’t know; many are needy: they don’t have the resources or experience to know right from wrong but they do have an unbridled enthusiasm and passion for all things businesslike.

The larger businesses, those beyond the very small designation who have say, 10-100, staff and employees and a bit of a track record are somewhat different.

The gap in the market for growth advice

Business owners who have been around the block, let’s call them owner-directors (to differentiate them from the owner-managers), tend to be more savvy. Having seen the magicians come and go they know that there is no such thing as a quick-fix, silver bullet.

The last thing they need is another guru with a magic wand. While a dramatic transformation, a radical revolution in how one does business may sound exciting, these wise owner-directors realise that what they probably need is a more delicate and evolutionary approach to growing and developing the business.

The owner-director is very different from the owner-manager. They have too much to lose and they are no fools. What they are looking for is far-more considered support from people who have a mix of: been-there-done-it expertise, grey-haired wisdom, background credibility and the ability to communicate and assist.

At this point in the business one is looking for support in the long game, recognising the benefit of consistent and constant improvements that will create an engine for growth.

The owner-directors (larger and more mature) are not taken in by the breathless excitement of those selling hope to the needy. However, they still find it hard to find the right assistance (being too big for the owner-manager offerings and too small for the offerings of the big consultancy houses).

There is a gap in the market that needs to be filled. Owner-directors need reliable, trustworthy support and assistance from people and organisations that have appropriate and relevant expertise and experience to deliver.

Robert Craven is an entrepreneur, businessman and author. His latest book is Grow Your Service Firm. He is managing director of The Directors’ Centre. www.directorscentre.com


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  1. Growth businesses certainly need more help and this book, Grow Your Service Firm, gives great advice at what can be a critical stage of a company’s development.