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Why every business needs a growth strategy

Friday, 25 May 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

my-best-mistake-20120525-thumbOperating as a sole trader provides plenty of benefits in a work and personal sense, but failing to capitalise upon opportunities to grow beyond this can result in your business stagnating.


Nathan Ruff knows all too well what this is like.


Ruff is the managing director of Urban Geek Media, a digital specialist dedicated to connecting brands with male consumers. The business has been established for more than five years.


Urban Geek boasts more than three million unique browsers a month across 15 male-skewed online publishers, covering entertainment, sports, gaming, video and technology.


Ruff says he started Urban Geek after becoming “exposed to the joys of online media” in his previous job. However, he failed to plan accordingly.


“When I started Urban, I very much neglected thinking about growing it – I thought it was a good size operation as a one-man consultant,” Ruff says.


“Generally, when you get out of the corporate world, you get approached by creative and entrepreneurial people [so I didn’t struggle to get work].”


“I was getting caught up in the lifestyle and work/life balance, which is very much a good thing and a bad thing, to the point where I thought, ‘This is something I can do for a few years’.”


“I didn’t think about getting bigger and I never really had a growth plan. I never got it out of my head the fact that it could be anything bigger.”


Ruff’s entry into a rapidly expanding market only exacerbated his failure to put growth plans in place.


“There were a lot of opportunities I didn’t capitalise on because I was stuck in that mindset of remaining small,” he says.


“There was half a dozen websites that we could have got that had no representation at that time in Australia. We could have attracted another million people at that stage very easily and very quickly.”


“Now, it’s a very busy marketplace with a lot of competitors in it, and a lot of established websites that you can’t get your hands on anymore. We probably missed the boat.”


While Ruff initially missed out on some good opportunities, he soon realised his mistake and made some changes.


“I brought in a partner, Drew Parkes, which was a very good move. It opened up our eyes about what we had and what we should be focused on,” he says.


“Once we got all the ducks in a row, we started to grow and we started to believe.”


After entering into a partnership, Ruff and Parkes quickly made their first hire. The business has now grown to a team of 11, with annual sales growth of around 35%.


While Ruff wishes he’d made these moves earlier, the experience served as a major wakeup call.


“As a one-man show, you can double the size of your business with one high but with that comes various complications,” he says.


“Accept you can’t do everything at the same time – you need help. It’s about planning better… You’ve also got to adapt fairly quickly.”


“If you can see the signs and see where things are going, take a little bit of risk. But back yourself, obviously.”


“Have a growth strategy. If it’s measureable, it plays a big part because it keeps you focused. Think big I guess, and kick yourself if you pass up a great opportunity because you didn’t believe you could do it.”