How to grow a home-based business into something more

By
Leanne Castle

Running your home-based business can be a great way of keeping overheads down and be extremely profitable.
To grow, it may be tempting to try to increase turnover by expanding your business and moving into leased, office accommodation.
Protecting your business brand and high level of customer satisfaction is paramount.

Here are some tips to help you grow your business: -  

Office Leases and Associated Costs

Taking on a lease isn’t cheap, there will be your legal costs to incur and maybe those of your future landlord. In addition, service charges, utility bills and business rates will need to be factored in.

Plan for these additional costs including any deposit you have to pay up front. Can your business afford the costs from cashflow or will you need to borrow to fund the move?

Keep in mind that a change of address will also mean text changes to your website, Google My Business page, printed stationery and business cards – and it all costs money.

If you do decide taking on a lease do take legal advice when it comes to break-out clauses and the leasehold agreement. Don’t take a space which is a lot larger than you need in the hope you will ‘grow’ into the space. What if you don’t?

Easy in, Easy out Terms – Serviced Offices

A more affordable option is to find a serviced office. These are usually rented units, with no long-term leases to sign. There are usually reception staff to look after your visiting customers which means you don’t need to appoint an employee to cover this role.

Different sized office options allow you to start small and rent a bigger sized space as staff numbers increase without the cost of moving location and getting out of a fixed lease clause. Also, you won’t have to update your promotional material with yet another address.

Virtual Offices

You may have a good-sized garden and have checked with your local authority and accountant regarding planning requirements and tax implications and come to the decision that the way to expand is to have an office in your grounds or outbuildings.

The problem will remain that on Google your business address and photograph will show your home location – not ideal or sufficiently professional for many enterprises.

The low-cost option is to have a virtual office, these are often available at serviced office sites. They will usually allow you to use their address as your business address, have post and parcels delivered there and provide you with the limited use of a meeting room – ideal for the occasional client visit.

Fantastic Client Relationships are Key

To expand, you will need to reach larger clients and increase the volume each customer spends with you. If staff numbers don’t increase at the right rate to service your clients it will have a detrimental effect on customer service. This will mean your established, long-term customers may grow dissatisfied and you won’t be able to retain and maintain the new client relationships you need to expand successfully.

You may want to consider a customer relationship management system (CRM) to improve record keeping, promotional activity and marketing. Again, this adds another cost to your overheads plus the financial and HR impact of employing more staff to manage the administration.

Staff, Contractors and Freelancers

Financial constraints may not allow you to grow your enterprise by solely employing more staff, using contractors and freelancers could be an option too.

If necessary, employ managers to oversee the quality of work completed by your freelancers and to maintain the ongoing relationships with your customers.

All contractors are your company ambassadors so vet carefully to ensure the freelancers you use are reliable and trustworthy.

Definitely consider Service Level Agreements and formal contracts to avoid your hard-won clients drifting off and using your freelancers directly.

The general administration within your business, such as HR, book keeping, invoicing, credit control and phone answering can all be outsourced to self-employed virtual assistants and companies. This means you avoid additional staffing costs and the headache of finding the ‘right’ people to fill the roles. You pay for the amount of time you need and don’t have to worry about potential staff ‘twiddling their thumbs’.

Do ensure you have the right business insurance in place to cover all eventualities and include this cost in your ongoing cashflow forecasting.

Decision Time

Once you have weighed up the pro’s and con’s and have decided expansion is right for you and your business take professional advice from your accountant, solicitor and HR expert. You may also need to take financial advice regarding any additional borrowing you will need to put in place.

MENTA provides advice, mentoring and support for businesses based in East Anglia and has serviced and virtual offices in Bury St Edmund and Haverhill, Suffolk.
For more details visit www.menta.org.uk

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