Step change in business red shoe

It takes the average business 21 years to double sales in the UK, after adjusting for inflation. For the average business, growth is painfully slow. This article explains how to double your sales in a year or two.

3.6% was the average growth rate for a UK small to medium-sized business between 2012 and 2020 (from data on this chart from Statista).

This tells you that if your business is underperforming, you cannot just keep doing the same things and expect different results.

But we have all heard about people who achieve a step change in business, producing extraordinary growth in far less time.

There’s even a word for this rapid growth – hyper-growth – and it’s defined as 40% or more growth for more than a year.

It takes two years or less of hypergrowth to double your sales.

It’s like a 19-year shortcut to doubling your business.

So if performance is pretty average right now and you want to grow faster, it’s exactly the kind of growth you need to produce a step change in business.

In this article, I’m going to explain how you can trigger trigger a step-change in business by installing the 7 common traits shared by hyper-growth businesses.

But just before I do that, let’s start with a reality check about business ownership…

The Average Income of Business Owners…

The average income of UK business owners is just £30,000 a year.

In the USA it’s $70,000.

It’s a sobering figure, that clearly shows that most business owners are not exactly living the dream.

It’s a similar story all over the world.

Which means there’s not a lot for you to put away for your future.

And not a lot to spend today, either, at those kinds of rates.

But some businesses do way, way better than this.

The top businesses manage to grow by 40% a year – and more.

Which means they double their sales in just 2 years – a dramatic step change in business performance.

Which creates a massive leap in their profits. And of course a huge step-up in income for the owner.

Allowing you to save more for your future.

As well as a nicer lifestyle while you’re working, too.

I Wrote The Book On How To Double Your Sales…

Book explaining how to double your sales.
Lee’s award-winning book

I’ve been working with small and medium-sized businesses to help them grow since 2004. I wrote a book which was published by Financial Times, called Double Your Business. The book explains how to double your sales with examples of many clients who’ve achieved a step-change in business results, doubling their sales within a couple of years or less.

It turns out that doubling your business within 2 years is also known as hypergrowth. While I didn’t know this back then, I’ve been fortunate to work with many clients who have grown incredibly quickly, achieving hypergrowth.

Some have added around £1m or more within a year. Here are some of my clients who have added 7 figures or more to their sales…

  • Airworld Tours, a travel agency who grew from £2.6m to £4.4m in just a year, and broke through the £10m level a few years later.
  • Greenlight Credit, a financial services business I co-founded in 2012, has grown from nothing to £16m sales per annum.
  • The Edinburgh Boiler Company – a boiler installations firm that has grown from a normal busy tradesman with a van to covering Scotland’s largest cities.
  • Watson Gym Equipment – a high-end weight-lifting and exercise equipment company.
  • Structural Repairs (Windsor) Ltd – a building company that tackles technically challenging and complex jobs.
  • Payplus Ltd – a payroll bureau. The owner sold the business in July 2021.
  • Grosvenor Credit Management & Investigations, who provide services to car leasing companies
  • Haydon Bridge Pharmacy – from a small Northern town pharmacy to one of the top 20 dispensing pharmacies in the country.
  • TimbaWood – a sash windows specialist

What this all means is that I’ve been very close to a lot of businesses, helping them to make very fast growth happen.

And the fastest-growing businesses, including those listed above, have some very specific things in common with one another.

By comparing these hyper-growers with more average businesses, it’s easy to see what’s missing.

And of course, if you know what’s missing, you can do something about it.

The 7 Factors That Kick-Start A Step Change in Business

All of these factors are critical for profitable and robust growth. If you’re missing any of them, your business will get stuck or bogged down at some point. They are like a road map, explaining how to double your sales within a year or two.

Stoic Leadership

Stoic Leadership is not about the Stoic movement of the Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers.

It’s about creating the conditions for your team to deliver to the highest standards, to outperform your competitors, and to produce growth that will leave your accountant speechless.

I first noticed the phenomenon of Stoic Leadership in businesses that were clearly making massive strides forward in sales and profit growth.

The big thing I realised is that while a lot of businesses have various personality clashes and team crises happening, I noticed that the fastest-growing businesses were drama-free.

Drama is argument and pushback, under-performance and bad attitude, amongst other things. It drags you down and kills your mojo. It sucks the motivation out of everybody.

If you have people in your business that are getting in the way of progress, it’s like being in a boat, dragging an anchor through the sand while you’re trying to go at full speed.

It’s frustrating. It makes you angry and irritable. Everybody on board feels unsettled and unhappy.

There’s a saying that if you’re not with me, you’re against me. In business, you need your people with you.

Your job as their leader is to inspire them to follow you. Leaders are only leaders because they have followers.

Stoic Leadership recognises all of this. It starts with you believing that your goal of creating a step change in business is possible.

You then move on to creating the conditions in your business for high performance and high standards.

You operate in a way that motivates your team. You eliminate drama and maintain enthusiasm. This is your job as the stoic leader of your business.

The traits of Stoic Leadership are not something you’re born with. They’re an integral part of the Hyper-Growth Method. You can learn them if you’re willing to stretch yourself and are ready for the next level of business success.

A Scalable Business Model

Your business model describes the way your business makes money. It’s a combination of your customers, products and services, pricing and delivery.

For many businesses, though, it’s a bit haphazard. It has never been designed for high profit growth.

When you grow your business, you almost inevitably have to add further costs like offices, staff, insurances, equipment, vehicles and so on.

These all need to be factored into your approach so that you still make a great profit as you expand your business.

Of course, the other factor is the sector or niche you serve. If you provide services locally, there’s also a limited size to your market. Once you dominate in that area, how will your business grow further? Can you expand regionally, nationally, internationally?

All of this bigger thinking is your business model. It must be designed for growth if you are to successfully make a step change in business, rather than just muddling along like the average business.

Weapons-Grade Sales Machine

This phrase was inspired by a conversation with a client, after testing a new lead generation campaign. You can’t create hyper-growth without generating more leads, winning more customers, making more sales.

Most businesses dabble with marketing rather than being strategic and serious about it.

If you don’t have an effective method to produce new sales opportunities, then you’re dabbling.

With a little bit of deep thought and planning, it’s possible to create a strategy with the confidence that it will lead to the sales you need.

You can look at similar industries and see how the market leaders get their sales. You can emulate their strategies. As you build experience and capability, you can develop more of your own strategies with confidence, too.

For some businesses, the Internet is a fast-track method of producing a lot of new enquiries on a regular basis.

My first hyper-growth client, The Mortgage Broker Ltd, was able to generate hundreds of mortgage enquiries per month. While typical mortgage advisers handled 10 to 15 leads per month, my client’s advisers were handling at least 80 each. It’s no wonder they grew into the millions quickly.

For other businesses, the secret is more old-school.

For example, Grosvenor Credit Management wanted to reach people like Mercedes Car Finance and other similar businesses. Using a combination of direct mail and salesmanship, we employed various outreach methods to connect with difficult to reach target customers. With this strategy, we opened a lot of doors that created massive opportunities.

The same is true of all the clients listed above who grew by millions. You cannot learn how to double your sales without a strategic approach to marketing and sales.

A Powerful and Compelling Proposition

The most popular gladiators in the days of Rome could amass a fortune and win their freedom because the audience loved them. The crowd’s enthusiasm would be the cue for the Emperor to decide who to free. Some gladiators were more popular than others.

Your job is to be the most popular gladiator in your arena of battle – your own business sector.

Your business right now is probably not so different to any of your competitors. This means when customers are choosing where to buy, they have no idea why they should pick you. It’s often difficult to pick out the real differences between suppliers. As a result, customers may as well make their choice by price alone.

You’ve almost certainly heard about the value of having a unique selling point for your business. You’ve probably also found it incredibly difficult to come up with something – right?

This is the challenge for the hyper-growth business. In order to win the lion’s share of the sales, you’ve got to give your business an edge. While a USP is one edge, it’s not the only one. You can also create a dominant position through overwhelmingly better marketing than your competitors. It’s not as hard as you may think, as most of your competitors aren’t thinking about making that step change in business that’s got your attention.

It takes a bit of work. But it can be done. Every ambitious business can find something unique to offer that will be attractive to a specific sector of the market.

Frictionless Operations

As your business switches into faster growth, productivity problems will start to appear. It really is inevitable. This is because you’ll be dealing with far more work than ever on your journey to a step change in business results.

The way you organise your work, manage capacity and resolve problems will all come into the spotlight as you grow. Without frictionless operations, you’ll quickly be dragged into the weeds to solve day-to-day problems that should never occur in the first place.

Frictionless Operations is what you get when everything is done in the same way, regardless of who is doing it. This means that no matter who goes on holiday, everything still runs like clockwork. It’s often described as systematisation or systemisation. Frictionless Operations is how you get your business to work without you.

Exceptional Service

In every sector, there are a small number of businesses that customers really love because of the service they provide. It’s not about expensive or fancy service, but about delivering something that’s better in some way than your competition.

A great way to think about this is to find one or two words that really matter to your customers, then focus on doing those one or two things better than anybody else.

For a really well-known example, McDonald’s focuses on speed and consistency. You get exactly the same food everywhere you go, without waiting more than a few minutes. They are not trying to make the best food. They are not trying to offer the widest or most innovative menu. It’s fast food.

One of my clients who achieved a massive step-change in business, The Mortgage Broker Ltd, focused on communication. Buying a house is stressful. Waiting for a decision on a mortgage. Waiting for the cash to come through. Most mortgage communication is poor, adding to the stress. The Mortgage Broker set a new standard for regular, quality communication that showed clients they were in safer hands.

Creating a service that’s the exception in an ordinary sector is about understanding what your ideal customers would really love, then delivering it.

A Driven Team

In the popular business book, From Good To Great, Jim Collins explains that having the right people on the bus is a critical first step towards building long-term success.

Having the right people is the starting point, the building blocks, to a driven team.

But your employees become a driven team only when they are put into the right environment that helps them to perform at their best.

For a step-change in business, your people must be performing at their best. Which means you have to provide this environment for them.

The environment starts with the quality and direction of your leadership. You set the standards and have to hold your people accountable to this standard.

But great people don’t become great on their own. We all stand on the shoulders of the giants that came before us. Your people are no different. They must be developed and grown to become the driven team that you need.

Every hyper-growth entrepreneur recognises that people need to be stretched and supported in order to grow and contribute at a higher level.

Your driven team comes from a combination of choosing the right people, developing them, and holding them to a high standard. They pay this back with dedication and performance that leaves competitors wondering what you’re feeding them.

Summary – How To Double Your Business Using The 7 Key Traits of Hyper-Growth Businesses

  • Average businesses grow very slowly and would take 14 years to double their sales without accounting for inflation (it’s 21 years with inflation – ouch!)
  • Average entrepreneurs often earn just £30,000 income.
  • Hyper-growth businesses double their sales within two years or less. Their owners make a lot more than £30,000 per year!
  • There are seven major factors that create a step change in business, setting the fastest growing businesses apart from the average ones.
  • Stoic Leadership is required to define a clear goal, to set high standards and to create an environment for high performance.
  • Scalable Business Model allows the business to maintain profitability as it grows, not losing profit as it brings in the resources to grow bigger.
  • Weapons-Grade Client Acquisition keeps feeding the business with the vital lifeblood required for more sales.
  • Gladiator Proposition is crafted to make your business unique and the obvious choice for people considering their options
  • Frictionless Operations are required to get the work done, even as you grow quickly, without mistakes, waste or interruption.
  • Exceptional Service means customers are delighted when they buy from you, giving them a reason to remain loyal while encouraging referrals.
  • Driven Team comes from hiring the right people and leading them effectively to form a high-performance, high-achieving group.