‘Just say no’, fast-growth business are told

KNOWING when to turn down extra business is vital to keeping a fast-growing company on course for long term profitability.

This was the message from regional business leaders and fund providers at a meeting on investing to grow in Manchester.

“One of the most challenging things to figure out is when to actually say ‘No’ to stuff,” said Rolfe Swinton, co-founder of mobile data research developer RealityMine.

The award-winning Bury-based business, which develops innovative technology solutions for the research industry, has seen turnover rise from £200,000 to £7m since it was founded four years ago.

Only recently, RealityMine won the judges innovation award at the GP Bullhound Northern Tech Awards 2016. It has ambitious expansion plans, bringing innovative technologies to market and launching in new territories.

Swinton continued: “When you are early stage, revenue is essential, but now we are taking a more long term view. Now we have to be disciplined about the products we do and the markets we serve because if we try to do anything more we might just explode.

“There’s a metaphor of putting your sheep out to pasture when you are starting out, then seeing which bits of the pasture are the greenest. Once you find the green bits with the really nice clover you have to change the operation and focus on getting all the sheep on the clover and forgetting about the rest of the field.”

The event, staged by Barclays Bank at Lancashire County Cricket Club in Manchester, also heard about the risks of overtrading from Andy Lees, a partner at private equity investor Palatine.

He said: “Growing too quickly puts pressure on all aspects of business funding, the quality of your customer service and your staff. It’s a nice problem to have, but it’s still a problem and you do sometimes have to pick what you do and what you turn down.”

Divia Patel-Smith, an adviser at UK Trade and Investment, added: “We have experienced the same sort of situation  when a company gets a big order but doesn’t have the resources to fulfil it.

“The problem is that if you mess up once, your customer is never going to come to you again. If a business hasn’t got everything in place it may be that we advise them that it’s better to walk away and we can come back later.”

Barclays will also be holding Invest to Grow events on the evening of May 10, at Blackburn Rovers Football Club and on May 17, at Hotel Titanic in Liverpool.

Attendees at the Blackburn event will hear from Bury carpet manufacturer Greenwood & Coope, Blackburn-based Heritage Envelopes, Blackpool-manufacturer Laila’s Fine Foods and The Swan Hotel, Cumbria.

The Liverpool event’s speakers include transport product manufacturer Cartwright Group, marine consultants Brookes Bell, healthcare specialist Proton Partners, and manufacturers Rock Chemicals and Powder Systems.

Anyone interested in attending should contact annmarie.cheetham@barclays.com for Manchester; tanith.yates@barclays.com for Blackburn; and anne.bennett2@barclays.com for Liverpool.