Q&A with Kirstin Stewart

In late 2019, Kirstin Stewart launched the “Business Essentials Event Series” to assist entrepreneurs, small business owners, and family businesses through each phase of the business life cycle. In this Q&A, Kirstin discusses some of the key issues faced by businesses in each business life cycle phase.

What topics does the Business Event Series address?

Each event covers a key aspect of the business life cycle. These being:

  1. Turning a business idea into a reality
  2. Drafting a business plan
  3. Growing and expanding your business
  4. Transforming your business into an ‘investor-ready’ enterprise
  5. What’s required when/if you eventually plan on exiting your business.

How did you come up with the idea for the Business Essentials Event Series?

SME’s are the heartbeat of the economy and we are taking an active approach to support budding businesses in the hope that they will go on to mature and grow and create more job opportunities. We work closely with a number of small and family business clients, SMEs and start-ups, so we wanted to share our expertise and wealth of knowledge to give would-be entrepreneurs and existing owners the right tools and insights to succeed in business.

Through our experience of dealing with small businesses within each business life cycle phase, we realised there was a growing need to assist businesses with navigating their way through each phase, so they’re well-prepared in advance. HLB Mann Judd has a diverse client base ranging from small businesses to large corporations and collectively our team presenting the seminars has a breadth of experience critical to supporting various stages of the business life cycle. We are always ready to share this knowledge to help build and grow WA- based businesses.

What are some of the common pitfalls faced by small businesses in various phases?

Every business life cycle phase is unique, but what I see commonly within most phases are:

  • Lack of planning – It’s vital to keep an eye on where the business is at, and where owners would like to take it next, and plan ahead for this shift. Planning for the taxation and financial aspects of both the current and next life cycle phase is also crucial at every phase.
  • Wastage – Consider which areas of the business are taking up too much unnecessary time or resources, and are not contributing to advancement to the next stage.
  • Achievable expansion strategies – Aside from the exit phase of the business, owners should think about where they’d like the business to grow or move forward ensuring they don’t remain “stuck” and vulnerable to competitors who are striding forward and providing a better customer experience.

Once a business owner successfully launches the business, what steps can they take to grow their business to the next level?

Once the business is ticking along comfortably, nicely and probably profitably, business owners should then ask themselves “where to?” once the business is successfully up and running. Business owners are often too caught up in the day-to-day running of the business and neglect to spend time working on the business – they don’t have the time to focus on growth.

Business owners who would like to grow their business should ask themselves these 3 questions:

  • Which areas do we want the business to move into?
  • In which areas can we innovate?
  • What are we doing better than our competitors?

The Growth portion of our Business Essentials Event Series will help business owners address these questions and grow their business to the next level.

There seems to be a lot of ways in which business owners can grow their business. What would you recommend?

Growing the business can be linked to the original financial goals of the business owners or there could be new and unconsidered options or ideas for growth available that weren’t part of the original plan. Regardless of these factors, there are a number of ways through which a business owner can expand their business. We focus in these sessions around the following three potential strategies:

  • Expand interstate or overseas.
  • Professionalise” the business by bringing on a Board of Directors or an advisory board.
  • Vertically integrate the business with a complimentary business that actually helps deliver the core services of the main business.

For example, a builder might buy or start a plumbing business to compliment their existing business, thus offering a more rounded and overall building-related service. Ultimately, this phase is about figuring out how to grow the business for the longer term, and developing appropriate expansion strategies.

Getting a business ready for sale can be daunting for business owners. What tips do you have for this ‘maturity” phase of the business life cycle?

Business owners put a lot of passion and energy into growing and expanding their business – we can help them get their business ‘investor-ready’ by having a look at every aspect of the business to work out which areas require more focus to make sure the business is ready for a potential buyer. Getting the right financial advice will make the process easier, and the outcome more profitable.

It is important to consider what the exit transaction might look like, as there may be some tax considerations or possible restructuring to ensure the exit is executed with minimal costs.

What is the best strategy for navigating through each business life cycle phase?

There’s definitely no “one size fits all” approach as every company experiences each phase differently. In its essence, the business life cycle maps out the progression of a business over a period of time. From the initial ‘start-up’ or launch phase right through to the succession, or exit phase, the business life cycle is a journey shared by both the business owners and their advising team. A knowledgeable team can guide the business owners through each phase to minimise risks, maximise opportunities, and vastly improve the chances of success. Every phase has its ups and downs, and offers a unique set of both opportunities and hurdles to overcome. Being prepared and understanding where the business is within the business life cycle will help you stay ahead of the curve. It’s a constantly changing environment: a business’s goals, objectives, strategies, priorities and options will change as the business grows and transitions through each phase.

How will business owners benefit from attending an event?

Each phase of the business life cycle is unique with its own special features, challenges and opportunities. Over the course of the Series, I’ll cover each phase and what business owners can do to maximise results and assist with their evolution into the next business phase.

To learn more, go to our events page or register for an event at events@hlbwa.com.au.