Growth brings small business owners the opportunity to look at a variety of complex activities that are required when a small business is growing.

This module looks at what small business owners need to consider during the growth and maturity of their business.

This module will cover eight topics, including:

  • Scalable Organizational Processes & Systems
  • Talent Development, Management, and Retention
  • Growth Market Identification
  • Innovation Strategy
  • Creating Metrics
  • Risk Management
  • Investor Relations
  • Exit Strategy
Lesson 1

Scalable Organizational Processes and Systems

For most small businesses, the purpose of starting a business is to have it eventually grow and be successful.

  • Of course, with that growth comes increased complexity as more and more resources are required. To be able to navigate this growth, there are four main concepts that you should focus on:
  • Reflecting on the company’s vision,
  • Adaptability,
  • System and process reviews,
  • Continual learning.

By the end of this lesson you should be able to:

  • Identify the four main factors for managing growth
  • Understand the continuous learning cycle

Effective Growth Strategy from the MaRS Library
A high level overview of key growth strategy considerations for startups selling B2B or online.

Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) – Continually Improving, in a Methodical Way from Mindtools
An overview of the PDCA tool and how to use it.

Lesson 2

Talent Development, Management, and Retention

Talent development is a process that helps employees participate in achieving an organization’s overall vision. Talent development is more than just training. Talent development and management and retention include:

  • Education and training,
  • Coaching and mentoring,
  • Creating supportive cultures for professional development and achieving corporate results, and
  • Tracking and managing employee performance

By the end of this lesson you should be able to:

  • Differentiate between talent development and management
  • Identify four techniques for fostering talent
  • Utilize various tools for talent development, management, and retention

Effective Growth Strategy from the MaRS Library
A high level overview of key growth strategy considerations for startups selling B2B or online.

Talent Management Framework from Bersin & Associates
A talent management framework overview for use by employers when looking to develop and retain team members.

Talent Management by Bersin by Deloitte.
Access to complimentary and member-only workbooks and frameworks related to talent management.

Building an A-Team from the MaRS Library
A series of workbooks containing multiple talent development tools covering recruitment, compensation and human resources issues.

Lesson 3

Growth Market Identification

When you first start a new business, you do preliminary research about your market, who your customers will be and verify that the marketplace actually wants your product. Once you have established your business, and you want to grow, you need to identify new markets to enter. To do this, you will once again need to examine the marketplace to identify if there is a demand for your product or service.

You will need to not only do similar work that you did when you began your business, but you will need to use a growth framework to take into account your current business operations as well. Deploying resources in a repeatable and scalable manner while balancing attention between what you know and what is attractive is critical when identifying new markets to pursue.

  • By the end of this lesson you should be able to:
  • Understand how components of business are linked to growth, and
  • Understand the growth framework

9 Questions to Ask When Assessing a Market by Andrew Miller
An overview of questions to consider when looking to understand your marketplace or enter a new

Growth Framework by McKinsey
A framework to assist you in identifying the best opportunity to pursue when you are growing your company.

The Dragons’ Den Guide to Assessing Your Business Concept by The Producers of CBC’s Dragons’ Den with John Vyge

Lesson 4

Innovation Strategy

Innovation strategy is “a plan made by an organization to encourage advancements in technology, usually by investing in research and development activities…[this] might entail the use of new management or production procedures and the invention of technology not previously used by competitors.” Having a coherent string of processes that creates structure around and looks for new solutions can result in a company objectively deciding on new business concepts and project funding.

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Define what an innovation strategy is
  • Address why a company needs an innovation strategy;
  • Understand how a company’s culture drives the innovation strategy; and
  • Define the four different types of innovation strategies that exist.

Innovation Strategy: 4 Key Tactics of Top Growth Companies by Dave Power from Harvard Extension School
An article highlighting four key points to consider when developing an innovation strategy.

You Need an Innovation Strategy by Gary P. Pisano from Harvard Business Review
An article looking at various types of innovation strategies available for companies to employ.

7 Strategies for Sustained Innovation from
An overview of some key principals to sustain innovation within an organization.

5 Key Points to Consider when Developing an Innovation Strategy from
An overview of what an innovation strategy consists of to provide clarity and direction.

Innovation Strategy from the Queensland Government
An overview and guide to developing and integrating an innovation strategy into an organization.

Lesson 5

Creating Metrics

Metrics are quantifiable measures that are used to track and assess the status of a specific business process.

When a company is growing, being able to provide reports that show your measurable success to investors, shareholders, and customers is a key factor to continued success and continued support. To develop an appropriate metric for a company, there are tools or frameworks that any company can use effectively.

By the end of this lesson you should be able to:

  • Distinguish between a metric and a key performance indicator (KPI)
  • Understand how to develop a metric
  • Utilize tools and frameworks to develop, track, and evaluate metrics

What are Business Metrics? From Klipfolio 
An overview of business metrics and examples.

10 SMART Goal Setting Best Practices For Project Planning by Alexandra Lamachenka from Capterr
A definition of what SMART metrics are.

How to Build a Company Metrics Dashboard (video) by Ash Maurya from YouTube
A video outlining definitions and concepts about metrics and how to build a metrics dashboard in Excel.

Designing and Building Great Dashboards – 6 Golden Rules to Successful Dashboard Design by Nick Smith from Geckoboard
A guide on how to create an effective and useful metrics dashboard.

KPIs, Dashboards and Operational Metrics from Klipfolio
Guidelines on picking the best metrics and KPIs to include in your metrics dashboard.

Lesson 6

Risk Management

Managing risk is a component of business that is important. Risk is uncertainty for a business. Uncertainty can lead to challenges, lost revenues, or even straying from your company’s overall objectives and goals.

For a business, identifying and managing risks associated with its business and products and services allows it to confidently move forward with its business operations. There are various types of risks that a business faces (e.g. corporate, project, operational, market, financial) and each business will encounter a few or all of these risks at some point in its lifecycle.
While all risks can’t be predicted or avoided, having a structure around identification, planning and mitigating will help your business learn and become more resilient as it develops and matures.

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Understand the importance of managing risks
  • Identify risks through the application of a risk identification and ranking tool
  • Define various types of risks
  • Utilize risk management and risk mitigation tools

What Kills Startups? by Akira Hirai from Cayenne Consulting
An overview of various types of risks, their impacts and management techniques.

Risk management guide for small to medium businesses from CPA Australia
An illustration of risks as they are proposed by different types of stakeholders or market forces, along with suggested mitigation considerations.

Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) – Continually Improving, in a Methodical Way from Mindtools
An overview of the PDCA tool and how to use it.

Failure mode effect analysis (FMEA) from Innovation Portal
An overview of the failure mode effect analysis and it includes illustrative examples. FMEA is a tool developed in the field of quality management which systematically tries to imagine different ways in which a system might fail and then puts in place contingency plans for avoiding it or minimizing the risks associated with it.

Lesson 7

Growth Stage Financing and Investor Relations

When a business is in the growth stage, it is normally gearing up to grow its product line or service offerings, improve and grow its internal processes. To do this many businesses will require additional funding outside normal operating cash flows and revenues. These funding sources can come from multiple sources, including:

  • Venture capitalists
  • Private equity firms
  • Debt financing or
  • Potentially an initial public offering.

By the end of this lesson you should be able to:

  • Identify the type of funding to look for
  • Understand various types of funding sources, and
  • Define what investor relations are

Venture capital from the MaRS Library
A high level overview of growth stage capital.

Lesson 8

Exit Strategy

An exit strategy can be one that the founders have planned or one that evolves as the company’s product portfolio and its value proposition in the market becomes clear. Exits can take a variety of forms, including:

  • Key team member exits
  • Acquisition
  • Merger
  • Initial Public Offering (IPO)
  • Wind up

By the end of this lesson you should be able to:

  • Identify various types of exit strategies
  • Understand the considerations related to exits

Succession planning: 3 exit strategies for entrepreneurs from BDC
An overview of 3 different exit strategies, includes associated advantages and disadvantages.

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