So, the UK government has finally come to a decision to back the expansion at Heathrow airport. Here are the facts: expansion could be operational by 2025, have a price tag of £17.6bn and stimulate 180,000 jobs and £211bn of growth in the UK.
Much like when you form a limited business, the choice to expand Heathrow was not just about signing papers. Registering is just the first step, as is getting government approval in this instance. When you start a business you almost always have at least an inkling about the possibility of unprecedented growth, so what would your company look like after rapid regional, national or global expansion?
There are lots of directions you can take to expand a newly formed company, and lessons are often only learned along the way. But following the monumental decision by the UK government to build a third runway at Heathrow, there are a few things we can all learn and apply to our own business growth.
1. Support your staff
When making any major decisions that will affect your business, communication is key. For instance, informing any stakeholders in the business about your plans to move offices due to expansion and encouraging their positive input can assist in both staff and customer retention. Sure, there may be heated debates and even resignations, but it’s up to you to ensure everyone is aware of what you are doing and why you are doing it. This will make it easier for people to appreciate your decision-making processes and ensure that everyone is on board in the longer term.
The decision to go ahead with the Heathrow expansion has meant that Boris Johnson didn’t get his island, Zac Goldsmith resigned in protest and the people of Harmondsworth village will have to relocate. The issue has been fraught with controversy. Tempers have run high. But throughout the process, it’s fair to say there have been communications to ensure widespread awareness of all the issues. Whether you agree with it or not, one important line of communication has been constant: that the expansion itself, and the choosing of the location, would lead to better opportunities for all. Which brings us to the second point.
2. Pick your location carefully
The type of business you run often determines the location. So look at the options available to you. Do you need new offices because you’re expanding your workforce? Would going overseas mean you can boost sales? Does your business need to be relocated nearer to a specific area, like a digital or tech hub, whether San Francisco’s Silicon Valley or London’s Silicon Roundabout? Your company might be best situated on a local high street with plenty of passing trade, or in an area that has good infrastructure, with the transport links for customers, staff and service providers to have easy access. You might also want to look at how and when you would be able to finance the expansion and (re)location. Making the right choices here will help you expand your business in the right way.
The decision to expand Heathrow has arrived at a time when the UK is on the verge of new and expanded global trade links. Heathrow has established international links and has already organised logistics hubs across the UK to increase regional connectivity. If you’re expanding, this will open up access to overseas facilities and services, giving you the opportunity to move goods and people more quickly and efficiently. Potentially, in the wake of Brexit, it could now be easier, faster and even cheaper to develop and expand your business on an international level.
3. Use your connections
New and existing connections can be a powerful tool at your company’s disposal, growth or no growth. Forming alliances with similar businesses to yours can help you expand quicker, win bigger contracts, and access more supply chain or customer opportunities. Use new relationships as an invaluable way of driving up sales and rapidly expanding your business. Who knows, they might even lead to opportunities for mergers and acquisitions if your competitors are falling by the wayside as your business flourishes.
Heathrow Airport itself is owned by a successful alliance of sovereign wealth funds and pension funds including Qatar, Singapore, China, Canada and Spain. SkyTeam, which is based at Heathrow, is an alliance of 20 airlines. It currently has 665 million customers, with an ability to access 1,062 destinations in 177 countries through their network. The benefits of an alliance like this speak for themselves, and their potential when it comes to growth and expansion plans is endless.
4. Understand your target audience…
Knowing your core audience is essential no matter how much you grow as a business. In fact, using your target market data can really help expand your current offering. Drilling down into your database can help you figure out whether your services or products would do well when introduced to new markets locally or globally, or to other sectors. Check out our blog article on market research if you’d like to learn more about how to do this.
Approximately 75 million customers pass through Heathrow’s terminals every year. That’s a lot of people to get to know. Heathrow has to accommodate a truly unique cross-section of the global population, from sports teams to holidaymakers. In order to strike the right balance, Heathrow says it focuses most heavily on two things: unparalleled customer service firstly, and secondly, ensuring its partners provide the products and services that satisfy even the most discerning tastes. Conducting your own market research can help you to carve out your corner of the market as you grow your business.
5. …and focus on retaining them as customers
Treating your customers like human beings is one of the best ways to keep them loyal to your brand. By reaching out and asking for constructive feedback on what you could improve, you’ll build individual connections and create brand advocates. Always maintain an open channel of communication with your loyal customers to help establish trust in your company and ensure repeat business. Simple things like letting your customers know their loyalty is appreciated with a discount or freebie.
Heathrow’s marketing team will certainly need to think about how to retain their existing client base as the airport expands. With changes over the next few years, the brand’s communications plan will need to involve reaching out to customers. From asking for feedback and maybe offering loyalty incentives to ensure retention. By giving great service customer service and dealing with issues immediately, they’ll continue to build trust in their brand. Any small business looking to grow can learn from this by listening to and engaging with your customers, helping them stay loyal to you instead of looking elsewhere.
In the end, you must show support for your staff and customers if you want support. Aim to communicate your new plans clearly so everyone understands what’s expected of them and why things might be changing. It’s important that everyone knows how valued they are, so involve them in the process. This could include updates, explanations, and copious thank-yous where they’re due. Lastly, be sure to monitor Heathrow’s expansion over the coming months, and if you’re really focused on growth, learn more about how to make it happen in our Help Centre.
If you initially registered your business with The Formations Company and are growing, let us know @TheFormationsCo or at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to feature your success in one of our blog!