Bradley Groves, chief executive of Great Annual Savings Group, tells us how he’s led the business from startup to employing 140 across the UK.
Started from a small office in South Shields, it was after two years establishing itself that the Great Annual Savings Group – GAS for short – decided that the business was capable of significant growth
GAS gives businesses and their owners the ability to control their running costs. Their cost saving experts help businesses improve their bottom line by assessing expenditure, recommending the best courses of action and renegotiating contracts to generate savings.
They’ve saved businesses millions of pounds this year across 12 areas of expertise, which include energy procurement, energy management, telecoms, waste management, water and more.
“Growing your business is far from simple,” Bradley says, “but it’s helpful to start from the basics when making this particular choice. Ask yourself whether the market is big enough and whether there is the demand for you to increase your revenue, and make sure you know the demographics of your customer base.”
He labels those as the fundamentals: “Make sure your concept and business model are watertight first and foremost. Then you can start looking at some more of the intricacies, such as funding and support possibilities, premises, new legal obligations, new departments you’ll need to create, what staff you’ll need to hire and so on.
“But those are all obstacles you can overcome with a bit of hard work, providing you can answer those all-important first two questions positively.”
In early 2015, they secured external funding to expand more rapidly, moving to larger offices and launching an apprenticeship scheme.
“The larger your business, the more time you’ll have to spend keeping the wheels greased,” Bradley points out. He spends most of his working day speaking with those responsible for different functions, to ensure he knows exactly how each part of the business is performing.
“Your ability to make fast and effective decisions should already be honed as a business owner,” he continues, “but it goes into overdrive when you introduce more staff, more customers and more complexity.
“It’s not easy to maintain control when you reach a certain size, so it’s imperative to have a team of people you can trust to deliver instructions and take initiative themselves as leaders.
The 100th employee arrived in January 2016, their 1000th customer just a month later, and now they’re servicing clients outside of the UK as they continue their push to be the best at everything they do – racking up awards and accreditations as they go.
So how does your own leadership style have to change to accommodate the changing needs of a growing business? You must be able to let go. “Not every problem can come to you anymore. Communication on a large scale is key – you’ll need to be able to communicate your goals and your purpose to all your staff, to maintain the agility and clarity you enjoy as a smaller business.
“Trust is the main thing. Your senior team must be competent and respected in their area of expertise. You should be able to direct them and relax, knowing they’ll come up with the goods.
“They must be empowered to make the changes they see fit and lead their own staff effectively.”
What would Bradley say to other businesses looking to emulate what GAS has achieved, and is still achieving?
“There’ll be challenges on the horizon that you’ve never even considered and there’ll always be something to catch you off guard, which is why you’ll need an agile and effective team in place to deal with any eventual outcome,” he asserts.
“Make the most of your growth, too. Some good media coverage can help you attract top talent to fill your new positions with quality and inject fresh ideas as you branch out.
He points out that you shouldn’t be afraid to promote from within. “Someone who is already bought-in to your purpose can hit the ground running faster than an external candidate, providing they have the skills.
“Obviously, making this leap is a brave decision, so the same type of single-minded confidence and clarity that you used to get your business off the ground will be required again as you grow.
“Finally, don’t be afraid to listen to others –good business advice from people who have been there and done it is priceless. Do some quality networking and make some good friends – they could prove invaluable as you grow.”