Rental guarantor service Housing Hand has achieved 50% growth in the past six months. This kind of rocketing expansion is usually associated with start-ups, but Housing Hand has been operating in the UK and Ireland for the past decade.
Below, Chief Operating Officer Graham Hayward shares a behind-the-scenes look at what is fuelling the growth, sharing insights and tips to enable other firms to benefit from the value of long-term thinking.
Understand your journey
Every business has its own unique journey to take, regardless of where in the world it operates or which vertical it is in. Companies, as with products and services, progress through a lifecycle with four phases: embryonic, growth, maturing and decline (and sometimes a fifth: relaunch). The speed at which businesses progress through these phases can be very different. It’s also possible to get stuck, particularly during the transition from embryonic to growth, which is why so many good ideas never reach their true growth potential.
Housing Hand was held at the pre-growth phase for some time, but over the last two to three years we’ve implemented several strategic changes that have driven the business forward into a robust growth phase.
Any business can start to take a more proactive approach to shaping its journey at any point. Whether you’re founding a new business or reinvigorating an established one, the process of doing so – of pushing ahead into growth – is relatively easy. The challenge is in managing the stakeholders and the resources being utilised on the journey.
Key to achieving significant growth is focusing all your resources on driving delivery without getting distracted by your current activities. This can be tough for established firms, where day-to-day activities can often demand a lot of attention. However, keeping your eye on the long-term plan in terms of resource allocation is essential if you’re going to achieve your growth goals.
Review your purpose
Speaking of long-term planning, creating a relevant, carefully crafted strategy is essential. At the heart of that lies time spent thinking about your purpose.
For a new business, this means dedicating time to defining your mission, vision and values. It is an excellent opportunity for thinking about your purpose and why the business exists. Yet too many established firms forget the value that this process can provide and lose out as a result. To counteract that, existing businesses should pause to review their mission, vision and values and consider how relevant they still are to the company’s direction of travel.
Businesses evolve in response to market conditions, new opportunities, changing technology and more. That means statements of purpose, such as the mission, vision and values, may need to be modified periodically to align them with the business’ new direction. Doing so can be a valuable exercise in clarifying thinking around the company’s purpose and focusing everyone on working towards it.
Account for economics
It’s important to remember that timing is critical. You can have the best plan, the right services and products at the right price, proper funding and a dream team, but if it is not the right time in market terms, then it may be challenging to push ahead with your current direction of travel. As such, never stop scanning ahead for market opportunities and shifts in the economic cycle.
The greater your awareness of such factors, the better placed you are to respond to them. Remember, it’s never the perfect time or place to start a journey – it’s only important to understand the changes or new items required to get to where you are heading (and retire the rest so they don’t distract you).
Focus on your strategic goal
Regardless of your starting point, whether you’ve been in business for two years or 20, setting your strategic target goal is fundamental. This needs to be an attractive part of the market and one where position and service/product can be sustainably (ultimately profitably) delivered.
It’s important to think about profit here. It may not be the starting step, but you need to understand how to get there. If not, your business may not be sustainable.
Consider your strategic target goal in terms of overall opportunity, market trends and competition. Now is the time to undertake a traditional SWOT analysis to map out potential risks and threats. Remember to include the potential impact of regulation and price point changes in your analysis. Bumps in the road in recent years (Brexit and Covid, to name but two!) have shown the importance of mapping even unlikely-seeming risks as part of your SWOT analysis if they have the potential to have a major impact.
Think about timing
Establishing your target goal and considering your priorities against the opportunities and available resources (including funding), takes care of what you can do and where. Next, it’s time to think about when you should do it. Is your business an innovator with an associated price premium or a follower offering a discount? Both are valid approaches; you just need to be clear where you are at in timing terms.
Establish your optimal path to market
What do you sell and how? Established businesses can slip into routine when it comes to their paths to market. Review your processes to establish where your optimal path to market lies and what you need to change to get there. Rethinking your B2C and B2B paths and relative channels can do much to drive leads and opportunities that could be key to unlocking faster, more robust growth.
Review your structure
Existing businesses should find it useful to undertake a structural review periodically. It can be helpful here to define a target operating model that enables the achievement of the strategic target goal. Does the currently structure align to that target operating model and support the delivery of that goal? If not, it’s time to gradually divest from that which doesn’t align and move towards a more appropriate delivery model.
Rethink your tech stack
Technology is an interesting part of the journey for any business these days. Many companies see themselves as unique, so they build their own custom software to give them exactly what they understand is required. We did the same at Housing Hand, initially – until a review at the restart of our growth journey showed that we could take standard software and configure it to our needs. This gave us a very scalable and wide-reach stack that had standard integrations with many common solutions.
This was a key step in our growth journey. We reduced our spend on tech and development but at the same time achieved a faster route to engage a market with dynamic demands. There was a futureproofing element to this approach as well: we can now change quickly and at low cost, in line with shifting market appetites and conditions.
We also established (in our standard software) a robust online and real-time measurement system. We have defined how are we doing in measurable terms, so we have a radar on how well we are navigating to our target. The more range we have on our radar, and the further we can see with our forecasting, the easier it is to respond to opportunities and challenges. We look at four fundamental questions as part of this process:
- Where are we?
- Where are we going?
- How are we getting there?
- How are we doing?
With your goal and ideal structure in mind, it’s time to prioritise. Which are the most important elements of your target model? The breadth of your business’ transition starts there. Any business has various elements that need alignment to best or leading practice:
- Build volume: acquire new clients, retain/grow existing clients, leverage associated assets (such as intellectual property, licensing), divest, outsource and strengthen pricing.
- Operating margin: improve customer interaction efficiency, improve shared services (telco, tech, premises, people, procurement, financial management and business management), improve product/service development and production, improve product/service distribution, merchandising and service delivery.
- Asset performance (improve): property plant and equipment efficiency, inventory efficiency, receivables and payables.
- Improve management and effectiveness.
- Improve execution (implementation) capabilities.
Housing Hand’s growth journey
The final point to add, based on Housing Hand’s own growth journey as an established business, is to focus on maintaining your commitment to quality and value as your scale. In the case of Housing Hand, this meant maintaining the company’s record of 100% payouts on all valid rental guarantor claims even while scaling rapidly.
The quality and value that your existing business delivers will be the cornerstone of your established reputation. Growth at the expense of that reputation is never a good move. As such, keep the quality and values that your clients trust at the core of your expansion.
Housing Hand’s recent growth didn’t happen overnight. We spent years reviewing, researching and refining in line with the above approach. Doing so meant that we were able to take hiccups like Brexit and Covid in our stride and stick to our optimal path to market.
Graham has substantive experience focused on revenue growth and increased profitability by formulating and executing corporate strategy and leading successful transformation programs at both Board and Business Unit levels.