This week, Small Business editor Caitlin Sykes talks to business owners about growth aspirations.

Bill Hale is a Deloitte Private partner and Auckland lead for the Fast 50 index of the country's fastest-growing companies.

What are some commonalities you're seeing among smaller businesses that are showing strong growth?

The one common underlying factor among companies that have strong growth is they really understand their competitive advantage. Basically they find their niche and try to be the best in that. They also love their customers to death and create a loyal following, which means they have a lower cost of sale and get repeat business.

What are some specific sectors you see showing strong growth?


There are definitely some themes we've seen in the Fast 50 in recent years in terms of sectors. Food and beverage is one where people are creating new brands that are latching on to some consumer trends, and a lot of them have real premiums on their prices. People can do quite well in terms of their growth story by saying 'I'm going to be a craft beer business', or 'I'm going to sell organic chicken' - all kinds of different things - and if they're consistent with their delivery people will fall in love with that brand and pay a premium for their product.

We've also seen some good growth in areas of the construction industry - particularly in Auckland and Christchurch. And another area of growth is technology or software. This is being led by a lot of software as a service businesses, which can sell online and get into export markets relatively easily. And we're also seeing growth among businesses that support other companies in using digital technologies - businesses that help you with things like your social media strategies, website development, search engine optimisation or digital advertising. There's been a really interesting rise in that technology services area, because technology is really at the heart of every business now.

What are the factors that you see aligning within a business to allow for good growth?

The three big things that people need to think about are strategy, capability and commitment. In terms of strategy it means setting the right direction at the strategic level and getting the right set of people around the business to advise and govern it. Capability is all about making sure you've got the nuts and bolts in place to deliver on that strategy - things like good cashflow, brand, business processes, technology, innovation pipelines and access to overseas markets. And the third bit is around commitment, so making sure you've got the right people on the bus and a visionary leader for people to follow.

On the other hand, what are some of the common constraints that you see to good growth?

A key one is getting stuck in the business and not being able to jump out and figure out your direction - and that goes back to the strategy point I mentioned. And another one is around that people issue: how do you attract and retain the right people in the business? That requires working hard on the culture of a company and also understanding what that means for the purpose of the business. We're seeing people increasingly making employment decisions based on the social impact or purpose of a business, and they're also looking for a visionary leader who they can follow and be inspired by on a day-to-day basis.