One of the key principles within the coaching system I belonged to was that your business is either growing or dying. This is another one of those statements that is hard to disagree with whether we are referring to companies or people. But you know me well enough by now to know that is exactly what I intend to do. By the end of this article you will see more options for growth than you are currently seeing.
Money, money , money
The guy who ran the franchise I was in said ‘whatever the client tells you is the challenge, it is always money’. Now this one is easier to take umbrage with.
So let me ask you a question; what does growth mean to you?
In the context of business most people default to sales or customer growth. We need more sales or more customers is still one of the commonest sentences I hear as I go about selling my services.
But it is not always the type of growth that people I work with want when I start to enquire a little deeper. In fact I have had the discussion with many of my clients about quite the opposite. I’ve given them permission not to grow their customer base or turnover. You see there is often a difference between what you truly want and what you think you want.
The challenge is here that you have been told that big is better and that you want a large business (that works without you) enough times to believe it is true. Even if it isn’t.
Growth for growths sake
Scaling up a business requires a lot of work, specifically in the domain of people, systems and data. If this is what you genuinely enjoy doing then fill your boots. I talk about a serial entrepreneur I met in Basingstoke. He was on his third £15m + turnover business and from our conversation it was clear that he didn’t need the money. I asked him why he kept going and he answered ‘because I love the process of building a business, recruiting people and scaling it up’.
If doing these things is not your bag then growing a large business may well be something that you end up hating doing.
Growth can also create some challenges for you
- It becomes harder to provide your customers with the level of personal and flexible service that they have become used to
- You will have to rely on other people to take decisions and actions in pursuit of growth and they may not always want to do it your way
- You may have to spread out beyond your current niche which means you can lose your ‘specialist’ or ‘local’ appeal
- At a certain scale point you may attract the unwanted attention of bigger companies who may identify your presence in a market and that have deeper pockets to take the fight to you with
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should
I read an article about the famous German ‘Mittlestand’ (middle layer). The German economy has a backbone of mid sized family owned companies which are highly niched. The article refers to one of my favourite companies, Huf Haus. If you watch Grand Designs you may remember the episode where a group of German engineers arrived on site, built a beautiful house and then swept and clean their vans before driving back to Germany; two weeks later!!!!!
Even though it is clear that the opportunity and demand exist to scale the business the Managing Director holds the volume at around a hundred houses a year. Instead they focus on getting better at building them (remember the principle of leverage) and developing other add-on products and services to the house they build. This is a narrative that runs counter to how British business owners often think.
A new look at growth
So if we could get your business to a point (and for many of you it is already there) where it provides you with a high standard of income for what you consider to be a reasonable investment of your energy, what would challenging and yet enjoyable growth look like for you?
Reputational Growth – Perhaps the growth you are really looking for is in the perceptions of the customers you work with and the market you are serving. The relentless pursuit of ways to improve quality (how good your product is) and and service (the way in which you deliver the product or service) is not only hugely satisfying, but will also ensure you are never short of sales and profit.
Leveraged growth – What if you could get more from less. By continuously exploring and challenging how you do things and looking to the market for people and technologies that will support you can grow profitability without the need for more customers and more sales. Relentless focus on productivity, costs and margins may be a stronger growth option (particularly if you haven’t changed much lately)
Personal Growth – When I get under the surface the growth that most of my clients are really looking for is in themselves. They want to be able to engage with their business in a way that excites and challenges them. They want to break past whatever the blockages that hold them back are and in so doing, reveal something about themselves that has been hidden. Your results are a reflection of how you are showing up so by focussing on personal growth you are accessing the ultimate leverage point.
So I wonder what growth means to you now? What one, or combination, of these growth focus areas is right for you and your company as you sit and read this mail. One thing is for damn sure. It better be something you really want and something you can get excited and fired up to do. When this is clear you are ready to draw up your plans and take concerted action to keep moving.
No such thing as standing still
This article is not a manifesto for standing still. In this era of rapid technological and market development ‘do nothing’ and ‘stay as you are’ strategies will see your business wiped out within the next couple of decades.
So perhaps the right phrase is ‘your business is either evolving or dying’.
Instead of defaulting to the idea of growth meaning bigger we need to start thinking of growth as
- the focus and actions you take to be better
- the ability to rapidly adapt to changing circumstances