Growth: The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly

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It’s a safe bet that if you do a quick internet search on business priorities that increasing topline revenue, improving sales performance, and increasing company value will show up in the top results.  Growth matters.

To misquote Gordon Gekko:  growth is good.

Growth tells us you are meeting a need in the market and customers see value in what you do. Growth gives your team more opportunities and expands your horizons. Investors are happy. If you ever watch ABC’s Shark Tank, you know that history and forecasts of growth are major areas of concern.

But it’s not all rosy. You must be prepared for growth and have realistic expectations.

Growing your company may require capital or decreased profitability while you invest in the future.

Your team may need to find newer, better ways to accomplish their tasks to be more efficient and maintain profitability. What got you here may not support you at the next level.

The company may outgrow the capacity and capabilities of its employees. This is especially true of leaders as the company moves from an idea to a company to a professionally-managed firm.

Strong leaders can navigate these obstacles by taking a long-term approach and making tough decisions at the right time.  You must be prepared to protect the business.

However, there are two challenges of growth that can be devastating if you aren’t intentional about protecting them:  maintaining culture and customer satisfaction.

Customer satisfaction is obvious. You won’t stay in business if your level of service drops. Customers have other choices.  Can you maintain your current level of satisfaction while adding more customers?

Culture, however, is easy to ignore if you aren’t intentional. Rapid growth may mean rapid expansion of your team. Hiring strategies must include finding new team members who embrace your values.  Leaders must work harder to model, foster, and communicate values as the team gets larger.  “Culture eats strategy.”

Growth is vital, but exceeding your ability to absorb growth is dangerous.

Why? Why not?

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These may be the two most important – and least-asked – questions.  “Why?” makes you think about purpose.  “Why not?” opens you up to new possibilities.

Let’s start with why. The answer to this question identifies the reason behind a decision or an action.   It is purpose.  Motivation.

If you are making sound decision, your why for anything you do is based on your values, your passion, and your goals.  A trifecta of motivation.  The reason for doing something is due to your strong belief that it is right and good to do based on what is important to you, and it helps you reach an objective or milestone.

In business, why has huge implications.  Every action your team performs, every product or service you sell, and every decision you make should move you toward your goals and be in line with your values and purpose.  If not, you are wasting both time and resources.  Can you afford to do something simply because you’ve always done it that way without considering a new approach?  Should you even be doing it at all?

Of course, to answer these questions you must know your purpose, values, and goals.  Not in some vague way but with specificity and clarity.  If you can’t do that, this is your starting point.

Let’s move to why not.  Asking this question forces you to consider new ways of doing things.  It gives you freedom to think of alternatives, to try new methods, to reinvigorate your team, to reach your goals faster.  It helps you stay relevant.  It allows you to dream and try new things.

Why not keeps you from becoming stagnant, stuck in the same place.  Markets, customers, technology, and trends are always changing, and your business must adapt.  You must find new ways to be more efficient and effective.  You must reach new customers.  You must stretch yourself and your team.

Author Louise Penny says, “Life is change.  If you aren’t growing and evolving, you’re standing still, and the rest of the world is surging ahead.”  Asking “why not?” can be scary but it is necessary.

When you do consider new options, your why and your why not must be in alignment and compliment each other.  In other words, your new possibilities should reflect your passion and goals.

I encourage you to take the time to reflect on your why and consider your why not.

Gain more by giving away

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“I’m too busy.”

“I don’t have time.”

“I have too many priorities fighting for my attention.”

Sound familiar?

In times where we are expected to do more with less and where immediate isn’t fast enough, we’ve all felt that way.

It’s worse when we think we must do it all ourselves.

That kind of thinking will make you less effective.  We all have the same amount of time in a given day.  There is only so much you can do, and while you can always do a little more, studies show diminishing returns for each extra hour worked; less time sleeping leads to increased mistakes and negative affects on health.

What is the solution?  Delegation.

The Oxford Dictionary defines delegate as entrusting a responsibility to another person.

There are several benefits to learning the art of delegation.  First of all, it allows you to have more time to do those things that only you can do.

Secondly, it helps you develop employees.  To effectively delegate, you have to clearly define the task, communicate the objectives, and explain its importance.  This gives the employee insight on the business they may not otherwise have.

Delegation also allows an employee to demonstrate skills you weren’t aware they had or to develop skills necessary for them to advance in their career.  Delegation is a key component of investing in your high-potential employees.

Delegation allows you to focus on what is most important for your business.  Effective leaders don’t allow their time and effort to be consumed by things than can be handled by others.  The more senior your role, the less time you spend “doing” and more time thinking and communicating.

By delegating, you maximize your efforts on those things that only you can and must do.  At the same time, you are building a stronger team, demonstrating trust, and teaching skills by allowing them to try new things.  Your company benefits because you are creating an environment where everyone is challenged and to put their skills to their highest and best use.

Stop trying to do it all yourself.  You’ll get more done by giving tasks away.

Your business is growing….why don’t you feel like you are winning?

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Your business is growing. You’ve got a great product or service, you know your customers, and you’ve assembled a stellar team. But something has changed. Profitability has slipped, tasks take longer to complete than they should, or your team is frustrated. What’s going on?

You are a victim of your own success. Every business owner goes through it. It is part of the maturation process for any business.

What are some of the reasons you’ve gotten here?

You need to quantify your sales pipeline. Are you investing time in customers or entire market segments that aren’t profitable? Are the wrong types of opportunities taking away resources from more valuable opportunities?

Your systems haven’t kept up with your growth. Systems can be tools, processes, and software. As your business grows – in volume, the number and type of offerings, or complexity – you need to re-evaluate how your team executes the critical business tasks required to meet your customers’ needs and make changes as necessary.

Your team is confused or out of alignment. You’ve added people and maybe even entire departments. Valuable, productive employees who once had their hands in all aspects of the business aren’t sure who does what any more. Efforts are duplicated or worse, missed completely. Everyone is working toward different goals. The company culture you’ve built begins to change.

The bottom line is you are fighting fires. The cost of fighting fires manifests itself when you don’t have time to cast your vision for the company or nurture the company culture. You and your team are busy, but your aren’t effective or productive.

Growing companies will go through challenging periods or even seem to stall. It’s a natural part of the process. The key is to make sure you evaluate the root cause and understand the reason(s) why and take decisive corrective action.