The overwhelming majority of midsize and small companies say they want to grow. Depending on your source, you will find surveys that show anywhere between 65% and 80% of companies claiming that it is their primary focus. A recent Sun Trust survey had 84% of business owners and top decision makers stating that they are ready to grow. Yet, being ready to grow is not a plan and hope, is not a strategy. When a client or potential client tells me that their number one focus is to grow, I ask them to convince me. I want them to share with me their plans, take me through the groundwork that they have laid and researched. I want to know that they understand the obstacles that they will need to overcome and gaps they must close. Finally, and most importantly, I ask them to show me the need in the market for their product and how their offer will fill this need.
Being ready to grow is not a plan and hope, is not a strategy.
The following is a list of 21 telltale signs that a company is prepared to grow. Not every one of these items needs to be checked but, the more that are, the better stacked the deck.
1. Purpose: A company must have a clearly defined purpose. It has to know its reason or being, the key driver or its fundamental call to action.
2. Vision: If an organization is going to grow, it has to define what success means. A race cannot be won, if you don't know what the finish line looks like.
3. Values: A company that is not grounded in a set of core beliefs is unlikely to remain focused and committed to the achievement of its stated vision.
4. Outcomes: This is about measurement. These are the benchmarks that prove you have achieved your vision. You must be able to quantify success.
5. Path: It is important that there be a defined path forward. There must be actionable steps and set of milestones that if met are indicative or predicative of the achievement of the desired outcomes.
6. Integrative Leaders: Leadership is getting things done through others. An integrative leader blends the strategic and tactical, with the mind and spirit of those they lead.
7. Enlightened Employees: This is beyond engaged employees. A company prepared for growth has employees who understand how their role supports the organization's purpose. Employees' values must be aligned and they should feel heard, cared for, valued and respected.
8. People: A company that is going to grow needs great people. The staff should be made up of smart, creative, flexible and motivated people.
9. Customer: It is critical to know your ideal customer deeply. Habits, preferences, wants and needs all should be identified. You need to be where they are and know where they go to look for information.
10. Mindful Marketing: Once you know your customers, you need to reach them. People don't want to be sold. They want to be heard. Marketing needs to be a pull and not a push strategy. This is especially true in B2B.
11. Competition: The only people a company should know as well as their customers is their competition. What do they do well, that you don't and what can you deliver, that they won't?
13. Innovation: To grow you must adapt, be nimble and quick to market. To fill that blue sky requires a resolute commitment to innovation.
14. Difference: A discernable and demonstrable point of difference must exist. This difference can be product or customer experience driven.
15. Listen: A growing company has leaders that listen. They learn from 360 degrees. They don't "owner" a situation, they are open-minded and act based on fact.
16. Contrarians: Similar to the above, growth companies embrace the naysayers. Contrarians are those individuals who challenge thinking and current strategy.
17. Process & Procedures: Growing companies have developed strong repeatable processes and procedures. They are ready and capable of scaling up to support growth. They are committed to continuous improvement.
18. Bottlenecks: Growth driven organizations know their current constraints and bottlenecks and have the requisite plans in place to remove them.
19. Gaps: As mentioned, it is critical to know your gaps. I am not sure of the source but, a great quote that I once heard is "the largest room in the world is the room for improvement". This pertains to product, people, positioning, etc.
20. Tolerance. Growth brings with it risk. A growth focused company must be honest and know its willingness to take on risk. That will determine what level of growth is prudent.
21. Results: Stated simply, companies that have a comprehensive and strategic plan to grow, don't confuse effort with results.
This list is not exhaustive but, it is in my opinion, indicative of an organization poised for growth. Business is tough and growth even tougher. Unless you possess a good number of these traits you may find that growth elusive. As a leader, you must examine where you stand. You need to seed and cultivate the land before you can grow your crops.
Please share your thoughts and feedback in the comment section below.
Thanks for reading.
Elliot Begoun is a Business Growth Specialist and the Principal of The Intertwine Group. His purpose is to grow businesses and business leaders. He helps organizations establish strategic guardrails, develop integrative leaders, foster employee enlightenment and practice mindful marketing. Elliot works with businesses internationally serving as a consultant, coach, speaker and facilitator.
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