Entrepreneurs, maybe as a rule, are an ambitious bunch. It takes a certain thirst for success to sustain the difficult task of starting, nurturing and growing a business. That said, it's not uncommon to find entrepreneurs who overreach, who throw all their energy into getting bigger as quickly as possible without having much in the way of a growth strategy.
Having a growth strategy is an important part of having a healthy and sustainable business. Fortunately, it is possible to achieve and sustain organic growth, and the following suggestions can help you get there.
1. Keep your values and mission front and center.
Growth can be seductive. It feels good to do more, make more and grow the reach and scope of your business. But your growth won't be sustainable or satisfying if you have to abandon your values to get it.
You started your business for a reason, and you have a purpose that goes beyond simply putting money in the bank. Whether you value delivering solutions or making your community better, it's vital that you keep your focus on the aspects of business that make all your hard work worthwhile.
When you're true to your values and when your company's growth strategy reflects those values, you may be more likely to build your business at a sensible, sustainable rate.
When your growth strategy relies on diminished quality, you're unlikely to find sustainable success.
2. Don't confuse sales with profits.
I've lost count of the number of companies that have posted sales numbers showing astronomical growth and have ended up folding. You can have sky-high revenue, but the math is pretty simple: If your expenses exceed your revenue, you ain't making any money.
Growth can be expensive. Opening new markets and reaching out to new customers requires investment, and those investments can take a while to pay off. If you're constantly pouring money into growth, you run the risk of overextending yourself.
If your growth strategy isn't built on solid profitability, all the sales in the world may not be enough to keep you in business.
3. Meet with your accountant often.
It is because growth is so seductive that we can lose our perspective and talk ourselves into believing our company is healthy even if it isn't.
Accountants are the dispellers of myths. Their magical power is to see the unvarnished truth and realistically assess whether our growth strategy is successful.
You need frequent reality checks when you're growing your business. While you may feel like your business is in great shape, your accountant is the one who will be able to tell you the truth.
4. Hire slowly and carefully.
Growing your company typically requires augmenting your staff with new hires, but hiring mistakes are both common and costly. Hiring decisions are some of the most critical ones you'll make, and your growth strategy depends on finding the right people and putting them in the right positions.
One key hiring strategy is to slow the process down. Far too many mistakes are made that could have been avoided had an employer simply taken a little more time.
Whether you're investigating references, collecting more applications or simply thinking the decision through, don't rush the process. You may feel pressure. You may really need to fill positions. But if you hire a person who's a lousy fit, you'll end up losing more time than if you'd waited for the right person to walk through the door.
I refuse to rush my hiring decisions. Even if it means hiring a contractor or a freelancerwhile I'm searching, being patient is critical to a sound growth strategy.
5. Check in with old customers.
Just as forsaking your values to grow your company can lead to ruin, abandoning your existing customers for the lure of new buyers can hurt your business as well.
If you've staked your company's reputation on delivering excellence, you're unlikely to keep customers happy if your water down your quality. Face-to-face chats, surveys…whatever your method of outreach, make sure you touch base with your oldest customers to ensure they're still loyal to you and your brand. When your growth strategy relies on diminished quality, you're unlikely to find sustainable success. Checking in with your old customers helps you monitor and maintain high standards—standards that can lead you to healthy growth.
Growth is good. Actually, growth is great—provided it's based on a sound growth strategy, one that's sustainable over the long haul. Just like the tortoise and the hare, it's slow and steady that wins the race.
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