According to proprietary data Sageworks analyzed in 2016, businesses with less than $5 million in annual revenue saw a growth rate averaging 7.8 percent in 2015. (The data examined "privately held small businesses in Sageworks’ database that filed a financial statement during the 12-month period" ending on December 28, 2015.) Would you like to meet or better that kind of growth rate? Getting everyone in your organization pulling in the same direction can help. Here are some concrete steps you can take to help create a growth mindset and culture within your company.
1. Create a growth vision for your company.
A leader's role includes creating a vision of what you want your company to become. I recommend being specific when crafting your growth vision. Identify the growth you want for the year and the steps you'll take to get there.
For example, let's say you set a goal for 15 percent growth for the year. After outlining the goals and objectives you'll need to get there, you realize you will need to increase your customer base in order to achieve that growth.
With a growth vision in place, you can plan for a strong advertising push early in the year. Then around mid-year you could plan to release a new product. You could also start a referral program to increase sales throughout the year.
2. Communicate the vision you have for your company's growth.
Your employees aren't mind readers, so try to communicate your vision thoroughly.
One time probably won't be enough. I recommend communicating the vision repeatedly. You can do this by:
- bringing it up periodically in company meetings
- writing it down on posters that summarize the growth goals for the year
- placing the posters on the wall in central, visible places such as main hallways and break rooms
- writing the vision down on a central whiteboard
- sending an occasional email about the growth goals
The more you talk about growth, the more it can help you create a growth mindset for your employees.
3. Bring on people who embrace growth and have a growth mindset.
A growth culture is made up of workers who welcome growth—i.e. goal-oriented people who are receptive to trying new things.
You may also find that you need to add additional skill sets to achieve new initiatives. Consider identifying what you need and go after these skill sets and attitudes as you recruit and hire. You may find employees who already have a growth mindset are ready to join your team.
4. Align your employees' performance to the company's growth.
When setting individual goals, consider aligning them with the company's growth goals. For example, if your company's growth goal is to increase your customer base in the coming year, then you may want your managers and employees in sales and marketing to have goals related to increasing the number of customers each month.
Also consider aligning compensation to growth where relevant. It may not be realistic to tie everyone's compensation specifically to goals, but management bonuses could be tied to an increased customer base or to some other relevant growth goal.
5. Develop measurements to track growth.
You can identify and track key performance indicators and other metrics to measure growth and results. A common way to do this is by using revenue figures or number of new sales. But depending on what you're trying to accomplish, there might be other metrics to consider such as:
- number of customers
- website traffic
- new leads generated
- customer renewal rate
- average transaction size
6. Engage your employees in growth initiatives.
It's tough to have a growth culture if your employees feel disengaged and are not behind the company's growth initiatives.
You may want to make it a point to surround any growth initiative with excitement. This can help get your team engaged in pulling it off. You can make the initiative a big deal by giving it a special name (e.g., “Project Grow"), or hold a party to kick it off. You can talk about its progress regularly, perhaps with a big wall chart or whiteboard showing milestones and achievement of those milestones.
If you can make a growth initiative exciting for your team, your employees may be more willing to get behind it and feel invested in its success.
7. Celebrate wins and milestones.
Finally, consider setting smaller milestones within your main growth goals. For example, if you want to increase sales by 20 percent throughout the year, you may want to set incremental sales increases each month.
When you reach those smaller milestones, you can celebrate and congratulate your team by sending out congratulatory emails, holding a party and bringing in a cake or ringing a bell. Using positive reinforcement and creating an atmosphere of “winning" can help encourage team members and keep them engaged.
Read more articles on planning for growth.