For all of my business career I have been preoccupied with what holds businesses back.
I examined the literature, I looked at business I had run or worked with and chased the elusive answer.
Going on to the internet, you might be forgiven for thinking that there is a revolutionary, magic silver-bullet solution. We see countless programmes offering to “double your profits in five weeks or your money back”. Put out by what are, in effect, snake-oil salesmen.
Stand in front of an audience of business owners and ask, “What’s holding you back form running the business you want to run?” and you will get numerous answers all starting with the word, “they”: the customers, clients, suppliers, staff, banks, accountants, consultants, solicitors, Government… The clue is that these things are outside the business owners control. They have what is known as an external locus of control.
If you hadn’t guessed it already, the thing that is holding you back is not your internal focus of control: it is all about you: your approach to risk, employing people, increasing prices and so on. Ask any successful entrepreneur and they will recognise that it was only when they took on board that their growth was all about releasing their own self-limiting beliefs, that real growth began.
But quoting leadership or strategy (or whatever fancy name you attribute to the “we can do this and we need to stop blaming the rest of the world” mindset) is only a partial solution.
Barriers to growth, briefly
There are predictable evolutions and revolutions as your organisation grows. The emphasis is on the predictable. Just as a human goes from baby to toddler to child to adolescent to adult, so the business also follows a consistent and predictable growth path facing predictable challenges and figuring out how to overcome them.
The predictable evolutions and revolutions are the consequence of growing complexity.
Complexity comes from employing more people, selling more (and different) products/services and having more customers/clients.
Overcoming the barriers to growth
To overcome the barriers to growth you need to focus on:
The right leadership and strategy
An effective marketing function, and
Teams: The right people in the right jobs: a scalable infrastructure.
Strategy, marketing, and teams are the trinity of business growth. It is a simple as that. And, surprise, surprise, great businesses are obsessed with, wait for it, strategy, marketing, and teams.
The key questions
At its simplest you and your senior team need to confront and answer the following questions:
Where are we going and how are we going to get there? (= strategy).
How can we sell more ‘stuff’ to the right people at the right prices? (= marketing).
Why can’t we get on better and how can we organise ourselves more effectively? (= teams).
The title of this article includes 2017, why?
Well, I probably wrote an identical article in 2007 and also in 1997. These fundamentals have changed very little. While I am not a great fan of academic literature, most of this is rooted in well-researched articles from Larry Greiner (Harvard Business Review, 1972), Churchill and Lewis (Harvard Business Review, 1983), David J. Storey (Small Business and Entrepreneurship, 2010), U.S. Small Business Administration (High Impact Firms, 2011), David G. Thomson (Blueprint to a Billion, 2006) as well as the work of David Birch, Doug Tatum, and Verne Harnesh.
One final note… these are the basics, get them right and you’re onto a winner. But just because they’re called basics, doesn’t mean they’re easy. If you need some help, give my PA a call on 01225 851044 and set up a meeting. We’ll start with a one day strategy workshop and go from there!