You’re saying what? Grow? Considering growth given the still unclear business picture may seem over reaching. But it’s not! Previous economic downturns have demonstrated that some companies, whether small or large, market leader or trailer have capitalized and chartered dramatic new courses for themselves.
Those that have the most to lose are large companies and market leaders that think they have the luxury of time, to wait and see, to make the move. While the “new normal” for each industry and region of the world isn’t etched in stone, we all need to take some action or have a playbook to work the various scenarios we’re likely to face.
As a business growth consulting example, we re-launched a combo hardware and software product to part of a client’s channel in early summer 2009. The key was to gain an incremental $500,000 in the second half of this year. The client has already raised an incremental $2.0 million, which took some significant actions, but well worth it, especially with a higher margin rate than before. This was one of four actions we took; one other is shorter term that’s doing well, and two others will have even larger impacts in 2010 (the client in this case needed a mix of quick-lift and medium term actions). In this case, the execution was easy and successful once we picked the right approach.
The common definition of fearless is: without fear; not afraid; brave; intrepid. We could think of other words to describe it as well. But you get the idea. It’s not about going at it in some half cocked and crazy fashion. It’s really about taking decisive actions that matter, whether short term quick lift or more strategic plays.
Northpoint has had significant success in business growth consulting; from up market to down cycles, we can offer some advice to consider.
I have the following advice:
- Get the right team in place – whether you’re a small or large company get people on your team that have the passion, drive and ability to think about growth. When you look at your people assess whether they are part of the problem or part of the solution. If you don’t know, they’re part of the problem and you may need to shed them or put them in the back seat on the growth agenda. You need upbeat and positive people. Don’t associate with purveyors of doom.
- Work on the facts and that which is controllable – all too often I hear about issues with the economy, politics, past problems. While they are factors, none of us really can control their affect. We DO control what we’re all working on. You may say this is being elementary. I wouldn’t raise these points if I didn’t observe this going on every day in some of the most historically successful companies. So let’s put the facts on the table, analyze them, and develop some game plans to move forward.
- Stimulate thinking – as members of your team enter growth initiatives, they need to know the purpose and expectations of this exercise and what it will need from them. If you/your company have done this before, only to have nothing result of it (and I hear this all the time), then you need to determine how to avoid past pitfalls and put some assurance together.
- Avoid dysfunctional behaviors – teams are comprised of various types of behavior. Classically success is based transitioning through these phases: forming, storming, norming, and performing. We all get that performing is where our team needs to get to ASAP. But I can tell you from recent experience that when organizations have a problem, they form a team and storm for areas of improvement, only to form and storm on another subject a week later. So they never stick with it long enough to see the benefits. Others in your company see this behavior and take a wait and see attitude, knowing in another week or month something else will be hot. To correct this we need a disciplined approach and having people/personalities that are more norming and performing oriented. We often test for this if it’s imperative to get it right.
- Pick the right thing to work on – how do you know what the right thing really is? You’re wrapped up inside of your company, industry, or building with a ton of tribal knowledge. So how are you going to assure yourself you’re now taking a fresh approach? You will need to get a balance of what others are doing outside of your industry and points of view internally. If you’re the group leader or President, how can you be sure your subordinates will really tell you what is on their minds? The fact is 90% of folks will tell you what you want to hear. And 90% of the time you will only hear what you want to hear. This is why we tend to continue to go with what we know and really don’t operate with the freshness we need. What’s the definition of insanity… trying to basically do the same things over and over again, but expecting different results?
- Create a process where good ideas are vetted and developed – there are a number of frameworks and processes for this that will be discussed in following blogs. But in short it’s essential to have methodology that will help you deliver the results in minds. A basic approach is a “waterfall” diagram that shows current state figures and expected state – 12 to 36 months out with a list of the programs, actions with related revenue, or profits associated with each.
- Getting results – we’ve told that lack of results is often associated with bad execution. But we’ve learned that 75% of actions’ failure is based on misdiagnosis and NOT execution. Most of my clients are very solid at execution; the problem is the actions they choose treat the symptoms and not the root cause. So if you get on the wrong bus, every stop is the wrong stop. This realization really instills the fact that we need to get it right up front without suffering from analysis paralysis. If we get the approach or problem right, then the next focus should be on an effective deployment. We had a client that wanted to launch a new program, but picked a time in late June as most folks were thinking vacation and 4th of July. While their program was solid, their audience on a webinar was less than it could have been. Also to meet the timeline the call was rushed and poorly prepared for – in fact the key benefits and testimonials were way at the end of the call after 80% of the audience had dropped off.
As an expert in business growth consulting, I will continue to write various pieces on the subject of fearless growth and hope you find the information of value. Some of the future articles will have commentary on various events and will look to add some humor along the way. Thanks for your interest and reading.