The 7 rules of growth for small business owners

For years, using my Living by Experience approach, I have tried to find the answer to one simple question: What do small businesses owners that achieve sustainable growth do differently from those that do not grow, or even fail?

My infamous approach for trying out different things and keeping the ones that stick thought me a lot about what works, and what doesn’t work in business. At one point in my “artrepreneur” career, I nearly went bankrupt because I couldn’t take my business out of a financial nosedive. Due to perseverance and the help from others I escaped that disaster, and making several changes in the way I had structures my companies ensured things eventually turned around.

As a business consultant, I have worked with many large and small business owners and continue to do so every year. Unfortunately there is no magic checklist of steps that you can follow to “guarantee” success, even though many modern day gurus like to make you believe otherwise (and charge you accordingly). There are, however, seven specific areas on which growing business owners focus their energy.

1. Sense of purpose.

Most business owners that have achieved growth discover that it takes more than simply a promise of increasing financial reward to fuel their aspirations and ambitions. They find and follow their vision, purpose and passions instead of just the pursuit of “more money.”

2. Market intelligence.

This is an organization’s ability to recognize changes in the marketplace and adapt to them quickly. Many times, small-business owners become too myopic, seeing only a limited view of the market in which they compete. Growth leaders see the bigger picture.

3. Growth planning.

To be effective, a plan for growth does not need to be overly formal or complicated. However, it does need to contain tangible, written down goals, which need to be well-communicated and regularly updated.

4. Customer-driven processes.

These days, every company I talk to believes it is customer-driven and every organization believes they’re “different”. In reality, very few manage to accomplish either of those things. My Service Management course is built on the idea that customer service is an (organization-wide) mindset, not a department. Take a look at all of your business processes from a customer’s perspective. Are your processes in place to make it easier for the company (most even fail at that), or to help deliver a better customer experience (hardly ever the case)?

5. The power of technology.

As a consultant, I’ve seen a lot of large organizations from the inside, and typically the larger a company is, the more outdated their technology is. They operate by the idea “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”, and fail to disrupt the market with new innovations. Successful leaders don’t let the boom and bust of technology cycles give them the excuse to ignore that we live in an information age. If a company is in business, it is in the technology business.

6. The best and brightest people.

Growth leaders recognize that they are only as good as the people with whom they work. The ability to hire, train and retain the best and the brightest people is often the difference between success and failure.

7. Seeing the future.

Few organizations take the time to regularly consider the future. Growth leaders learn how to diligently monitor and interpret the macro forces of change affecting the world in which they live.


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