I know it’s happened to you. Don’t lie.
Have you ever been locked out of your car during a mid-day hour in the month of July?
It happened to me – in the parking lot of an Atlanta, GA (a.k.a. “Hot-lanta!”) office building – 15 minutes before a client meeting. Not only difficult to endure with my long-sleeve dress shirt and dress slacks but after realizing I had also locked my laptop bag in the backseat, things got a lot worse.
With ALL of the doors locked and windows sealed tight, I began to perspire uncontrollably as both my panic level and the outside temperature soared rapidly.
There couldn’t be anything more frustrating than being ‘locked out’ and not being able to access something you need or want.
Except possibly the frustration business leaders might experience as they attempt to break through plateaus and realize new growth.
According to a recent study that polled over 532 business leaders, 85% are focused on growth as their top strategy for 2016. Of those polled, 57% anticipate growing their businesses organically and 24% plan growth through an acquisition and/or merger. Of the 57% focused on organic growth, 33% plan to grow via product or service expansion and 25% will grow via entering new markets.
However, in the same study of 532 business leaders, only 30% of business executives have completed planning for growth. Further, 40% feel somewhat-to-extremely stressed about business growth.
Clearly, growth is a top of mind priority for most business leaders across a variety of industries. Getting from ‘here’ to ‘there’ is an entirely different story. There is no shortage of uncertainty, stress and lack of confidence in choosing, mapping, and executing the right strategies.
For convenience, I’ve compiled a list of nine unique and less-often mentioned strategies for growth with the links to past articles or blog posts that have resonated most with organizational leaders.
In no particular order:
Growth Organizations are Clear on Strategy
In an October post entitled, 10 Reasons Why Your Strategy Isn’t Working, I outlined some of the common mistakes we make as leaders when it comes to growth strategy. One critical area of focus was the tendency that leaders have to blend or re-order the strategic planning process with the business growth strategy. The important distinction was that your strategic plan should be the instruction manual for your overall strategy.
In an effort to help you get your overall business growth strategy more dialed-in prior to the planning phase, the link below outlines three questions for self-reflection or that you might utilize as part of a strategy session with your team.
Growth Organizations Demonstrate Outward Curiosity
One of the biggest reasons for developing a strategy is a new discovery. Every great strategy, business, or billion-dollar start-up success is traced back to a big learning or unearthing of opportunity. Whether it be a new product, service, technology, or experience, someone spent untold hours slaving over the target market to understand their fits, needs and unexpressed wants. For more on how discovery drives the right strategy choice, read Choosing The Right Growth Strategy For Your Business.
Big discovery is the fuel for strategy.
Growth Organizations Create New Leaders
Perhaps the widest capability gap in any organization is talent. Stated further, the inability to identify and develop future leadership in organizations is pervasive. The Graying of Corporate America (40% of top leadership headed to retirement) will lead to a lot of vacant seats on the organizational chart.
Of the entire list here, this is the one that gets the most talk and the littlest action. Organizations that consistently grow inherently believe, with every fiber of their being, that the role of a leader is to create more leaders.
Growth Organizations Build Innovative Cultures
One of the biggest, present day challenges for organizations of all size is innovation. In fact a large number (65%+) cite innovation to be one of their toughest strategic challenges. Yet, if you get it right, innovative companies, on average, grow 13% annually as compared to other companies who grew only 5%. Even further, 5-year compounded growth rates of innovative companies is 84% as compared to 28% of all the rest.
Growth Organizations Redefine The Customer Experience
If a strategy, at its core, is about defining your customer, the value you deliver that customer, and how you deliver it in the marketplace, than ‘experience’ matters. Additionally, when products and services are easily copied, experiences differentiate. Experience innovation should be one of your top 5 growth growth initiatives each year given the fast changes occurring in technology.
Growth Organizations Prioritize Personal Growth
Realizing that lack of growth in our personal lives ultimately impedes professional growth, and then doing something about it, could be the trigger point for leaders to start building the kind of cultures that grow consistently. The easy way out is to assume that everyone is accountable for owning their personal growth. The research in this area is compelling and worth your time not matter what size organization you lead.
Growth Organizations are Learning Organizations
According to a 2014 Forbes article, entitled, Spending on Corporate Training Soars: Employee Capabilities Now A Priority, identifies that “70% of organizations cite “capability gaps” as one of their top five challenges, but many companies also tell us that it takes 3-5 years to take a seasoned professional and make them fully productive.” If you’re not investing in repetitive training and development initiatives for your entire staff, top to bottom, you’re putting your business in a vulnerable position.
Companies and people unwilling to stop learning never stop growing.
Growth Organizations Expand to New Markets
Every company should be chasing a market and creating a new market simultaneously – in fact, it’s the secret recipe for sustainable growth. Becoming an organization that can create, incubate and build new ventures is not easy, but certainly an attribute that will be table stakes in the future.
Growth Organizations are Portfolio Thinkers
Similar to making personal investment choices, portfolio thinking is the art and science of identifying, selecting, organizing and managing growth opportunities. By organizing the business growth strategy into a portfolio, you can make smart choices about both where and how to allocate time, money and resource.
A recent McKinsey study entitled, “Playing to Win”, highlights the increasing demand for organizations of all sizes to be on the ‘offensive’ when it comes to growth, especially in hyper-competitive markets. This means securing top talent, spotting disruption before it hits, expanding to fast growing markets and getting aggressive with innovation.
So, with the first half of 2016 officially in the rear-view mirror, there’s no better time to check in with you on your progress. If you started 2016 focused on growth, what strategies did you choose to pursue? Are they driving the results you anticipated?
Perhaps you might reference some of the strategies identified in this post as possibilities for your organization?
I’ll bet you’re wondering how I ever regained access to my car as I dripped uncontrollably with both perspiration and frustration. Fortunately, my wife arrived with a key.
If only it were that easy when it comes to unlocking new growth potential for your business.