by Julie Barber
There’s a great saying which is very applicable to business growth: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”. There’s often a tendency to just think “we’ll sell more”. But to whom? How? When? And if you ‘sell more’ is the business ready to cope with delivering more?
So the big question is, how do you do things differently, to avoid ‘getting what you always got’? Or worse, creating new problems that you aren’t equipped to handle? How do you make your business Growth Ready? For the companies we work with, we boil it down to three key areas: Vision & Strategy, Operational Planning and Focus Tracking.
Vision & Strategy
If you don’t have a clear target of where you want to get to, decision-making along the way gets really difficult. How do you decide if option A or B is better when you don’t know where you want to end up in three, or five years’ time? Defining a very clear, measurable Vision for your business will give you a North Star to focus on whenever you’re making decisions: “does this get us closer to that?”. For instance, a Vision that says ‘In the next five years, we want to move from being a ‘national’ company to an ‘international’ company, with sales and operations across three continents, a group turnover of £40million and net profit of £15million.” Is something everyone can clearly understand and get behind. Once you know what you want the business to look like in five years’ time, you can then map out how to get there – creating your Strategy.
Now, ‘strategy’ can be a bit of a fluffy word and I’ve also seen a lot of strategy documents written, and then put in a drawer, never to see the light of day again. Fluffy and forgotten is not what you need. Instead, to be Growth Ready, you need a strategy that says ‘as we move forward to achieve the next step of our ambitions, what are all the things that need to change in the business to achieve that?’ Will you need to hire more people, change how you do marketing, add to or change your products or services? Will you be creating IP that needs protection? Will you be selling to new demographics or geographies? Do you need to rebrand the company to reflect the new ambitions?
Year by year, you should be able to map out what the business will need, to achieve that year’s goals. And if you achieve that year’s goals, you know you’re on the right track to achieving your overall vision.
Once you know, from your Strategy, what needs to change in your business, you need some short-term, operational plans on how you’re going to make those changes. 90-day plans are generally a good way to focus on what needs to happen next, without overwhelming yourselves.
Operational plans aren’t aspirational in the way that Strategy is – they’re intensely practical – who is owning which activities, and what outcomes will they have achieved by which dates?
You may need to bring in outside support – web developers, marketing agencies etc. – but if you have your Vision and Strategy, it’s much easier to get them on the same page about what you want to achieve, so they can become effective partners to your business, helping you deliver on those operational plans.”
Having a Strategy and some Operational Plans is a great start, but a key part of being Growth Ready is also understanding how you’re going to do ‘Focus Tracking’. It’s a term we use to describe the constant tracking of progress our clients need to do against achieving their core focus. It takes discipline, process in the business and a team that is truly bought in to achieving the goals to do this well.
When you set Focus Tracking up properly in your business, it means you are constantly tracking whether you are ‘on track’ or ‘off track’ – and then making decisions, using your Vision and Strategy as a guide, about how you get back on track, or stay on track. Being tight on this process saves time and money, prevents mistakes, stops people going down rabbit holes and overall pushes you towards your goals much faster. Without focus tracking, people tend to drift back towards ‘business as usual’ pretty quickly – or worse, develop their own agendas about what they think should be done and go off on a complete tangent.
So, if you’ve got great ambitions for your business, step back and consider whether you are Growth Ready – and if not, how you get there.