For years, I have tried to answer this one question: What do small businesses that achieve sustained growth do differently from those that do not grow?
As a senior consultant for Inc. magazine, I speak to thousands of business owners each year. I’ve learned that there are no silver bullets or 17-point checklists that will lead to guaranteed growth. There are, however, eight specific areas in which growth companies concentrate their efforts.
1. Strong sense of purpose. Most leaders of companies that have achieved growth discover that it takes more than the promise of increasing financial reward to fuel their aspirations and ambitions. They find a higher calling than simply the pursuit of “more money.”
2. Outstanding market intelligence. This is an organization’s ability to first recognize, then adapt, to fundamental changes in the marketplace. Many times, small-business owners become too myopic, seeing only a limited view of the markets in which they compete. Growth leaders see the bigger picture.
3. Effective growth planning. This is the best predictor of whether or not a business will grow. To be effective, a plan for growth does not need to be overly formal or complicated. However, it does need to be written, well-communicated, and regularly updated.
4. Customer-driven processes. These days, every company I talk to believes it is customer-driven, when actually very few really are. Take a look at all of the business processes from a customer’s perspective. Are they in place to make it easier for the company, or to help deliver on the promise of faster, cheaper, and better for the customer?
5. The power of technology. 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.
8. Getting a small business mentor. She/he helps define critical tasks and guide your business goals and more importantly, help the company hold itself accountable for meeting them.