Five Strategies for Growing Successfully

Not all growth is good growth, five tips to help you ensure that growth is good

Do you want to grow your business?  If so, do you know how you are going to grow the business?  And are you aware of the difference between good growth and bad growth?

People often want to grow for growth’s own sake.  This is more about taking on risk than taking on growth.

Strategy 1: Control Your Growth

You need to manage growth, not have it manage you.  I suspect more companies have failed through poorly managed and unplanned growth than any other reason.  At times you will also want to slow growth to allow you to “catch up” with yourself.  Fast and successful growth is rare.  You need to be able to absorb the lessons you learn as you grow and incorporate them into your next steps.  In doing this you also need to consider some of the risks that are associated with poorly controlled growth, these include:

  • Cash flow risks – growth consumes cash, and rapid growth consumes cash rapidly. If you are not careful you can find yourself with insufficient cash to cover your operating costs; you also run the risk of trading whilst insolvent.  It only requires one unexpected cost or one delayed customer payment to push you over the edge.
  • Operational crunch – to produce the volume required to support your growth can be difficult.  Equipment and/or people have to operate beyond what is practical, and things start to come apart at the seams with increasing inefficiencies and attendant risks.
  • Poor customer service – you have more customers to look after and not always the available people or resources to do so.
  • Rapid expenditure – with more orders coming in you may be tempted to spend more on people, infrastructure, and resources.  You want to invest, but not over-invest or leave yourself exposed.
  • People risks – existing people will be worried about the rapid changes, stressed by an increasing workload, exhausted by an expanded role for which they may not be suitable or experienced, and worried if you will be able to pay them each month.  St the time you need them most you may find your best people, who are the most marketable, may leave.
  • Decision-making changeswith rapid growth people need to step back from an operational focus to a leadership role.  There is a risk that leaders can become disconnected from what is happening at the front-line and make decisions based on the incomplete or inaccurate information.
  • Leadership shortfalls – people who may be operationally adept may lack the necessary leadership skills, business acumen or interpersonal skills to lead effectively.  This can cause problems and compound existing risks.

Strategy 2: Go for Good Growth, Avoid Bad Growth

Good growth is aligned with your purpose and what you are trying to achieve.  Bad growth is not aligned.  Often the problem of bad growth is that you are prepared to take a short-term gain but sacrifice the long-term future.  For example, taking on a big client who has a poor reputation for paying on time leads to serious cash flow issues later and takes a disproportionate amount of your precious time in managing the relationship and fire-fighting. This can also impact your team, lower morale and create stress and pressure.

Make sure that what you do, who you partner with, and who you sell to are aligned.  Good growth is about servicing the need of selected and targeted clients – not any client with a checkbook.  For good growth, you need to say no to opportunities to keep focused and aligned.

Strategy 3: Growth Means Letting Go

If you want to grow you need to prune back.  As the demands and needs of your business change so I remember, as a child, playing on the monkey bars.  The only way you can forward on the monkey bars is to let go with one hand, swing forward, and grasp the next rung. So you need to repeat it to get to the other end. Business is just the same. Let go to grow.

Strategy 4: Lead Your Growth

Growth is about change, and change is about leadership, not management. You need to lead your people and share with them the answers to three questions:

  • What are we changing from and why?
  • What are we changing to and why?
  • How are we going to do this?

Doing this remove any vagueness or information vacuums which can cause stress and rumors and stories (often inaccurate) in an attempt to fill the gap.

Strategy 5: Go Slowly

Business is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Paradoxically, by going slower you will get there faster – and with your risks better managed, and you be better prepared for them.

To grow, and to grow profitably, control your growth, go for good growth, let go to move forward, lead your people to growth and to grow well grow slow.

Please feel free to re-tweet, re-blog, email and share this article with others who may find it of use or interest.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

7 Secrets for Successful Business Growth

If you want to grow your business, and I mean really grow your business, then here are a few simple but powerful secrets you can use. When you get to the end there is an eighth and even more powerful secret to share!

7 Secrets + 1

  1. Know what you do and what you don’t do.

The temptation for many small business owners is to do anything to earn the next dollar. In trying to be all things for all people you end up not being good at anything in particular. You are not even average, you are mediocre. And mediocre does not stand out, nor does it sell. No sales, no growth.

  1. Know your strengths.

If you want to grow successfully then you need to know what your strengths are. What are the things that you love doing that you do well?  What are the things which you do which have the greatest impact?

Using your strengths allows you to raise your performance and improve your results on a sustainable basis. Don’t make the mistake of trying to improve by addressing your weaknesses, all that does is improve your performance to an average level at best, and you may not be able to sustain the improvement.

  1. Be the prize.

Too often business owners are prepared to work with anyone to win more clients and earn more money. This just makes you look desperate and needy. Frankly, when were you impressed by somebody who was desperate to work with you? You weren’t! So be selective with whom you work with, and hold yourself out to be the prize they want to have and work with! By holding back, you appear more attractive.

  1. People don’t buy what you do

Sorry! The world does not revolve around you.

People are not interested in what you do. I know you are interested in what you do, and you love it, but it doesn’t matter. People are only interested in what you do for them – and there is a world of difference in this! They buy the results and outcomes that you help them realize. So, help people buy by articulating what you do for them clearly and concisely.

  1. Speak their language

Do you remember the first time you want to a foreign country where no-one spoke your language? What were the feelings and thoughts you had at the time? If you want to be understood, make sure you speak their language. Don’t use the industry jargon that you and other fellow professionals use, it just confuses and alienates your customers who don’t share your language. When people feel confused or alienated they want to avoid taking risks, and so they don’t do anything. So, speak with your audience in mind so what you say is what is heard.

  1. Don’t shout, just whisper

We live in a noisy world. Everyone is trying to gain our attention, we are submerged in a deluge of information whether we are at work, at home or elsewhere. If you try to shout louder than anyone else all you will get is a hoarse throat. To outshout others, you need to outspend them in broadcasting your message in the hope that somebody will hear you, and then hope yet again that they will act on it in the way that you want them to! Some chance!

Better to whisper.

To whisper, and to be heard, you need to have a message that your audience is already attuned to. Rather than broadcasting to everyone across all frequencies you need to pick a single radio channel and transmit to those who want to listen to your radio show. By broadcasting country music on your radio show there will be many who aren’t interested, but those who are will be ready to listen and act on your message!

  1. Being good at what you do is not enough

You might believe you are the best at what you do, but it doesn’t matter. Being technically good at what you do will not make you successful. I have come across many business owners who are good at what they do, but their business is in a terrible state. Having technical savvy does not mean you have business savvy. Look at your business through “business glasses”, not your “technical glasses”

Bonus Secret:

Now you know these seven secrets here is the bonus secret I promised you. It’s a simple three-word phrase you probably have already heard – “Just Do It!”

To grow requires action. So, don’t just read these seven secrets and think “Oh! That’s interesting!” – do something with them. Take action now. Choose one thing you can do – right now – and which will help you grow. Share the one thing you are going to do in the comments section below.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Shaping Your Future

What you can do to bring the future back to today.

In the current business environment leaders are subject to increasing demands on their time, requiring faster responses, with less information in shorter time-scales. In this age of infinite information and endless distraction, it’s easy to spend an entire day reacting and responding to what others want as opposed to what we want or need to do.

Here is a question for you.

Do a quick calculation of the percentage of time you spend responding to things in a typical day (answering email and phone calls, etc.). Compare this with the percentage of time you spend initiating actions.

Where do you spend most of your time? In most cases, a reactionary time greatly outweighs proactive time.

The problem is that you spend most of your time dealing with the past in the present, making it difficult to prepare, plan and act for the future.  And it is what you initiate today that will shape the future.  It might be a conversation that leads to a new friendship, sharing an idea that leads to a new product or service etcetera.  Your ability to create a positive charge for others is almost directly proportional to the amount of time you can spend initiating instead of responding.

Leaders look to the future, deal with people, and lead change. So, with your team, allocate time to reflect and look to the future to determine what you can and need to initiate that is aligned with your purpose and goals. Talk with others, and encourage your team to do the same, to gain insights into their perspectives and thoughts and to start the process of developing opportunities for the future. Look to initiate rather than respond, this will help you to be proactive and to take control of the future for yourself.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

3 Steps to Develop Your Team

Stop-Start-Continue – 3 Steps for Individual & Team Growth

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

3 Steps to Develop You and Your Team – Raise Performance, Achieve Outcomes.

Stop-Start-ContinueHow often do you take the time to stop, look at what you are doing and carry out a “self-audit”?  To reach our potential, or to help others to reach theirs, we need to do this periodically.  This can be used in your business, social or personal life.

Stop-Start-Continue 

There are three parts to this process:.

1.   Stop.

What are you doing that you can stop doing or need to stop doing? 

These might be things that you stop doing yourself, delegate to others, or is no longer required. This frees up time which you can utilise in the next two parts.  Time is limited, so make sure you use it on those things that matter, have priority and help you (or others) to grow and develop.

2.   Start.

What do you need to start doing that you are not currently doing? 

What are those things which will help you (or others) to grow, develop and achieve those things that they are looking for.  You can begin to do these things with the time you have freed up in the first step of Stop.

3.   Continue.

What are those things you need to continue doing?

Identify those things which are currently working for you, and which you can improve that will help you realise what you are looking to achieve. How can you leverage these things and the time to do more of them?

What to Do Next?

For yourself, think of three things for each of the three parts – STOP, START and CONTINUE.  Using the template below, especially if you are a leader or a manager in your business then try this to help your team and reports:

  1. Identify what each person should STOP, START and CONTINUE as regards their role and contribution.
  2. Get each person to do the same for themselves.
  3. Meet with each person and get them to share their ideas with you, and share your ideas with them.  This will create engagement, ownership and commitment for team members who are looking to grow and develop successfully.

Stop-Save-Continue Template

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The Salesman Who Lost the Million-Dollar Deal

How failure can make you more successful…

We all make mistakes, but do we learn from them?

As children we are often taught not to make mistakes, and that it is important to be right. This is reinforced as we become adults and so we learn to equate mistakes with failure.  And when we do this we limit ourselves and our potential to grow.

I view failure as an opportunity to learn and improve, and from this to grow and develop myself further. If I am not making mistakes then I am not pushing my boundaries or myself, and I condemning myself to be average as I cannot grow. The important thing about mistakes is not just to learn, but to implement that learning so you don’t make the same mistake twice.

I would like to share a story with you about Thomas Watson Sr., the man who founded IBM and oversaw its massive growth from 1914 to 1956. The story goes like this….

“”IBM had survived The Great Depression. Gambling on a post war boom, Watson Sr. had maintained IBM’s employment levels by increasing inventories when there was little demand. Excess machinery and parts crowded basements and filled every nook-and-cranny of Endicott’s warehouses.

Some on the board of directors, because of this, were lobbying to remove Watson as IBM’s President.

He needed these inventories sold.

A very large government bid, approaching a million dollars, was on the table. The IBM Corporation—no, Thomas J. Watson Sr.—needed every deal. Unfortunately, the salesman failed. IBM lost the bid. That day, the sales rep showed up at Mr. Watson’s office. He sat down and rested an envelope with his resignation on the CEO’s desk. Without looking, Mr. Watson knew what it was. He was expecting it.

He asked, “What happened?”

The sales rep outlined every step of the deal. He highlighted where mistakes had been made and what he could have done differently. Finally he said, “Thank you, Mr. Watson, for giving me a chance to explain. I know we needed this deal. I know what it meant to us.” He rose to leave.

Tom Watson met him at the door, looked him in the eye and handed the envelope back to him saying, “Why would I accept this when I have just invested one million dollars in your education?”

It is that last line – “I have just invested a million dollars in your education” – that brings it home to me.  There are two important learnings here:

  1. The failure you experience and the mistakes you make are opportunities for you to grow.
  2. The failure others experience and the mistakes others make are opportunities for them to grow.

Are you tolerant of and welcome mistakes in yourself? And in others?  Currently do you look to learn from your mistakes and failures? And do you help others to learn from their mistakes and failures?

We are living and working in a changing world, and we are finding that what got us here will not get us there. As well as this we are also discovering that what we have always done will no longer get us what we always got.  Failures and mistakes do not stem just from doing something new or different, but they can stem from doing that which we have done before and which has previously brought us success.  The latter source of failure and mistakes is more insidious and harder to sport, ironically because it is so familiar.

So create an environment where failure and mistakes are seen as an opportunity to learn and grow – individually, as a team, and as an organization. Identify the learnings, share them with others, and determine what you need to implement to prevent the failure or mistake from recurring by raising the bar for both what you do and how you do it.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here. (needs link)

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Understanding How Others Respond – And the Implications

Understand how people can react – whether they take control of themselves, or abdicate responsibility…

There is a simple, but useful tool that helps you to understand how people respond to situations, and to anticipate their likely behavior. It can also help you identify those who are likely to be winners and losers. This tool is called the Locus of Control.

Everyone wants to know what separates winners from losers? One of the significant factors limiting the attainment of your vision is the degree to which you believe you are in control of your destiny. Your locus of control can be internal or external. You can have a combination of both but normally one will outweigh the other.  So what are the differences between an internal Locus of Control and an external Locus of Control, and how can you identify them?

  • External Locus of Control – listening to what you say, or your team members, when talking about your business and your life. If you hear things like, “I would have been successful but the economy turned sour” or “I got caught by a pile of bad debts so I had to close the business down” you or they have an external locus of control. People with an external locus of control blame the external factors for their failure.
  • Internal Locus of Control – people with an internal locus of control feel that they can influence the issues around them. You’ll hear them say things like “I misjudged the market so I put on too many people which ended up costing me a packet of money” or “I found that my skills weren’t sufficient to handle the negotiation”.

Get into the habit of listening to the people to determine whether they have an internal or external locus of control. Of course, those who have an external locus are the ones who find it difficult to change. It’s always someone else’s fault or responsibility.

If you are setting up a team or looking at staffing make sure you have plenty of people with an internal locus of control. In simple terms, a person with an external locus of control is problem focused, while a person with an internal locus of control is solution focused. Remember, you will always find what you are looking for. Sometimes you find that by teaching someone about the locus of control and helping them to change their own mindset they can change from having an external locus of control to an internal locus of control.

There is little point in developing a focused and aggressive business strategy if you are surrounded by people who believe that the Government, their people, and even their customers are conspiring against them. You are defeated before you start. How can this be resolved?  By having people with an internal locus of control!

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions,

How to Hire for Attitude, Not Just Aptitude

How attitude is a good predictor of prospective employee success, and how you can identify those with the right attitude for your business.

The top challenge for CEOs according to a survey from the Conference Board (January 2013) is Human Capital – the ability to develop and acquire the right people, with the right skills needed to take the business to the next level.  But skills alone are not enough.

“Hire for Attitude, Train for Aptitude”

This is an old mantra which, if ignored, can be costly.  Companies I have worked with have found that recruiting people with the right skills can be costly if they do not have the right ‘attitude’, where there is a lack of ‘fit’.  This is reflected in a study by Leadership IQ of over 20,000 new hires over 3 years which found that 46% of the people about to be hired will fail within the first 18 months on the job. And they won’t fail for lack of skills but rather for lack of attitude.

Top 5 Reasons for Why New Hires Failed

The following are the top areas of failure (i.e., were terminated, left under pressure, received disciplinary action or significantly negative performance reviews):

  • Coachability (26%): the lack of ability to accept and implement feedback from bosses, colleagues, customers and others.
  • Emotional Intelligence (23%): the lack of ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, and accurately assess others’ emotions.
  • Motivation (17%): insufficient drive to achieve one’s full potential and excel in the job.
  • Temperament (15%): attitude and personality not suited to the particular job and work environment.
  • Technical Competence (11%): functional or technical skills required to do the job.

The key point from this is that when new hires fail, and 46% of them will, 89% of the time it’s because of attitude and only 11% of the time because of skill.

As such, the key predictor of a new hire’s success or failure is their attitude, not their skills.  As such we need to be clear on what attitude we are hiring for. To do this requires two steps:

  • Define the Specific Attitudes – what are the attitudes that make your business different from the rest.  This is both in terms of what is good (which you want) and what is bad (which you want to avoid).
  • Adapting the Hiring & Interviewing Process – you need to make sure that you focus on these attitudes, so adapt how you do this as appropriate.

How Do We Do This?

Define the Specific Attitudes

Attitudes in themselves are not visible or tangible.  Where they are made apparent is in people’s behaviors.  How people behave is an active display of their attitudes.  Their behavior should also be a reflection of the business’ core values which provides guidance to people in the business.  A good example of how the core values are made tangible, and the expected behavior (and hence attitudes) is shown below.

The US Marine Corp

The US Marine Corps has Core Values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment.  The concept of these core values runs throughout all aspects of Marine life, beginning in recruit training and continuing into combat. These “warrior ethos” provide guidance to Marines in difficult ethics situations and as a reminder to provide good order and discipline. These values are defined as:

  • Honor – integrity, responsibility and accountability.
  • Courage – do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons.
  • Commitment – devotion to the Corps and my fellow Marines.

Adapting the Hiring & Interviewing Process

Too often, when interviewing, we focus on prospective employees’ technical skills and competencies.  Why?  They are the easiest to assess but, as we have seen, they are a very poor predictor of the success or failure of a new employee.

When you look at jobs being advertised the experience, skills, and qualification that are detailed it can be seen that the business advertising the position has the expectation that a perfect candidate will apply.  This is about as far from reality as you can get.  Realistically, there is no ‘perfect candidate’ and, as such, there can only be attitudes that are right for your business – they will never be perfect.

Tests for Finding the ‘Right’ Attitudes

  • High Performers’ Test – what are the distinguishing attitudinal characteristics of your top performers.  List up to 10 responses that reflect your business.  For example:
    • They own the problem.
    • They always see problems as opportunities.
    • They are great listeners and communicators.
    • Etcetera.
  • Low Performers’ Test – what are the distinguishing attitudinal characteristics of your low performers.  List up to 10 responses that reflect your business.  These are not just the opposite of the attitudinal characteristics that make a high performer. For example:
    • They avoid responsibility and are quick to blame.
    • They focus on themselves rather than others.
    • They do the bare minimum work required.
    • Etcetera.

Once you’ve got your two lists, conduct a quick assessment to make sure every point is on target. This can be done by asking yourself the following two questions about each attitude listed:

  • How does this attitude add value or competitive advantage to this organization? (If the attitude brings no benefit to the organization, it doesn’t belong on the list).
  • Who cares about this attitude? (If the attitude doesn’t bring benefit to your customers, it doesn’t belong on the list)

Doing this provides insight into both what you want and what you don’t want in the terms of attitudes and the associated behaviors.  It then helps you to prepare for the interview by focusing on how they respond to questions around both these areas.  However, how the questions are phrased is just as important as what the question is.  You need to develop the question with the kind of response that you are looking for in mind.  But that is a separate article.

In summary, be clear on what values, attitudes and behaviors you want in your business, and which you want your new employees to exemplify in what they do and how they do it.  Get clarity by distinguishing the attitudinal characteristics of both your top and low performers – this helps you to identify what you want from a potential employee, and what you don’t want.  Around this then adapt your interview and hiring process to ask the kind of questions that will help you elicit answers which will help you determine the prospective employee’s values, attitudes, and behaviors.  Take this into account when you look at their technical skills, as it is their attitude that is a predictor of their skills – not their technical skills and competencies.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions,