Entrepreneurship is about value creation, and growth equates to value. Most everyone who owns a business will tell you they want their business to grow. Unfortunately, for many, it’s just what my old boss from 40 years ago, Mike Latas, called “lip music.” These business owners may talk a good game, but they fail to do what it takes to grow.
Following are some of the things I have seen that lead to stratospheric growth. The more of them you do, the more likely you will have a shooting star in whatever industry you work.
A business plan with lofty goals. If you want to grow, you have to set growth goals — real growth goals. Not modest goals. Not a budget. Strike out a bold vision. Where do you really want this business to go? How can you do it? How long will it take you to get there? Paint the picture and put your foot on the accelerator!
A disciplined sales process. Consistent results take a consistent process. You can hire all the salespeople you want — experienced or not — and if you don’t train and manage those people to do what it takes to meet your sales targets, then they (and you) will fail. Success in selling takes a willingness to pick up the phone and go see people, along with a dogged determination to get results. And if you have a business where the customers come to you, you had best make sure your salespeople know how to treat every one of them and how to close the deal.
Higher than average marketing and promotion expenditures. It’s such a simple idea — if the typical firm in your business spends 5% on marketing and advertising, and you want to grow faster than them, you should be spending 2-3 times as much. Even in a flat market, this approach applied over time can lead to growth at the expense of your competitors.
Aggressive, continuous recruiting. It would help if you were looking out for who you will hire next the time you have an opportunity to do so. Not everyone wants a job, but everyone does want a good job. Provide that, and get the word out there. And everyone you meet or speak with who impresses you should be someone you try to get more information from and someone you ask directly if they would consider coming to work for you. That is how you grow.
Sharing equity with key employees. There is nothing quite as motivational to motivate people as owning a “piece of the pie.” It’s the American Dream for so many of us. Work hard in a business you own and benefit in many different ways from its success. Actual ownership — not options, non-voting stock, or Class Z shares in an LLC for that specific location only — is incredibly valued by your best people. Tie them down or lose them. It’s your choice. And you can’t grow if you are losing your best people.
Investments in IT. IT makes you more efficient. IT can give you an edge over the other guy. It can also reduce friction in your customer’s or client’s buying experience. That is only going to help you grow.
Small firm acquisitions. That is always a good option. Spread your overhead over a more significant revenue number. Get new customers and a few good employees, too. And the seller may be willing to finance the whole deal for you. That can be a cheaper and faster way for your business to grow than trying to do it all internally.
Stop fooling around with that charcoal that is supposed to light without starter fluid, and give yourself the “Kingsford edge” in business.
Mark Zweig is the founder of two Fayetteville-based Inc. 500/5000 companies. He is also entrepreneur-in-residence teaching entrepreneurship in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, and group chair for the Northwest Arkansas chapter of Vistage International. The opinions expressed are those of the author.