In Growth & Profit

“All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.” – Ellen Glasgow

Almost every time we get involved with a company, one of the primary stated reasons is a desire for growth.  We hear “We want to grow”, “We need to grow”, “If we don’t grow we won’t survive”, and any number of variations of those.  And most of the time I wouldn’t argue with a leader who says those things.  Most passionate leaders want to grow their organization.  Most organizations need growth, whether it be to keep up with growing customers, to fund internal initiatives that help make your vision reality, etc.  In many cases, organizations do find themselves in a position where without growth survival seems shaky at best.

However, sometimes growth becomes too much Ready-Fire-Aim.  “We are growing” becomes code for “we’re really busy”, but not all that busyness is effective.  Before you rush off to grow, think about two things:

First, understand your WHERE.  We talk a lot with clients about NOW-WHERE-HOW.  Most people now where they are NOW, and they have ideas for HOW they can grow (be busy), but they don’t know WHERE they’re going.  You have to know what you’re really trying to accomplish or you’ll just run in a hundred different directions at once, never really going anywhere.  Remember, “If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.”

The second thing is the one people forget.  How would you answer the following question:  Is our machine ready?  I had an interesting conversation with a banker this week who is fired up for growth, and who sees a lot of potential in their marketplace.  But before they start down the growth road, he and his bank are methodically evaluating everything they do, to make sure they are as efficient and effective as possible.  Why try and push more business through in incapable system?  All you’ll get is frustration.  Before you focus on growth, get your machine ready.  Have you done everything you can to eliminate waste?  Do you understand exactly what you do?  And just as importantly, what you don’t do?  If you can’t answer yes to those questions (and truthfully, very few leaders can) then you better pull back on the reins – you’re not ready.

Growth can be a fantastic thing for any organization.  It’s exciting for staff, it creates opportunities, and hopefully it’s profitable.  But bad growth can do just the opposite of all those things.  It’s very frustrating for staff to hear the leaders talk about growth when everybody knows they’re not ready for it.  It can cause problems to surface that you didn’t know you had.  And in the end, profits won’t be what you thought they’d be.  Make sure you’re ready.  When you are, growth can be everything you’d ever hoped for.


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