“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” – Sun Tzu
A recent Mindshop survey asked business leaders around the world to pick what they thought was a likely theme for their organization in 2014. The most common response was “Growth”. Based on conversations with our own clients, I think that’s a fair answer. After a few years of (in some cases extreme) caution, people want growth again.
Unfortunately, when asked how they’re going to grow, too many leaders don’t really have an answer. Most of the answers are some variation of “We’ll grow by doing better.” But what does that mean? And don’t ask them “how much” growth either. That’s probably even less defined. The reality is if you don’t have a plan for growth and you don’t have a goal, chances are you won’t have success either.
Let’s start with the plan. In fact, let’s start before the plan. Are you even ready for growth? By ready, I don’t mean that you want to grow. I mean are you able to grow. By able I mean do you have the people & processes in place to handle more business than you’re currently doing? Do you have the leadership capabilities? If you don’t have those kinds of things or if they aren’t functioning at a very high level, growth is the last thing you want. Why push more business through an incapable system?
But let’s say you’ve fixed that. You’re efficient, you have a clear vision, etc. So how will you grow? Where are your opportunities? Are they in your existing markets? Or do you have to look elsewhere? Are your growth opportunities with your existing products? Or will it take some kind of innovation to make it happen? Do you even understand your industry & marketplace well enough to answer those questions? Time & energy are our most precious resources, and you’re going to waste a lot of both if you don’t take time to think through your growth plan.
If you do understand the market, then ask yourself – what is a realistic yet challenging growth goal for 2014? Don’t just say, “We want to grow as much as possible” – how do you know when you’ve done that? Besides, without specific targets it’s too easy to relax (be lazy) and convince yourself that you’ve done the best you can and this is all the growth that’s possible. If your goal is 20% growth you’re going to behave far differently than if your goal is 2%. Figure out what you want and then state it publicly – nothing provides accountability like peer pressure.
Healthy growth requires strategy. You can’t just “work harder”. Take time to think it through. Think about your vision for your organization and what kind of growth that requires. And then spend 2014 making it happen.