In last week’s blog I looked at small business growth, digging down into how to go about it, what to look out for and what to put in place in order to make it all work. The subject matter must have struck a chord with many of my readers because there was a lot of response to that particular piece, including plenty of questions and discussion. It seems like there’s more than a few business owners out there who see the prospect of growth as something inspiring and exciting. I really love it when I see people getting fired up about their business. I believe that business should be exciting, after all.
However, it could be argued that I got the cart in front of the horse. Again. I took off like a rocket talking about the ‘how’, yet a good number of the enquiries I received in response were more focused on the ‘why?’. Fair enough. One of the things I really love about blogging every week is that now I get to have a go at addressing this aspect of growth, too.
Right up front, the ‘how’ aspect of growth is quite mechanical. Or if you like, it’s a recipe. So if we’ve already discussed some of the ways to go about baking a cake, now let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you’d want a cake in the first place. Good thing I’m writing this blog after dinner!
To continue rolling out the metaphors for a moment, I suppose that the ‘why’ of growing a small business is a bit like asking yourself why you’d want to start regularly going to the gym. Sure, your aim might be getting fitter or building up some muscle bulk, but I’ll bet that along the way you’ll discover other benefits, learn some things about yourself and possibly even surprise yourself with some of the things you find you can do. The only way to realise potential, after all, is to work towards it. If you like you can insert the old cliché about ‘it’s not the destination, it’s the journey’ around about here. Yes I know, it’s been rolled out a lot, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
To tackle business growth in a relatively simplistic fashion we can break it down into two categories – ‘what you will learn and what you will earn’;
Of course I can’t tell you exactly what you’re going to learn from setting about growing your business because we are all different, and so are the businesses that we run. But broadly I can bet that by striving to grow your business you will learn both perseverance and confidence. The perseverance part is simple – if you don’t give up the first time things go shit shaped – and they will go shit shaped now and then – you’ll learn perseverance. The great inventor Thomas Edison was a big believer in perseverance. One of my favourite Edison quotes is ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work’. Without that kind of attitude, the light bulb may never have been invented. Think about it – the light bulb. The very icon we use to represent ideas! Through perseverance we learn about ourselves and gain insight into what works and what doesn’t, and the result is growing confidence. One leads to another. Grow your business, grow as a person.
Last week I mentioned that growth without profitability is less than ideal. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not into seeing small business owners simply rolling around in a big bathtub of cash - or a big bathtub of anything, for that matter - I’m more interested in what can be achieved with those extra funds.
If you can see past the fact that growth will be hard work, perhaps the goal to focus on is even a step beyond the extra funds that growth will earn you. Perhaps the goal that will inspire you is what can be achieved with these extra funds. Would you like to develop a new innovation or service? Broaden your product range? If you’ve wondered how you’ll fund the goals you have in mind, perhaps growth is the step that will provide the money that will allow you to turn your dreams into realities. My apologies if that sounded like an ad for a bank…
The fun side
The world of business constantly moves forward. A business colleague once told me that if you’re not growing, you’re dying. Sounds a bit grim, but I suspect there’s a grain of truth in there.
While there are undeniably confronting realities and hard work involved with growing a business, I like to look at the enjoyable side of things. Like what it does for staff morale. Turning up to work for more of the same-old-same-old can become a bit mundane, but having your people onboard and part of a planned, progressive push for growth is infectious and exciting. When people get the idea that they’re not treading water, but rather helping propel a business forward in ways that are undeniable and visible, a real buzz grows in the workplace. And it doesn’t end there. When clients catch on to what you’re doing it can do great things for their attitude, too. When you have healthy client relationships and your clients see your business striving to grow, it does wonders for their confidence in you. After all, would you rather do business with a company that’s the same year in and year out, or one that has big plans and a progressive nature? Of course you’ll choose the business that’s taking the next step and striving to better itself.
The grumpy arses
There will always be knockers who tell you that you shouldn’t try, that growth is a risk and that you’ll fail. Yes, growth is a risk and yes, there are steps you will undertake that you might stuff up the first time you try. But that takes us back to the importance of planning, something that I mention time and again. If you start with a plan for growth, you’ll have everything broken down into manageable blocks so that rather than biting off more than you can chew and choking on it, the worst you can do is make a mess of one step.
If you find yourself considering business growth but repeatedly coming up with excuses not to give it a go, maybe what you need to do is spend a bit more time pondering the ‘why’. Finding clear reasons – reasons that are right for you to grow - is the first and most important step in undertaking the process. Until you can clearly identify these reasons and motivations, you’re going to be like a smoker who says that he can’t quit because quitting is too hard. If quitting was easy, no-one would keep smoking. If growing a small business was a walk in the park, stories of business growth would be commonplace. You have to want it enough to work for it.
Growing is anything but easy, it’s a real challenge. So are many worthwhile endeavours. But it’s also enjoyable and very rewarding. So have a good think about it, because when it all comes down to it you have a choice. You can spend another year of ‘business as usual’, or you can ponder growth, plan for it, take a deep breath and step forward into a new adventure. As for me, I like to think that in business as in life, fortune favours the brave.