As we move into the final month of 2012, I wanted to challenge you with some thoughts around growth. There are a lot of misconceptions around growth in general. For the most part, growth is a good thing, as long as it is planned, controlled and done well. But growth can also lead to collapse and disaster if not done well.
That is most true when the supporting structure and team is not prepared for growth. When the fundamentals of an organization, or the people who are to step up and lead it are not prepared - well growth can be the straw that breaks the camel's back. You have to make the right investments in getting the company focused on the right things, and invest in the skillset of the leadership team, to assure that what looks great on the surface doesn't become the very thing that causes the entire organization to crumble under the weight of growth.
Here are a few thoughts about this whole topic called growth. Take a read and see if any of them resemble you……
1. If You're Not Growing, Something's Wrong
The age old adage says “if you're not growing - you're declining”. I find for the most part, that is often the case. But sometimes not growing is done by choice. It is the strategy and there are some very good reasons that may be the plan.
There are times when running a business or organization becomes a lifestyle - and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that as a motive and choice. The key is that it truly is a choice, not just a result of being unwilling or unable to grow. Having a company that generates a good living is a great outcome.
Other times, growth is not the strategy because of the mission. That is the case with HTG for example. We had a mission to create an organization with enough mass to be very relevant in the industry, but it has never been our desire to go out and recruit all the members we could, or secure all the vendors we could to sponsor us.
We could easily get more of the second - they are waiting in line to sign up to support us - but our mission is not about money. It is about putting the best companies together that are bought into our go-giver culture and a desire to help one another grow and achieve the goals and dreams of each company. Vendors are along to help support the mission, not pad our pockets.
We aren't on a course to just grow for growth sake in terms of numbers. We are absolutely on a course to help members grow deep and become more successful. We are completely focused on reaching more of the teammates at each member company and penetrating our culture throughout the entire member organizations. That is growth, but a different measure.
2. The More You Grow, the Healthier You Are
It certainly feels good to have a bigger crowd. There is some built in buzz with more folks around. But it has absolutely no correlation to health. In fact, the bigger you get the harder it is to remain organizationally healthy. Communication - one of the core pillars to health - is much more difficult with many than with a few.
Growth can be healthy, and it can be a very good thing - it's just not an automatic for organizational health. Large numbers are no more an indicator of health than great wealth is an automatic indicator of wisdom. Health deals more with what's going on below the surface. Growth tells us something's going on, but whether it's good or bad, that's another issue.
3. Becoming an MSP Will Save Your Company
Chasing growth in a new area often seems like the answer. It can help at times - depending on your market and what you want your company to become, but it is certainly not a guarantee. The marketplace, not the latest trade publication or industry event, has to determine how you serve your clients. We sometimes chase things that are working elsewhere and just assume that since it worked for them, it will work for us.
I can assure from experience that is not the case. We need to do the research and create the plan that fits our clients and market. It very well may be about becoming a managed service provider. But some of the most successful and profitable companies I know today are not doing that in the IT SMB space. They are continuing to make their money selling product, providing T&M services, delivering niche solutions - all things that the industry would say are obsolete and no longer valid. But I know better - they are working well for some.
4. Growth Can Be Manufactured
At a certain level this is true. We can force growth through M&A or in other ways. We can add people, add clients, add vendors, and do a lot of things to make growth happen on the surface. But true growth happens deep within an organization. True growth is about your team.
When we only focus on the visible, we will create growth that will not last. We have to be sure we are growing the people that will be required to sustain whatever growth we drive on the surface, or it will fade quickly over time. Growth at a healthy level is about investing in the team that will drive it for the long term, not just acquiring more of the parts and pieces.
5. If Your Company Grows, It is Because of Your Leadership
While we like to take credit when things are going well, it may not really be ours to take. Growth does require strong leadership. Certainly sustained and long term growth is about having a great vision and leadership to carry that out. But sometimes growth happens due to chance and luck. Sometimes growth happens from a strong team, not because of the people at the top.
The way growth happens best is when the leadership knows it isn't about them, but rather the people around them, and together they all make it happen. Individuals can't produce sustained growth. It takes a team. And if company growth is happening because the people leading the charge understand that - well then it is because of leadership!
6. If Your Company Doesn't Grow, It's a Problem with the Leadership
Everyone loves to point fingers and blame leadership for all problems. But when it comes to growth, it is definitely the case. There can often be a direct link between a lack of growth and the people driving the bus. In many companies, this is the reality. The leadership is not effective at casting vision, leading the team, and identifying opportunities for growth.
But before we rush to judgment we need to be sure that we understand what the goals are. Growth may not be nearly as important to the leadership as it is to us looking in from the outside. Or even to those who are part of the team on the inside. It is a problem when the leadership has not clearly communicated what the growth strategy is. That falls squarely on the shoulders of the leadership.
7. The More Stuff You Sell, the More Your Company Will Grow
Growth really has little to do with what you sell. It is all about how you sell what you sell and deliver the value that is the result of that sale. More is not an indicator that growth will follow. It has no connection at all. Very successful companies are able to have that success selling only a few things very well. Look at Apple. They do it all day every day.
The secret is to get very good at whatever it is you sell. People want to buy from companies that deliver value. That is the key to growth.
8. If You Build It, They Will Come
They might, but it's not a guarantee. We sometimes buy into the lie that moving to a new office, or hiring some new people, or making that acquisition, or buying that customer list is all it takes to grow. Those may be positive steps toward growth. But they certainly are no guarantee. The secret is to have a plan. Know how building anything fits into the plan. Be strategic about how you invest.
So there you have it. Some ideas and thoughts about how growth may fit into your future. It can be an awesome experience. Or it can be an absolute disaster. The place to begin is to sit down and ask yourself some difficult questions. Do I really want to grow? Am I willing to make the investments needed? Will I invest in creating leaders on my team to lead growth? Am I willing to grow myself so “the lid principle” (that we can't lead beyond our own ability) does not become the blocker?
After you have the conversation with yourself, you can create a strategy and plan for how to grow. Then it comes down to casting the vision to those who will be coming along for the journey, and leading them well. Growth can be a lot of fun, but it is always a lot of work. It creates plenty of excitement up front, but quickly becomes overwhelming if not appropriately staffed and funded. Enjoy the journey - but realize it only is enjoyable if you do the work up front to make it that way!