What it Takes to Grow a Company: Key Activities for Achieving the Next Level

Written by Carol Coughlin. Posted in Business Leadership, Financial Strategy

For companies currently on a growth trajectory, and those intending to make growth a priority this year, carefully planning your activities is not only important, but an imperative.

In fact, companies that neglect to identify exactly where to focus their energy for meaningful results often find themselves taking actions that put them in hot water, rather than on a wave of growth, rising to new heights.

Here are just a handful of the most important activities companies need to focus on in order to achieve the next level of growth:

Understand Your Value Proposition: Your company’s value proposition is its most important asset and taking the time to thoroughly understand and articulate your secret sauce is key when preparing to grow. After all, if you don’t have a clue about what makes your business valuable today, it’s very difficult to replicate and build on that value tomorrow. Also, in this time of disruption in many industries by technological solutions, it’s a good idea to revisit your value proposition to ensure it is still accurate.

Initiate Innovation: And speaking of disruption … many industries are currently experiencing it – and with the digital revolution well on its way, increasing your ability to adapt to change must be made a priority. Companies that invest in figuring out the impact of change and how to innovate in response have a better chance of staying ahead of the curve – and even becoming the marketplace disruptor. We know that companies that use innovation to develop new markets, outperform competitors and enhance their customer experience are generally better at responding to change, opportunity and challenge already and, therefore, have an edge when it comes to continued growth.

Put the Right People in the Right Places: Making a significant leap in the growth of a company often requires revisiting your talent pool to ensure you have the right resources for the next level of growth. Staffing changes can be painful, though they are often necessary for growth, so be objective. There may be circumstances where you have to, or want to, keep people who are ineffective in their current roles, but where another role is available and more appropriate. When it comes to hiring new talent, keep in mind that a stellar staff is a big growth driver. So rather than under-hiring for skills your company will quickly outgrow, hire with an eye toward the future.

Say No to Non-Essentials: Companies that spend money on business expenses they don’t really need to grow, but which can look like growth (such as expanding office space), are scaling prematurely and are more likely to fail in their growth attempt. If you don’t need it to achieve growth, you don’t need it. Period. When you do need to invest in essential growth-related expenses only go as far as you absolutely must. We believe that prudence is the secret to profit that no one talks about – so make sure you make it a topic of discussion at your company.

Strengthen Accounting: A growing company needs to project cash needs and understand growth dynamics to plan for future financing. Unfortunately, many companies undervalue the importance of creating the appropriate financial support until the CEO realizes they lack adequate information for decision-making. Therefore, make shoring up your financial function one of the priority activities within your growth plan to ensure you receive accurate data on profitability, as well as on the efficiency drivers that your plan indicates are key to success.

Examine Operations: How a company operates often determines whether or not it can bear the weight of growth or if it will crumble under it. For example, companies that commit to establishing repeatable processes have a higher likelihood of success because operations built on exceptions are not scalable and scalability is a growth driver. Also keep in mind that lean, efficient processes need to be function-based, not person-based. Efficient processes employ the least number of hands possible, as well as clearly document processes so that any employee can understand how things work. While smaller companies can sometimes get away with a weak operational foundation, those with serious growth plans simply can’t afford to neglect making the achievement of operational efficiency a key activity.

Attend to Your Advisory Board: Having an advisory board can be your secret weapon for success. Yet many CEOs are not receiving as much value from their advisory boards as they should – or could – and it’s absolutely critical to ensure you are if growth is your goal. Fortunately, there are small adjustments you can make in how you approach building and managing your advisory board that can draw out even more value in support of growth. Make sure to read our recent article, How to Get More Value from Your Advisory Board for the key activities that will help you attain even more growth support from your board.

While achieving the next level of growth requires many activities, you can see from the list above that the most critical actions you can take toward growth typically fall into one of two categories:

  1. Activities that are Foundation Focused: Those that ensure your company has a strong foundation from which to grow (e.g. strong operational, human resources and financial foundation).
  2. Activities that are Future Focused: Those that ensure you have the firepower to break new ground (e.g. strong talent, focus on innovation, building on your secret sauce, accessing the right support).

If you limit your activities to those that fit within one of these two areas, you’ll be much more likely to expend energy in the right places – in those areas that will most support your company’s forward motion and help you achieve your growth goals faster.

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Carol Coughlin

Carol Coughlin founded BottomLine Growth Strategies, Inc., in 2006 as a way for small and medium-sized businesses to access the same high-level financial and operational expertise that gives large companies a distinct advantage. Using her own extensive corporate experience and willingness to sit in the hot seat as a catalyst, Carol helps BottomLine Growth clients climb to the summit of their success.
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