Here it is, the secret to a great growth strategy is...having one! Ok, I know that's obvious and you're probably thinking I'm wasting your time but please bear with me a moment. No one would disagree with the importance of having a plan or "strategy" for growing a company but the fact is that I've found most strategies miss the mark. They are too often vague, conceptual, or idealistic rather than practical. Of course businesses need to remain agile and resist getting bogged down in planning and processes, but building a growth strategy doesn’t need to be difficult or time consuming, in fact it is quite straight-forward and will save you time and money down the road. So let's look at what you need to create a great growth strategy - it comes down to design and implementation.
Growth is like the next step after starting your business, it requires a business plan. But unlike the business plan of a start-up that is mostly about the product/service idea and how to commercialise it, a growth plan needs to be more comprehensive, defining the structure and operations of the business, how work flows from sale to delivery, and how people and performance are managed. There are many things to consider, but they broadly break down into how things will be designed to work and how you're going to make them actually work.
Designing your growing business
Design is often marginalised in growth planning as business leaders think they’ve already perfected the company’s products/services and sales process…but this is like saying “I like my house, let’s build a bigger one without an architectural design”. Growing a company is like building a new house and it requires careful design and planning in order to achieve the end goal. While plans may change, you need to have a design that you’re working towards and make changes along the way. To grow a business you need:
Vision – what is it that we are trying to achieve? What is the long-term goal?
Business modelling – how are we going to meet the supply and demand of the market?
Strategy – what do we need to do in order to achieve our business model?
Operations – how does the business need to be organised to deliver on the business model?
Structure – who needs to do what in order to make everything work?
Workflow – what is the process from sales to delivery to deliver on the vision?
Implementing the design
Having a detailed design is extremely valuable, but its’ nothing more than some ideas on paper. Translating that design into reality is the real challenge as it involves taking your plans and getting others to implement them…drawing on the earlier analogy, it’s like getting your contractors to follow the architect’s plans. While this is simple in principle, the reality is very different. Translating your growth plan requires:
Engagement – how do we get everyone to do the right things?
Culture – what is the new way of working?
Change management – how do we implement the new way of working?
Talent – who do we need to make this happen?
Leadership – how do we inspire and motivate our staff?
Growing your business isn’t simply about expanding what you’re already doing. Having a strong foothold in one market doesn’t guarantee success in another. Growth means expanding to new markets and taking on new competitors. Having a great product/service is not enough, you need to design and implement a strategy that enables you to expand into new markets and take on new competitors. Designing and implementing a robust growth strategy mitigates your risks and enables you to grow the potential of your business.
About the author: Andrew is managing director of ONYX consulting and is based in the USA. You can follow him on LinkedIn here
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