5 Signs You Excel at Strategizing for Strong Business Growth

5 Signs You Excel at Strategizing for Strong Business Growth

Strong business growth strategists come up with plans that brilliantly balance the rate and direction of a company’s growth. Best of all, they use an approach uniquely suited to their organization and its resources, both present and potential. Does this sound like your strategy style? If so, you’re probably leveraging five essential skills to position your company for sustainable business growth.

We’ll go through that list of five skills in just a moment.

But first, let’s take a quick look at the parameters of growth that shape any successful strategy.

Three Parameters of Growth

Balancing all three key dimensions of growth are vital to the success of any growth strategy:

  • Rate of growth: Like most CEOs, you’d probably like to see your business grow quickly. But not all growth rates are created equal, at least not for every company. Your organization’s best rate of growth will be the pace you can maintain without harm to your company, its culture, or its processes.
  • Direction of growth: Strategizing for direction—growing in scale, scope, or diversification—requires clarity on two elements: the company’s core customers and its position in the marketplace. With my coaching clients, we do an exercise that helps define their ideal customer, enabling them to serve that customer better in the future and attract more of their business. Then we do a market map to understand where the business sits in the marketplace. As a result, their direction of growth should move them away from competing head-to-head with competitors and toward being unique in the market. A strategy with that focus delivers faster growth and better margins.
  • Method of growth: How your company grows will be shaped by your previous decisions on growth rate and direction. For instance, if you need a slow growth rate to maintain your valuable brand equity and company culture, then your strategy may call for organic growth. On the other hand, if you decide you’re ready to grow quickly by diversifying horizontally, acquisitions may be part of your strategy. In either case, having a robust strategy around cash is crucial. Cash is the fuel that allows you to grow. I encourage all of my clients to create a 3-year rolling forecast for the business rather than the typical 12-month cash flow forecast. This shows which areas of the business require more funding to grow. It also acts as an early warning system so you can proactively get alternative finance sources in place before you need them.

By optimizing all three growth parameters, leaders like you can develop brilliant strategies by deploying five vital skills, as I mentioned earlier.

Let’s explore those skills now.

Five Skills of a Great Business Growth Strategist

Skill #1: Grasping current internal and external reality for your company

As Harvard business professor Gary Pisano wrote, “The basic question that companies must address is: In which markets do our capabilities and other unique resources (such as brand, customer relationships, reputation, and so on) provide us with a competitive advantage?” (Emphasis mine.) Notice the focus on organizational awareness. Growth for your company will look different than that for another—even in the same industry, even at the same point in time—because no two companies have identical capacities, resources, and goals.

You may excel at growth strategy if you have such a sensitive finger on the pulse of your company that you can precisely identify the strengths and weaknesses that will influence forward momentum. Like a doctor monitoring a patient’s heart rate, you know just how hard the company can push in any given area.

At the same time, as a skilled strategist you keep an eye on the external landscape. You analyze data from marketing, product development, competitor activity, and customer feedback. Then you combine that input with your knowledge of the company’s capabilities.

The result? A workable strategy for optimum growth, navigating both external and internal factors to improve the company’s growth trajectory.

Skill #2: Recognizing trade-offs of various growth methods

All growth methods carry a degree of risk. A wise CEO assesses a particular method’s inherent risk based on the stakes—what could be gained or lost by making that move—and on the standing of a company—the capabilities and resources of the organization that will power the most forward momentum.

As an example, look at how two different businesses need two different methods of growth.

Company A has strong marketing, healthy brand equity, and a foothold in a largely untapped market. But it lacks the investment that would power new product development. For Company A, then, increasing its market penetration could be an ideal strategy. On the other hand, for Company B, where they already incentivize innovation and collaboration while performing robust analysis of customer and competitor behaviors, product development may be the perfect method of growth.

A CEO with this skill, then, would recognize there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach. If you excel here, you tailor your plan to the contours and capabilities of your organization. You embrace the reality that a method that’s risky for someone else’s firm may be an acceptable challenge for yours. And you factor in the risks inherent in the present economic environment, whether that’s a downturn or a boom.

Skill #3: Approaching change proactively

While correct assessment of an organization’s current capabilities is part of formulating a successful growth strategy, CEOs intent on growth aren’t content with the status quo. Instead, with an eye to expanding options for growth in the future, they propose ways to augment the resources that presently limit growth.

To foster a positive-growth culture, I’ve found forecasting is more powerful than setting a fixed 12-month budget. Forecasting empowers your leadership team to put resources behind the departments or product lines that are growing the fastest and are most likely to fuel future growth. The fixed budget, by contrast, rewards non-strategic spending on the part of leaders who fear losing that funding next year.

If you’re a leader who approaches change proactively, you promote investing in factors that remove barriers to growth. These factors might include expanded training, improved processes and systems, technological innovation, and strengthened organizational culture. Make such investments part of the growth strategy and eliminate bottlenecks that constrain potential growth.

In other words, design the architecture of tomorrow’s growth today.

Skill #4: Commitment to sustainable growth

We’ve all felt the impulse to seize an opportunity and patch up problems later. But a strategy causing hasty bursts of growth can cause irreparable long-term damage to a company’s culture and reputation. Sustainable growth relies on leadership placing a high value on human capital as its foundation. No strategy can make up for a lack of people with the right talent, quality, and mindset to successfully (and willingly) carry it out.

One of the most important moves you can make as a growth-focused CEO is to surround yourself with a cohesive team of true A-Players. Build a leadership team that consistently lives the core values of your company and hits KPI-driven business growth goals.

Compound this strength in human capital by staying true to the factors that have made your particular business successful. Strategize to preserve the company’s competitive advantage, whether that’s innovation, stellar customer service, agility, management style, or a unique culture. Any fast-acting strategy that undermines your strong points can easily degrade workforce morale and/or customer experience. And that can be devastating. Once again, it’s the human factor that makes a strategy either flare and fizzle out or fuel a steady fire of growth.

Skill #5: Communication

Finally, a strong business growth strategist will be a skilled communicator. What good is a brilliant strategy if it isn’t convincingly marketed to the leadership, the workforce, and other stakeholders? Compelling communication is essential to inspiring active engagement with the plan.

On a very practical level, I recommend instituting daily five-minute morning huddles and weekly leadership team meetings (one-hour maximum) to keep everyone aligned and focused on what is important to achieving consistent business growth.

Here are the hard facts: Business growth requires change. Most people resist change.

That’s why you’ll need your communication skills to persuade the key players to believe in the plan so much that they will push on through that change to achieve growth.

Why Your Growth Strategy Skills Matter to Your Business—and You

A growing company sees many benefits, from increased revenue, sales, and profits to greater access to quality talent. Growth communicates competitive health and fitness, boosting a company’s valuation. Growth may come with an expanded customer base, increased market share, and perhaps even broadened geographic presence.

At the same time, as I tell my CEO coaching clients, a strong, growing business and a happy life are not mutually exclusive.

If you are the kind of skilled growth strategist I’ve described, you recognize the value of surrounding yourself with the right team as part of your long-term strategy.  I can’t emphasize this enough: a team of A-Players is the number one driver of sustained business growth for small- to medium-sized companies. (It also frees you to value the human capital you represent and take care of yourself, too.)

So lead your team in leveraging the five skills above, serving as both lookout and architect, always watching and preparing for new growth opportunities.

Want to grow your team so you can also grow your business? Click here for more information about CEO & Leadership Team coaching.

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