Growth is the holy grail of business. It’s perhaps the most undeniable proof that your business is alive and kicking. Not surprisingly, it’s what the business leadership is perpetually fascinated with (and often loses sleep over). Library racks spill with reams of written matter on the subject. Seminars and workshops are hosted around it. New breakthroughs keep re-inventing the principles that define it. MBA graduates spend hours deliberating it over coffee and croissants. And stakeholders keep baying for more and more of it.
It is common belief that all you need is a killer strategy to kill the growth game. A crackerjack super-pill that makes your business grow and grow and grow on jet-fuel auto-pilot (till you say “That’s enough!”). Interesting thought. Irresistible, actually, and if you are a business owner or marketing person, you’d probably give half your empire (and the princess to boot) for the Hercules who would cross the seven seas and brave fire-breathing dragons to bring you back that golden fleece. Wouldn’t you?
Let’s explore the elephant in the conference room, then. Does that kind of a growth strategy exist at all?
To answer that, we’ll have to let go of our strategy fixation in the first place. Step back a little. And take a more holistic picture of business as we know it.
While nobody will actually hold your hand and tell you exactly how to make your baby grow, battle hardened entrepreneurs, dyed-in-the-wood marketers and members of the academia all have stories to tell. Experiences to recount. Lessons to share.
And here’s what they insist on when it comes to unlocking business growth.
Seek to create the ultimate cocktail.
Most successful entrepreneurs will tell you that your growth curve tends to mysterious fly when certain ‘things fall in place together’. Here’s what that means. Every business has a strong point. Let’s say yours is a great product. On the lines of the ‘favourite son/daughter’ theory, that’s where the business will start to focus on more and more (if you are not careful, that is). At the cost of – yes, you guessed it – pretty much everything else. This ‘blind spot’ for the other, equally vital, areas of the business – such as, say, customer service, compliance or innovation – is amongst the most treacherous hidden dangers of business planning. It makes things lopsided. Moral? Whether it’s your team & culture, your infrastructure or your go-to-market road map, it’s vital to make sure each flows into the other naturally. When it all fits, you’ll hear a sweet, sweet ‘click’. And you’ll know you’ve got it. The heady cocktail of harmony. That experts call synergy.
Wait for the ultimate moment.
There’s a time to move forward, there’s a time to let go. Every (yes, that means yours, too) business sweet spot is tucked away somewhere, or something, in between. If you have a great R&D team and a sharp market research team, you can mine the combined insights of the two to make sense of the business climate, your competitor’s position, your customer’s mood, what the next big thing could be (one’s never entirely certain, of course), and when to unleash it upon an unsuspecting market. Conversely, you must know when your audience has ‘moved on’, and be quick to do the same (Sell your brand to a bigger player, re-inventor, well, wind-up). Either way, the moment – and the opportunity it brings – won’t last long. And chances are, you’ll take practice (a couple of hits and misses, initially) to get a sense and feel of it. But once you do meet demand with supply at just the right nick (at just the right place to just the right people), you’ll need to take a few steps back quickly and guard your face. Because the resulting explosion is bound to send out more than a few shrapnels. You’ve heard all of this before, of course: No, not location, location, location – in business, timing, timing, timing is everything.
Resistance to what? Well, practically everything. Resist the urge to take research at face value, no matter how many top experts have been burning the midnight oil to make it see the light of day. Resist the impulse to embrace every new technology the moment it hits the tarmac. Resist the itch, above all, to fall for the inner voice that keeps saying, “You beauty, you rock”. In other words, learn to say “No!”. Yes, to the outside world, but much more critically, to yourself. Test your concept a hundred times. Take the help of big data analytics if you have to. Get drunk and ask a friend to interview you about your business intent and intentions (and record your rant on mobile, so that you can hear what you really think about your Big Idea when it’s your heart – and not your head – that’s doing the talking!). Trust your butterflies. Have faith in your hunch. Resisting is cathartic. If frees you up from the primal compulsion of having to comply. It unshackles you from the fear of failure (after all, by saying ‘No’ to a specific notion of success, you’ve already accepted defeat, and have nothing more to lose). It gives you the power to get back in charge. Who’s that guy who said, “Every time we say NO to something that is not important, we are saying YES to something that is”? That guy is a genius. Because that ‘something’ here is something no growth-centric business plan can be built without : Clarity.
Combine the three, and you’ll arrive at something more powerful than the ultimate growth strategy. The ultimate growth opportunity.
Sorry pal, the ultimate business growth strategy doesn’t exist, if by that you mean a PowerPoint loaded with bullets. Because just like life, businesses don’t come with a magic manual. Just like each one of us, each business is unique. And needs to find its own perfect destiny.
Heck, chances are, the ultimate growth strategy isn’t even a strategy. Chances are, it’s just a combination of cosmic factors that works at a certain time, around a certain idea, for a certain audience. For the hero who’s been persistent enough to follow his or her passion.
It’s so much better this way. It’s more fun. The reason why the best businessmen and women get into the game in the first place.
Finally, if someone did know what the ultimate strategy for business growth is, do you really think they’d share it with you?