How grown up is your business?
How grown up is your business. An intriguing question, isn’t it? Does it mean; how old is your business?, how many people you employ?, how much profit you make?, how big are your offices? Or does it mean what growth stage you’re at on your pathway to growth?
We normally associate being grown up as the rite of passage to adulthood but even that comes with some ambiguity. A survey by Beagle Street reported that a significant number of people do not actually feel ‘grown up’ until they’re 29, a whole 11 years after legally becoming an adult.
Their research suggests significant life events (first home, becoming a parent, getting married, paying into a pension) actually trigger the ‘grown up’ status and up until that point, regardless of actual age, many people may still perceive themselves as adolescents.
Asking this simple but profound question is equally important in the context of your business.
How grown up is my business?
To help me explain, let’s say your New Year’s goal is to run a marathon. A great goal to aim for. Your starting question would be how far can I run today? how you answer this question will drive the training plan you put in place.
If you’re a non-runner your training plan for day 1 would probably include a number of small short runs with rest walks in between. It certainly wouldn’t extend beyond this simply because you’ve got to build up your stamina, physical strength and lung capacity. Starting day 1 of your training hoping to run miles like a seasoned pro is simply unrealistic. You know you’re going to have to build momentum, strength and energy over time.
Whereas if you ran a half-marathon last year, your training programme to run a marathon this year would be completely different. Whilst the end point – to run a marathon – may be the same, the starting points are completely different.
The same principle applies to business growth.
It comes down to knowing precisely what to focus on and what to stay far, far away from when trying to grow and scale your business.
If you knew the business growth stage you and your business are currently in and you knew the things you should be focusing on today to help you move forward, surely that would be a win, right?
Well here’s your win and it’s called The Business Growth Pathway™.
A super simple and easy way to help you determine which stage of the business growth journey you and your business are currently in, what you may be thinking, feeling and acting in a particular stage and more importantly what you should be prioritising and focusing on and equally as important…what you should be avoiding.
It still amazes me when, in the early stages of building their business, I can have conversations with clients which go something like this ‘Royston, a glossy magazine has contacted me and said I am the perfect fit for their audience. They have invited me to place a full-page ad for 6 months at a cost of £10,000, what do you think?’
Ignoring all the questions about audience reach, demographic profile, and even ROI at this point, I would simply ask ‘Is this going to immediately move the dials in your business or is it a shiny object distracting you?’
It’s a critical point to reinforce.
It not just about what activities and tasks you should be focused on at the specific stage of your growth journey. It’s knowing what NOT to get caught up in that is going to distract you and potentially burn valuable time and money.
The five stages of business growth
The Business Growth Pathway™ is split into 5 stages – Start Up, Infancy, Adolescence, The Groove and Maturity. Each stage has its own set of challenges or business behaviours that help you determine which stage you’re in, what you should be focusing on to achieve success in that stage and more importantly set yourself up for the next stage of your business growth journey.
Self-assessing which stage you and your business are currently will eliminate the unknown, give focus where it needs to be and help you master the priorities you need to complete in order to grow your business and answer the ultimate question, is my business built to grow?
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Is your business in Start Up (Stage One)?
The first and most obvious stage is Start Up. Obvious because it’s when you go from nothing to something, even if something is no more than you and your laptop.
You could be sick of working for someone else and decide to fire the boss and hire yourself! You want more life, more freedom, more choices and see owning and running your own business as the way to achieve this, to control your own destiny.
Whatever your reason, you embark on the journey of registering a business name, building a website, finding premises if you’re a traditional bricks and mortar business and dare I say it…acquiring your first customer. You know every day that goes by is a missed opportunity.
What you find out really quickly is that everything costs twice as much and takes three times as long as originally estimated (by the way this doesn’t just apply to the Start Up phase – it’s at every stage in the Built to Grow Business Growth Pathway™, so it’s a good lesson to learn early!).
You think you have all the bases covered and then you turn over another stone and there are 3 more things to think about; insurances, legal considerations, registering with the post office, sorting out broadband. All the basics need doing, and most of the time it’s just you doing it all.
This stage usually lasts between 3 to 9 months from your initial business idea and is the easiest stage to assess. You’re either in Start Up or you’re not, and you will know if you are in it.
Is your business in Infancy (Stage Two)?
The second stage in The Business Growth Pathway™ and where all businesses move into after the initial new biz Start-Up phase.
You’re focused on hitting the ground running.
Attracting and acquiring customers.
You understand the formula Sales – Costs = Profit/Loss. You learn this lesson really quickly because if your costs are higher than your sales, then you simply do not get paid at the end of the month.
You’re managing the business day to day. You might have drafted a business plan for the bank but it isn’t really a plan for growing your business.
You are the ping-pong ball. Bouncing around from one task to another, or fixing one crisis before another one pops up. You’re suddenly questioning what have you signed up for. But you are doing it for yourself now, so you’re prepared to roll up your sleeves, get in the trenches and do whatever it takes – working 10, 12, 14 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week.
Your creditability is at stake with your partner, family and friends. You told them you could do it and there’s no way you’re turning back now and losing face.
Plus, you have financial responsibilities; a mortgage, bills to pay and mouths to feed so it needs to start delivering results, and fast!
But the business is definitely driving you…NOT you driving the business!
You’ll know you’re in infancy if the business challenges you face today include:
- Customer concentration risk – high dependency on 1 or 2 customers
- Lack of a robust strategic plan – you’re on a short-term horizon with focus week by week, month by month
- Poor or no cash-flow
- Limited understanding of market potential and position within the market – it’s more of a spray and pray approach!
You’ve probably said things like:
- I want to professionalise my business but I don’t know how to
- We can’t continue like this if we want to grow into something bigger
- Something has got to change, but I’m not sure what it is or how to do it
And you may have experienced feelings of:
- Being completely and utterly overwhelmed, thinking of everything you should be doing
- Anxiousness as your to-do list gets bigger and you start second guessing what you should or should not be doing
- A feeling of inadequacy, questioning whether you can do this and are cut out for running a business – let alone growing it!
- Flashes of joy and excitement as you’re doing something you love, it’s your baby, but in the next breath the VUCA kicks in. Emotions and thoughts about Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity of all the moving parts of your business; emotions and thoughts, which could freak you out if you let them take hold.
Remember, Infancy is the first stage of real business growth so it is expected to feel all of these emotions plus more. You are the driving force so naturally everything will sit with you; strategic direction, sales, marketing, customers, finances, and day-to-day operations – you name it, it’s yours!
It can be tough to figure out where to start.
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Or maybe Adolescence (Stage Three)?
The switch to Adolescence happens when you realise that you cannot do it all yourself.
It’s the ‘building out’ phase. You’re strengthening the foundations and the core with new recruits, new systems, new processes, new strategies.
There is a conscious awareness and intent that you need to do things differently in order to achieve your growth aspirations.
You set up your business to create more life, more freedom, more choices…the reality is you have less life, less freedom and less choices, imprisoned and constrained in your own business, working for an insane, demanding, unrealistic boss…YOU!
To grow and scale your business you need people, you need systems and structure.
But to hire people you need to translate your own personal why into a compelling why for the business – a vision and a purpose.
You are starting to become conscious of the difference between being a technical expert and running a business and the need to become a Business LEADER.
This is the stage where your business can grow quickly, BUT it can easily and just as quickly backslide. Great if you can handle it and are prepared, terrible if you’re not ready.
You’ll know you’re in Adolescence if the business challenges you face today include:
- Customer concentration risk – high dependency on 2 – 5 key customer relationships
- The robustness of your strategic thinking is limited. You know you need to be thinking beyond the here and now, creating a plan, committing to black and white but not sure where to start
- You have inefficient operations. The engine room is just not pumping at the pace it needs to
- You know you need to scale your sales and business development activities to hit your goals – after all, sales is the lifeblood of the business
- As quick as you’re bringing in new customers, existing ones are leaving out the back door
- You’re hiring, firing and managing people without a defined people strategy
- You have no or limited business governance in place
- Your cash management strategy and in particular your debtor: creditor ratio is broken
You’ve probably said things like:
- I have growth ambitions but I don’t know how to make them viable
- We are growing but at what cost? We’ve got to get the basics right
- Time is ticking, we are not moving forward. In fact, some days I feel its one step forward and five steps back
And you may have experienced feelings of:
- Frustration and maybe even anger
- Self-doubt as you pinball from one mini crisis to the next
- Lack of confidence as carrying the strategic direction for your business in addition to the day-to-day operations takes its toll
- Fleeting moments of euphoria as you bring on new customers, building your confidence and building your personal resilience to keep going
Plus, you’ve probably started to:
- Search for the golden nugget. The answer to all your problems
- Question yourself; if others can do it, why can’t I?
- Compare yourself to the competition and questioning why they appear to be doing so well when it feels like you’re wading in treacle?
Adolescence is the double-edged sword. You’ve got the momentum of being a new business firmly behind you pushing you through the headwinds, but if one big storm comes it can easily throw you off course.
Don’t get derailed. Assess your business and receive your personalised report.
Have you hit The Groove (Stage Four)?
The Groove is all about harnessing the growth and scaling up. Ready to have some fun?
You’ve probably experienced the groove personally at some point in your life. The football match, the tennis game, or the run – you know that feeling when you’re just in the performance zone. You’re on it, it feels great and you feel like you could take on the world.
Or from a broader life perspective those weeks when you feel like you’re definitely in the driver’s seat, the groove of your life. You’re enjoying work, the balance is good. Work, relationships, family and personal life are all aligned for once.
The challenge, of course, is sustaining it.
And you can only start to sustain it by living life with deliberate, conscious intent as the architect of your own destiny and as the Leader of your business.
The Groove is a great place to be if you’ve set yourself up for success and started to recognise that there actually is a formula for growing your business. A recipe for accelerated sustained and profitable business growth.
If you’ve put those hard yards in during Infancy and Adolescence, you start reaping the rewards here. You’re definitely growing up as a business, you’re starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, and you can see the pathway to realising your original vision, and turning WHY you set the business up in the first place into reality.
But before I run away with myself, let’s not forget the growing pains which come with this stage.
Doubling your headcount quickly because you need people NOW.
Relocating to new premises because you’ve simply outgrown the old ones.
Burning cash reserves for fun as your overheads increase quicker than your revenue.
People not ‘on point’ so you feel your brand, vision and values are becoming diluted.
You simply cannot get your arms around the entire business like you used to. The expertise and skilled people you craved are now on the team – but you’re in danger of stifling them by wanting to be part of every decision that is made.
You’ll know you’re in The Groove if the business challenges you face today include:
- Having a detailed 3-year plan with budgets and forecasts…but are you disciplined in the discipline of disciplined execution and actually delivering the plan?
- Delivering double or even triple digit revenue growth, but, making less profit as you are investing heavily in infrastructure and resources to manage the growth agenda
- Some of your business processes and operations are not fit for purpose, they’re simply not scalable
- You have multiple strategies in play across the acquisition, maximisation and retention of your customers
- You’re starting to consider talent management and leadership capabilities across the wider organisation, not just the top team.
You’ve probably said things like:
- I’ve reached a point where I don’t know which BIG challenge to tackle first
- Talented staff are getting restless, questioning where the business is going and what we can offer them
- Are my leadership skills capable of doing this?
- Why aren’t we implementing our strategies more effectively?
And you may have experienced feelings of:
- ‘Heaviness’ and you don’t know why despite double or even triple growth.
- Worry because of the growing responsibility as you take on more people.
- Confusion because you know what your challenges are, but they are all so big, you’re not sure which one you should attack and deal with first.
Identifying the formula and, most importantly, the levers which you need to pull and press to drive growth is your saving grace in this stage. Yes, you’ll need to focus and hanker down to get the core strong, but when you do you can crank those dials up.
Start driving your business rather than it driving you. Grow your business to its full potential using The Business Growth Pathway™.
Are you moving into Maturity (Stage Five)?
Maturity. The Holy Grail in some people’s eyes but not without its own set of challenges and own pitfalls
When you’re top of the pile, a market leader, regarded as best in class, everyone wants to knock you off your perch. Old competitors are re-inventing themselves; new entrants to the market are fast, dynamic and disruptive. You were once the disruptor, the new kid on the playing field!
You were relevant, agile and resilient in The Groove. Managing a business in maturity, focused on sustaining the gain and defending market position, requires a new Leadership skill-set.
You start to question your edge and whether your relevance is waning. There is an apathy and complacency creeping in – where has the hunger, drive and dynamism of the growth business gone?
Are people still playing to win or are they playing not to lose?
You’re a bigger business than ever, but somehow it doesn’t seem to feel as resilient.
There is more in fighting and internal politics and layers of complexity; committees and multiple sign offs, are now required for the smallest things. Yes, the maturity stage definitely has its own set of challenges. Your business sometimes feels like an oil tanker and not the tug boat it once was.
Very few businesses truly carve out their rightful position with a claim to fame of hitting Maturity and kicking on from there to the dizzy heights of true greatness.
It is no accident that Jeff Bezos, even to this day refers to Amazon as being a day 1 business. It is an oil tanker in terms of size, but a tugboat in terms of its characteristics, mentality and daily behaviours driven by an insatiable thirst and passion of its founder to never lose its edge.
You’ll know you’re in Maturity if the business challenges you face today include:
- Loss of momentum and agility
- Dwindling and eroding market share
- Attrition of both customers and people is worryingly on an upward trend
- Relevance is talked about more than ever
- You are looking at what the competition are doing rather than them looking at what you’re doing
You’ve probably said things like:
- Am I playing to win or playing not to lose?
- It’s not like it used to be in the olden days
- How can we fight off the new entrants who have less baggage?
- What’s my exit strategy?
You may have experienced feelings of:
- Depleted enthusiasm or even boredom as you face the same challenges AGAIN
- Frustration as you face the same challenges AGAIN
- Anxiousness, as you’re unsure as to what the future holds for you personally
Maintenance, disciplined execution, and thinking like a day 1 business are key traits to possess in this stage. Sir Alex Ferguson resided over Manchester United for 26 years and during that time, even though the name above the door remained the same, he built five different teams. In those 26 years, he revisited the pathway several times, even hitting Adolescence again as he made his way towards ‘The Groove’.
Maturity shouldn’t be viewed as the final stage, but merely the stage whereby you maintain your relevance, and, if when doing so, you find cracks, these cracks will direct you back to The Groove simply because something in your core needs to be re-addressed.
The key here is to anchor your successes whilst keeping eyes open to new opportunities.
The Business Growth Pathway™ is simply about how you can get in the driver’s seat, create a clear vision of where you are headed, understand precisely where you are today and most importantly… how you can create, fast track your timeline, and navigate a pathway to bridge the gap and actually turn into reality your original dream of WHY you set up the business in the first place.
I passionately believe that if you understand and know precisely what stage you and your business are in, and can identify what you should be focusing on and what you should be staying away from, you will set yourself up with a business which truly is built to grow.
I can only share so much in a blog.
If you want to get right to the heart of your business and create a personalised data-led pathway that identifies where your business is today, and the accelerated route to get your business to where you want it to be sign up for your free trial today.