There are numerous opportunities for business leaders to create growth, but far too many mistakenly believe their sales are the one and only engine driving growth in their organization. Sales is an important part of a company's growth, but it is far from being the only driver — and it's one that takes time.
Opportunities for Company Growth
When it comes to growing your business it's important to always review every opportunity, because in some cases the fastest path may come from other tactics. These could be:
- Product development
- Product extension
- Product repurposing
- Marketing for awareness
- Marketing for inquiry
- Expanded markets
- Repurposed sales force
- New distribution channels
- New pricing
- New markets
- New ideas to uncover
Key Questions to Strategic Growth
When creating your growth plan, make sure you are very strategic in the vision of that plan. Without this strategic vision, you can become distracted and lose the focus you need to be successful. The best strategy will be built around answers to the following questions:
- What is the fastest way to grow a company?
- How do you grow a company if/when that industry is in decline?
- What is the most important step in expanding a product offering?
- When is margin more important than sales?
- When is revenue more important than profit?
The Assessment Process
All great plans are built on information — lots of information.
Sometimes leaders focus the assessment process on generating enough information to support the growth plan they already have in place, a plan built around assumptions. This is a trap! The assessment process needs to start without a plan in mind. Use this process to collect information. When enough is collected, a clear plan emerges — a plan based on solid business information and not personal hunches.
That is not to say that personal information is not necessary, but it works in conjunction with, not in place of, solid business facts. There are three pieces of information critical to the business assessment:
- Personnel or Business Related
- What brought you here?
- What is your background?
- How long have you been here?
- What is the history of the company?
- Where have you been before?
- Will you remain local or move?
- Why were you brought into this company (specific expertise)?
- Does it seem like a good place to work?
- What is the company's culture?
- General Business Model
- Tell me about the business
- Who are your key customers?
- What are your key markets?
- How is business going and why?
- How big is the company (revenue)?
- How many people are employed here?
- What are the margins (EBITDA)?
- What sets you apart (differentiators)?
- Who are your competitors?
- What are you good at?
- What would your customers say you are good at?
- What would your customers say you are bad at?
- What trends have developed over the last few years and more recently?
- Current Situation/Governance
- What is your long-term plan and are you on track with it?
- Is your current direction in line with the larger vision?
- What are your objectives for this year?
- What issues are you facing?
- Have initiatives been defined and, if so, what are they?
- What progress has been made on these initiatives?
- What would you isolate as the current need?
- What is your current leadership structure?
- Is the right leadership team in place?
- Where are the gaps/resources in your leadership? Who is strong and who is weak?
- How is your banking relationship? Have you tapped into a line of credit?
- What is your working capital?
Strategic vs. Tactical
The final question that many people ask about a growth plan is, "Should the growth plan be strategic or tactical in design?”
The correct answer is both.
A growth plan that is just strategic in design lacks accountability, while a growth plan that is solely tactical can lose focus and allow distractions from new opportunities that are uncovered.
Define, strategically, what your growth will look like and how/when you will get there, tactically. Keep the following principles in mind as you create your plan:
- Let the information guide you — not the opinions of anyone or everyone
- Show the connection between information and tactical opportunities
- Be able to explain the definition of a tactical opportunity
- Your plan is a means to an end — the correct end!
About the Author
John Steckler brings more than 20 years of management experience to OneAccord. Prior to joining the team, he served as Senior Vice President of Growth and Strategic Development at Zenith American Solutions, where he was responsible for marketing, sales, product development and customer service.
As the director of marketing and sales at Pemco Mutual Insurance Company, John created and implemented strategic and tactical plans for rebranding the company, as well as all market research, public relations and internal and external marketing communications.