Growth. A simple, monosyllabic word of great importance.. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it rather existentially as ‘the process of growing physically, mentally or emotionally’; for many entrepreneurs it represents the key to success.
And yet, the process of growing a business is not always as simple as it sounds, which is why it is useful to try to define it. So… what does it mean to you – and more importantly – how can you achieve it and sustain it?
When you first have an idea and found your start-up, your main preoccupations are how to develop your unique product or service and how to promote it. As the innovator and most passionate advocate, it seems natural to be involved in every decision and every action – you want to prove to the world that it needs what you have to offer. Swept along by excitement and enthusiasm, it’s often difficult to wrap your head around practical matters like how you are going to grow your company sustainably from this forming stage through to survival and beyond.
As a result, ‘growth’ nonetheless often finds itself cast as some far-flung pot at the end of a revenue rainbow, whereas it should be at the top of your priority list from the very start. After all, when you found your company, that is your ‘day one’ and by ‘day two’ your company is already growing – whether you embrace it or not.
In fact, as ludicrous as it sounds, many entrepreneurs – having had their initial lightbulb moment when anything seems possible – then find themselves stagnating. Having started to sell and enjoy previously unseen levels of success, their companies should enter a new, more established stage of business growth. But then a state of panic sets in – growth equals expansion! Growth equals huge changes! Growth equals risk! – swiftly followed by a resistance to the very thing that will mean your business continues to survive.
A company needs to grow to stay relevant and strong, and growth has to be for everybody. This is not necessarily sales, but can be conceptual growth, a company’s reach or more straightforward expansion. If a resistance scenario sounds all too familiar, it might be time to ask yourself whether it’s down to the fact you are living in the moment rather than having a vision of the future to aim for.
Of course, it can all feel rather overwhelming, especially when we are bombarded with headlines of extreme business success, and out-of-reach role models, where small start-ups have gone from 0 to 100 in what seems like nanoseconds, making squillions of dollars without even getting out of bed. Those kinds of news stories can still be inspiring but it’s hard to glean what growth was like for them, or indeed understand what it is for you.
To understand what it could be for you, it is worth taking a different approach to those pieces and those role models. Instead of immediately thinking “that’s not what I want “, why not ask ‘what can I learn here?’ What has that person done to create success? Why was that person so successful? The answers will almost certainly be: she knew who she was and she had a clear vision; she had a concept, she identified the milestones she wanted to reach and she was willing to learn rapidly.
Then ask yourself what you can take from their experiences to create your own picture of growth. Those businesses didn’t all start with million-dollar investments, some started just like yours with a few hundred dollars. They, too, had to decide a lot of yes or no questions, settling on the right products and services. Sometimes it can seem never-ending, and maybe even a bit boring, but if you get it right here you have a chance of making it all the way.
Growth is not always expansion, it is not always exposure, it is not always exports. Instead, think of it as the concept of getting it right, experimenting, finding joy and living what we want to change. The outcome – whatever it may look like – is what does growth mean to you in 2023? Identify it and embrace it and let the magic happen.
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