Never Stop Growing
This probably isn’t what you want to hear right now – not in the midst of this global recession, when just hanging on is hard enough to do – but despite the difficulties, when it comes to business, if you’re not growing, you’re dying. This may seem like a difficult message to hear, but bear with me because there’s more to that statement than the obvious.
In business, when we speak of growth, we typically think in terms of quantifiable increases in sales and revenue, market share and stock prices – and we are certainly right to do so. We all want to hit the mark when it comes to our numbers. After all, that’s the bottom line we’re talking about, and there are few things more critical in business than growing the numbers. But what do you do when the numbers just aren’t there? What happens when your ability to externally grow your business is severely compromised by crippling market conditions? Many companies rightfully go into survival mode. They drastically cut costs and look for immediate work to, at best, maintain the status quo or, at least, stop the bleeding. But does operating your business in survival mode while navigating the worst global recession since the 1930s necessarily mean no growth? Of course not. At the moment you may not be able to grow your business, but you can certainly grow your organization – and that can be just as important.
How to grow your organization even when you can’t grow your business:
We can agree that a slowdown in the economy is never a good thing, but it can afford us strategic advantages to growing the organization if we use our time wisely. This can be the perfect opportunity to do the things we never had time to do before the recession, when we were running on all cylinders. This is the time to prepare for the future – to grow your organization today so you can grow your business tomorrow.
- The Mission Statement: If you don’t already have a mission statement, create one. It doesn’t have to be long or elaborate, it just has to be sincere and real. If one already exists, take the time to evaluate it. Improve it if you have to, and remove any part of it that you realize may be irrelevant to what your organization is actually all about. Successfully growing your business means staying true to who you are as an organization. The mission statement will not only help you define that, but it will help you communicate it internally and externally.
- Define Your Organizational Values and State Your Purpose: Research shows that organizations with clearly defined core values, and a definite purpose outperform comparable companies in their markets by substantial margins. No organization should have more than four or five core values because maintaining them is not an easy task. As Collins and Porras explain in their book, Built To Last, there’s a difference between a core value and a current strategy. If a value can last a lifetime, then it’s core, otherwise it’s a current strategy. Likewise, the purpose must define why the organization exists beyond profit. This may sound basic, but it’s critical to growing the organization, and there’s no better time than the present to do it.
- Prepare Your Strategic Five Year Plan: While looking for immediate work is obviously your number one priority, begin strategizing your business growth over the next five years by analyzing potential growth markets and the resources you’ll need to penetrate those markets. The planning process is critical to growing the organization because it maps out the course for future growth and helps you prepare internally for that growth.
- The Organizational Chart: If you’re like most business owners, you’ve probably been forced to downsize your organization. This is the perfect time to create a new and improved organizational chart and begin your “topgrading” plan. That way, when you’re ready to start hiring again, you’ll bring in only the best people for the job.
- Evaluate Standard Operating Procedures: Sometimes the nicest thing I can say about “procedures” is that they are a necessary evil. We obviously cannot function without them, but every once in a while it’s important to revisit our standard operating procedures and make the necessary improvements, lest we become slaves to them. The last thing you want to hear from your team is, “That’s how we’ve always done it.” Often times, slight procedural changes can result in monumental organizational growth because we effectively move the entire organization out of its comfort zone and into a mindset that allows it to start growing again.
Here’s a final thought on organizational growth. Though our bodies stop growing when we’re in our late teens and early twenties, our mind, our personality, and our consciousness continue to grow and develop. The same is true of our organizations – no matter how bad the economy might be. Never stop growing one way or another, my friends, because if you’re not growing… You know.