I’ve read a fair number of articles on growth over the course of my career and I can tell you, firsthand, how easy it is to get distracted by the newest, shiniest bauble of advice. Just like the latest tech device or a cool new app, it’s easy to grab on to new ideas and hope for the best— without really having an understanding of how impactful a new strategy or tip or trick might truly be.
There are an incredible (and growing) number of start-up/growth advisors, coaches and consultants that haven’t actually started, scaled and successfully exited a business.
Although there may be value in their perspectives, their strategies aren’t field tested from a founder's perspective. Mine are... and I’ve got the scars from plenty of screw-ups along the way to show for it. Here’s your opportunity to avoid the pain and learn from my mistakes.
THINGS TO START
1. Working ON the Business (not IN it)
I’ve talked about the importance of working ON vs IN the business in several blog posts. This is a drum I keep beating because it’s the one consistent hurdle that really keeps businesses from growing. Unless you’re running a sole proprietorship or small consultancy, the bulk of your time as an executive should be focused on high-value activities that strategically drive the business forward. Not sure what a “high-value activity” is? Shoot me an email.
2. Reviewing Your Business Strategy and OKR’s on a Quarterly Basis
If you don’t have an annual budget and a business strategy with clearly defined company OKR’s (objectives and key results), make creating these a priority. A budget and measurable OKR’s are literally your roadmap for growth. Review on a quarterly basis to ensure you’re on track to meet your goals and, if you’re not, consider this an opportunity to push the reset button.
3) Making Data-Driven Decisions
Many early and even mid-stage businesses view CRM and MAP systems as unnecessary overhead when they’re one of the first investments you should make. Accurate quantitative data is critical to tuning growth. Having an understanding of your sales and marketing funnel metrics, conversion rates, ROI and churn serve to illuminate business challenges AND untapped opportunities.
Now on to the tough stuff….
THINGS TO STOP
1. Focusing Only on Demand Generation and Neglecting Existing Client Growth/Churn
In a sales obsessed business culture, we often focus so much on bringing in new clients that we forget to nurture and grow the clients we already have. Pay close attention to your sales funnel to avoid issues with churn. A healthy funnel is focused on BOTH demand generation (new client acquisition) and existing client growth.
2. Underinvesting in Marketing and/or Spending Marketing $$ on Low ROI Activities
We make sales harder than it needs to be when marketing is underfunded, marketing budgets are spent on low ROI activities or when marketing tasks are passed around like a hot potato to whoever is available to take them on (i.e. the college intern or your mom).
Digital marketing in particular is both a science and a creative endeavor and should not be treated as an afterthought. Invest in marketing properly (a minimum of 3-5% of revenue) and hire carefully.
3. Waiting for Perfection
Too often I see founders and execs wait to share/post an idea or market/launch a product or service until its perfect— and then be crushed with disappointment when someone beats them to the punch. As a recovering perfectionist myself, I’d urge you to stop tweaking, recrafting or second-guessing whatever it is you’re working on and just go for it. When I’m filled with self-doubt and I feel my control freak/perfectionist tendencies flaring up, I repeat the mantra “Don’t let perfect get in the way of good enough.” If that doesn’t do the trick, let these wise words from my friend Annie Pettit seep in
“If you're waiting until something is perfect to share it, you might as well stop working on it. Share it now, before it's done, before it's great, before it's perfect because I can assure you it's vastly better than you think it is.”
What are the activities you plan to start (or stop) in 2019 to drive growth?