Nothing excites owners like the prospect of growth. Nothing causes more nightmares than managing it. How to fund it, prepare for it, keep up with it, survive it! Do I really need to grow to be viable? What’s healthy growth and what’s destructive? So many worries about something so exciting.

I conducted a workshop in July with small business owners struggling with growth. One owner characterized her existence as living with your hair on fire.  Another wasn’t sure he could remember not worrying about how to grow AND be profitable.  Almost all worried about where to find the talent they needed to grow. But all felt certain they needed growth.

I’ll be doing that workshop again for the Denver Business Journal on Nov 14. It’s a fast-paced, three hours with practical tools and collaborative learning from a cohort of small business owners. Here’s how to join us if you’re in the Denver area. Click here: Beyond Start Up: How to Grow Your Business and Achieve Your End Game.

Toward What End?

The most recent statistics show that small businesses are averaging 7.8 percent annual sales growth. Confidence in growth is strong; 64 percent of small business owners in 2016 were expecting growth in the next 12 months.  

So growth and confidence are on the rise, but have you asked, “growth toward what end?” Are you pursuing growth in order to capture a new market or edge out competition by taking market share? Is growth needed to improve salability of the business? Is it to meet personal financial goals? Your answer will determine the urgency and requirements of your growth strategy.

Then ask yourself:

  • What growth can I support — personally and through others i.e. staff or outsourcing?
  • What systems and processes will support growth; and are they in place?
  • How much growth opportunity is there, really? What’s the data?
  • Is growth my most important score card?

Is Growth Your Main Measure of Success?

This last question makes you consider the importance of growth as a symbol of success. In my former company we annually asked ourselves how much growth, how fast, and at what cost; not only in terms of financial investment but in personal terms. What can we survive and still have a life? How much will it impact work-life balance or travel or perhaps greater requirement for business or product development that not all of us equally enjoyed

When we set our growth scorecard it included revenue targets, of course. But it also included what growth should allow for and the red flags that would tell us that the cost of growth was passing an undesirable point. One of those growth scorecard elements was growing personally and professionally; and a red flag was being too busy to make the time for the leadership team to come together to plan, share problems and successes.

I like how Dolly Parton thought about success scorecards. She said, “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” I might adapt it to say, “Never get so busy growing your business that you forget to grow a healthy one.”

How are you looking at growth and what it enables and costs?