5 foundational tips to achieve high business growth

11 September 2014
Read time approx. 15 - 20 minutes

Overloaded business owners are becoming a fact of life. Increasing opportunities and growth in outputs ratchet up the pressure on people to do more with what feels like less time. Operational delivery is an all consuming master that is never satisfied. There is always something that must be done. The bigger the business becomes, the more exacting the demands.

This is a time problem that a time management course will not solve – time management is not the problem.

For many, going for growth causes more harm than good as the requirement for an increase in outputs results in quality and service lapses. There is no time to learn, no time to correct and even if there was, there is nothing tangible upon which to work. The result is long meetings low on outcomes.

Although they are making the effort to do so, it seems to be impossible for many business leaders to break into the realms of ‘High Growth’. In fact, research has shown that only 6% of UK businesses get to achieve ‘high growth’ status, which may provide an insight into how difficult this achievement can be! (NESTA, 2009)

This is a worrying statistic for the nation, especially in light of the fact that SME’s employ half of its workforce and that in large part, a disproportionately large proportion of new jobs originate from that 6%!

At the heart of this tendency towards growth lies a commitment to product and service innovation. This type of activity takes time and mental energy.

Many SME owners going for growth have become victims of their own success: Their position in relationship to the business has shifted as its grown. Sucked into its delivery mechanism, they seem to have lost their position as architect-innovator, effectively leaving the good ship Enterprise without a strategic mind on the bridge and any thought of innovation well off of the agenda.

In the same way that symphonies aren’t created on a battleship at war, creative thinking is stunted in a pressurised overloaded, fragmented environment.

In her book entitled The Growth Of The Firm (Penrose, 1959) Edith Penrose makes the point that the term ‘Growth’ can have two different meanings. The first points towards an ‘increase in amount’ whilst the second points to a ‘series of internal changes [that] lead to increases in size accompanied by changes in the characteristics of the growing object’.

The tendency to focus on the ‘increase of amount’: more innovation, more output, more jobs, more turnover and so on without an equal prior focus on the internal changes to the character and infrastructure of the business upon which high growth is founded is a mistake.

Whats more, structural inadequacies and an inability to assimilate and integrate new knowledge makes innovation less likely, putting ‘high growth’ status out of reach.

If you want to break out of the 94% that never get there, invest time and effort into the development of a sound, agile, accountable infrastructure upon which sustained growth can be hung.

  1. Make sense of the ‘Ground Truth” – gain clarity on your present position in terms of objectives and infrastructure (such as it is)
  2. Consolidate the infrastructure – develop a ‘process mindset’ that constantly seeks to develop understanding of “the work people do”, ways to streamline it and ways to improve it.
  3. Promote knowledge sharing – Use the infrastructure to ensure that knowledge is easily accessible and transferrable
  4. Develop “knowledge receptors” – people in touch with the learning community on the outside of the organisation, who can spot, value, assimilate and integrate new knowledge into what you are doing.
  5. Promote a problem solving mindset that creates new ‘internal knowledge’ – encourage the creation of innovative solutions to difficult problems – by the people that identify the problem!

Infrastructure. An essential framework for growth.

NESTA. (2009). The vital 6 per cent: How high-growth innovative businesses generate prosperity and jobs. London: NESTA. Penrose, E. (1959). The Theory Of The Growth Of The Firm. Oxford: Oxford Universtiy Press.