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Sunday, 9 March 2014

Planning For Growth in Your Business? First You Must Grow Your People!

A recently appointed CEO of a large professional practice said when asked about the growth potential of the business: 

“About 5% this year, 6% next year and possibly 8% the year after” 

Hardly a ringing call to arms to engender a bout of enthusiastic energy among the troops.  How can anyone get excited about the future with a forecast like that? 

The fact is that we have just come through the worst recession in living memory and this one will certainly stick in the mind for a long time.  However the “this too will pass” syndrome usually works and apparently we are now in growth mode.  Cheerful economists still say, with a shake of the head, that it’s the wrong sort of growth and it isn’t likely to be sustainable. 

Whatever, there is a distinct feeling of optimism among the SMEs with whom I work and the magic word “growth” is on most people’s agendas (agendae?). 

So what sort of growth are we looking for?  Why should a relatively cautious forecast not be just what is needed at this time?  How indeed do we encourage people to accept that the economy is turning for the better and everyone will benefit? 

Growth in a business is a two part exercise.   I recall years ago making the point that we can’t expect dissatisfied people to give great service to customers. 

In the same way, while a little creative accounting can often show that a business is growing, until the people are absolutely on side, feel that their contribution is valued and valuable, and above all know where the business is going then sustainable growth is not on the horizon. 

So what needs to be done?  Cautious forecasts are usually achieved and even sometimes exceeded to nobody’s surprise and do little to excite the people. 

The concept of the B-HAG, the Big Hairy Audacious Goal (that’s the clean version) will do much more to excite people even if they say at the outset that it can’t be achieved for many and various reasons.   

In fact, as long as the business objectives are clear, well communicated and include what is needed to be done to achieve the objectives then anything is possible. 

Henry Ford said: 

“If you say you can and you say you can’t you are always right” 

There is a difference between growth of a business and that of an individual.  In the case of the individual growth is very personal and really says that as we learn more we grow in intellect and consequent stature.   

The lesson for leaders is to ensure that everyone in the business is given that opportunity; to learn is to maximise the contribution to the future of the business, so send people on relevant courses, bring in speakers to the business and start a library both physical and online open to all at any time. 

Encourage innovation by asking people their opinions about situations which could be improved and how they would solve a problem.  Use brainstorming techniques to show people that their contribution is valued and make their solution visible to everyone. 

Above all, remember that people want to know how they are doing and where the business is going.  That means that as many people as is feasible should contribute on some way to the strategic thinking and when the short and medium term objectives have been set, performance should constantly and regularly be communicated so that everyone knows where we are going. 

Dissatisfied people do not contribute to the success of a business. 

Involved, engaged and aligned people whose opinions are given the respect they deserve working in an atmosphere of transparency and clarity can achieve and even exceed that B-HAG.
 
 
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