When I first started coaching business growth with owners and CEOs I went in with the question “What is possible?” My goal was always to help grow their company by a factor of 2X. To do this, I had to help my client discover the past decisions and current situations that limited their company’s growth potential. I soon realized that possibilities are limited only by ambition, and so my first questions had to uncover the level of drive my client actually had so I could help them make decisions based on that factor. Now I ask, “What do you want to achieve? What do you want more of? And when?”
Once my client articulates their ambitions and goals, we talk through the current situation and the history and discover the real vision and potential for their future. As we go through this process, I also find out my client’s management style and personal limitations—for themselves and their executive team. A recent new level of discovery is the company personality/cultural limitations that affect processes, communication, values, and above all, the level of individual and collective drive, aligned vision, and willingness to learn.
At the core of both the individual and cultural levels is the speed of learning. Organizational and individual learning speed results in adaptability and new skill building for the entire business, which is essentially company resilience. In adverse economic periods, this resilience capability often makes the difference in survival or destruction. If learning and resilience are part of your business DNA, and combined with vision, tough economic times can be used to accelerate growth.
Many of my clients assume that customer adoption or financial issues are the biggest limitations in their businesses. Customer adoption translates to organizational marketing outreach and sales skills. This is either hiring and training capability, or ambition and learning at the individual level; which cycles back to a hiring issue. I have found across all the industries I work with, the most pervasive limitation to growth is each company’s ability to attract and discerningly hire high quality talent, followed by training this new talent.
Financial limitations are restrictions in both new customer flow volume and profit from each. Or even deadlier, business model issues. The result is not having enough cash to invest in new efforts to expand sales or production volume as fast as could be achieved. Sometimes, and I mean only occasionally, financial issues are a result of spending, chronically overreaching income, and cost cutting is required. Cost cutting is not a long-term business growth strategy…ever. It is only a short-term solution to regain cashflow balance and cash for growth. Long term, a business can only grow as fast as its receivables cycle and net profit allow.
One last limitation to growth is production, in either manufacturing or service delivery capacity issues. If sales are awesome, then production capacity is the restriction. This then cycles back to cash and hiring.
I have gone through a few of the growth limitations that companies face in this article. Most often I find growth restriction is in layers and needs to be solved first, and then the tougher and slower limitations can be dealt with as they rear their heads into the level of awareness. Which restriction keeps your company’s growth less than you want?