There's a reason I called my book Growing on Purpose. It's because growing your business requires a plan, not just randomly throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks.
With that in mind, here are six tips to help you start managing your growth with purpose.1. Find Your Baseline
Change for the sake of change is rarely the solution to any problem. First, you must determine why you need to change.
If you're trying to grow your company, then by definition you're not satisfied with the status quo. So the first step for creating a reasonable roadmap for growth is to determine where you want to be relative to where you are now, as well as how long it will take to get there. If you're falling short of revenue projections, that's a much different (and more urgent) problem than if you're struggling to keep up with the demand for what you offer.2. Identify Your Specific Weaknesses
If your company is struggling or not growing as fast as you expected, you can usually trace the source of the problem to one of three main areas: a) your product or service, b) your customer base or c) your team.
I'm going to skip A. Frankly, if your problem is a lack of demand for your product or service, I can't help you. As a business coach, my strength is in helping companies with a good product or service to deliver an appropriate level of customer experience and/or employee engagement to reach their full potential.
And guess what? Customer experience and employee engagement almost always go hand in hand.3. Remember That Team Members Are Customers, Too
One of the scariest things for a business leader today is recognizing how little margin for error you have. In our current business climate, if you don't have 20 competitors vying for the same dollar, you're lucky. You need a high-functioning team to stay at the top of your game. But with unemployment hovering around 3%, you don't always have a lot of options for building your team, particularly in the retail and fast-food sectors.
That's why it helps to think of everyone on both sides of the counter as customers. It just so happens that some are external customers and some are internal customers. Your efforts to engage external customers can come to naught if you don't also engage your internal customers.4. Take an Objective Look at Your Business
I wrote a blog about identifying blind spots in your business, where I discussed the importance of the customer experience. We've all had negative customer experiences — from the grocery bagger who piles canned goods onto your previously firm tomatoes to the airline that refuses to waive the change fee even though it's their fault you missed your connecting flight.
Any business owner would correct these obvious issues upon becoming aware of them. But often the underlying causes are harder to root out. In some cases, the team members have never been taught simple self-awareness. Or they may feel like they don't have the authority to make decisions (like deciding when it's appropriate to waive a change fee).
Regardless of the cause, however, the result of poor decisions by disengaged internal customers is a poor experience for external customers. Any disengaged team member should be a cause for concern, whether they interact directly with the customer or not. (Telltale signs of disengagement include sighing, bad body language and phrases like "Well, nobody told me!")
In the old days, the standard response to disengaged employees was to simply get rid of them. But that doesn't treat the underlying problem. It simply defers it to the next set of disengaged employees.5. Make Every Day (Internal) Customer Appreciation Day
According to a survey, 65% of the U.S. workforce hadn't received any form of recognition at work in the previous year. And only about one in three U.S. employees said they're engaged in their jobs. Think there's a connection there?
People respond to positive reinforcement. It's human nature. We recognize this in our private lives. I like to joke in my presentations, "Can you imagine what kind of marriage I'd have if I'd said to my wife on our wedding day, 'I love you. If that ever changes, I'll let you know?'" But that pretty much sums up the way a lot of business leaders treat their team members. The leaders take them for granted.
Never pass up an opportunity to tell a team member they did a good job. That's the first step toward increased engagement — and the more engaged your team is, the more likely they are to buy in to what you're doing.
6. Make Your Team Members True Members of Your Team
Once your team members buy in to what you're doing, the next step is to make them stakeholders in your company's growth. From simple brainstorming to more sophisticated business development, more and more leaders are getting their teams involved in decision-making and setting goals and strategies.
It's much easier for your company to grow with purpose when it's a shared purpose.
One Last Thing
In today's rapidly evolving marketplace, your external customers demand more and better experiences all the time. To provide that, you need to be working on some sort of planned reinvention every 18 months or so. Having your internal customers engaged and involved in that planned reinvention greatly increases your chances of being able to grow with purpose.
Business Coach Dave Molenda is founder of positive polarity.