“It comes down to a simple choice, really . . . Get busy living or get busy dying.”
— Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption
Growing your business is a simple choice. And if you are not growing, the business is in decline, whether you realize it or not. Equilibrium is dangerous, and it is also difficult to maintain. The slightest perturbation will knock the system out of balance and cascade it toward its natural inclination. If that natural inclination is growth, growth will continue. If that natural inclination is a decline, the decline will hasten. Growing is the better of the two choices, and it is actually easier and more fun than the alternative – grinding away just to keep what you have already.
Why do I say that growing is easy? It is easy for many reasons, but foremost among them is because talented people gravitate to growth. And the opposite is true as well. If your business is growing, talented people will come aboard and stick around to advance their interests, while using their talent to build your brand. If you are not growing, you will find yourself surrounded by dead weight on the payroll that you must lug around to achieve the results you desire. You will work harder and achieve less, and that is no fun. Less work for more pay is a better alternative.
So, how are you going to grow? So that you can attract better talent, work less, and earn more pay? A good place to start is simply committing the organization to growth. Say it out loud to everyone. “We are going to grow!” Then set targets and build a plan, because it won’t happen just because you say it (although saying it helps). Here is a simple set of ingredients that I find work well in a growth recipe. You can modify and add others, but these make a good start.
Choose Your Customers – It is difficult to grow when customers are a source of aggravation and heartache in the business. Who wants more of that? Choose customers that you actually enjoy serving, and who appreciate what you do for them. Fire the others as quickly as you can, or raise their prices until they are forced to fire you. The simple act of choosing good customers will give you miles and miles of credibility during your organization’s journey to consistent growth.
Keep the Customers You Choose – Great service businesses are built upon long lasting customer relationships. Set up your service programs to maximize the outcomes for your best customers. If you can eliminate customer churn, your growth every year will simply be the additional customers you add through the sales cycle.
Add New Customers – If you know the type of customers you want, and you also know how to serve them well, and you have a sales team that you pay to go sell to them, you should grow every year. Simple logic, right? If you cannot add customers, then you need to determine if your salespeople are ineffective or if your service program somehow is not attractive. If you have already been successful in the first two principles above, you might need to replace your salespeople.
Commit to an Apprenticeship Program – If you know you are going to grow, you will need skilled labor to service the customers. In case you have not noticed, there is a skilled labor shortage. It can be very difficult to hire quality trades people to deliver the service in the manner that keeps the customers you choose. Go ahead and commit the resources to hiring, training, and developing talent to support your endless growth cycle. Always be hiring. The pressure of the growing payroll will add urgency to the sales efforts of the organization.
Offer a Branded Service Program – It is far easier to rally an organization around your branded service program than around platitudes like “integrity, honesty, hard work, motherhood, apple pie.” Be specific in the creation of service programs and features that define your brand. Commit to technology innovations that establish the bedrock of how you deliver service so that the organization can actually enjoy growth instead of being crushed by it. “Work harder and care more” is NOT a sustainable growth strategy.
It may feel risky to you to strap on a bunch of ambition and commit to growing your company year after year after year. It is far riskier, in my opinion, to grind away with mediocre people just to keep what you have already earned. Go ahead and be ambitious. Get busy growing and enjoy the best things in life.