Four Ways to Energize Your
2007 Business Growth
by Lisa Nirell
As a business leader, what would your life look like if your growth strategy
were clear, focused, and exciting?
Despite the amount of industry consolidation, globalization, margin erosion,
and talent shortage, the dream of doing more of what you love is alive, and
it's doing well. It simply takes time and patience to learn how to get it.
After spending one year interviewing top performing CEOs, I found that leaders
running energized growth companies ruthlessly ask three questions throughout
the life of their businesses:
- What are we passionate about?
- What can we be excellent at doing?
- How well does it fuel our economic engine, and can we be paid well for
Source: Jim Collins, Author of Good to Great, "hedgehog concept"
How often do you honestly answer these questions? More important, how swiftly
do you make needed changes to your company's growth strategy?
If you answered "seldom" or "never," you are not alone.
Five Energy Drainers
Effective entrepreneurs plan for growth. But great ones know how to energize
growth. What separates the two? We discovered five common obstacles:
- Saying "yes" to too many things. How many times have you been stuck in
your office at midnight, working on some volunteer project, and missing
another moment to enjoy your children? If this has happened to you more
than once, perhaps obligation, guilt, and "should do" lists are ruling your
- Discovering that former best-selling products do not make money like
they used to -- yet they stay on the product list. Every month becomes a
contest to see whether these products will be profitable. This often leads
to employees not knowing the behaviors and measures that drive profitable
business. Therefore, non-selling employees cannot explain how their jobs
tie to the financial success of the company.
- Not knowing what ideas are worth pursuing. Every idea seems valid and
equally exciting. Should you do them all at once or one at a time? Which
ideas will pay off? Most over-committed entrepreneurs avoid using any feedback
system to separate "good ideas" from viable business models. (If I had a
dime for every good idea that had no passion behind it, I would be a billionaire!)
- Having more tasks to do than hours in the day. Too often, entrepreneurs
let themselves get distracted with every "ring" on their computer telling
them another e-mail has come in. Other people's priorities rule their day,
and many of them are not customers. These leaders typically say they are
overwhelmed and exhausted. As a recovering high tech professional, I can
now admit it: I allowed myself to be seduced by the allure of 24 x 7 voicemail
and "urgent" emails.
- Trading hours for dollars. Few founders have discovered the passive
income route in their companies. Often, they think "hours for dollars" is
the only method to generate revenue. During one of my interviews with Dr.
Stephen Covey, I learned we are living in the Wisdom Age. We have surpassed
the Information Age. Today, lifelong learners want to share knowledge. They
will pay handsomely for that knowledge. Yet entrepreneurs often stay stuck
in the "hours for dollars" trap. They miss new opportunities to grow their
businesses because they're overly focused on product delivery and firefighting.
Switch on the Energy
Great things happen when entrepreneurs shift their view of themselves to
an expert who surrounds herself with technicians and specialists. These four
steps can help you avoid these strategic growth maladies, and focus on high-return
activities that energize you ...
- Eliminate hidden roadblocks getting in the way of your growth. Develop
a set of ruthlessly honest questions and share them with your team. If they
are well developed, they will reveal an area of your business that is draining
you of profits and opportunity. The Five Focused Questions I share with
business owners took me months to develop, and they work every time.
- Know your style, natural gifts, and blind spots as an entrepreneurial
leader. Invest a few thousand dollars in personality assessments (such as
PDP, MBTI and Predictive Index) for new hires and potential top performers.
Have you ever measured the impact of one bad hire? Applying this strategy
will cost a fraction of that hit to your bottom line.
- Develop a feedback system to ensure that your company's "hedgehog" honors
your financial and personal goals. If you are a private or family owned
business, you answer to yourself and your family, not Wall Street. Hire
an objective outsider to gather the feedback. Your built-in human filters
will block important information if you try doing this alone.
- Create a custom dashboard to communicate, guide and measure growth in
your company, and focus more on what is of highest value to your employees
and customers. If you are currently using only trailing indicators to lead
your business, chances are you have made costly strategic choices in the
past. In his newest book, "Corporate Canaries," seasoned serial turnaround
CEO and author Gary Sutton cautions, "One of the three ways to kill your
company is to have fuzzy direction. Even while Fortune, Business
Week and all the others were naming Enron 'Company of the Year,' nobody
could describe what they were doing. If you don't have two or three forward
indicators, your controls are incomplete."
Clarity and focus create freedom - freedom to do what you love, and what
your customers will handsomely reward you to do. When you practice these energized
growth habits, your life is guaranteed to look different!
Lisa Nirell is Chief Energy Officer of EnergizeGrowth, a strategy
consulting and publishing firm based in Sunriver, OR. She helps successful
entrepreneurial leaders who have not yet reached the level of achievement
they know is possible. Visit www.energizegrowth.com
for additional resources. To request your free 35 Page Strategy Field Guide
(a $37 value), email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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