The Best Leaders Keep Innovating While Growing
Updated: Jan 9, 2019
As the nation just celebrated its 242nd birthday, a lot has changed in the world. From the wild, wild, west to the age of the internet and global communication. However, one thing hasn’t changed, and that is leaders need to grow and innovate to keep up with the changing demands of the world around them. In fact, innovating while your business is growing is sometimes the most challenging time, but the most critical time to be looking ahead to what you need to be doing next. This seems counter intuitive because sales are up and you’re making money. But as we all know over 242 years, nothing lasts forever.
Over the past several years, I’ve been experiencing a lot of challenges and opportunities and all of them require time and energy. As an entrepreneur, the work week doesn’t run from Monday through Friday or from 8:00 to 5:00, but rather whatever it takes to get the work done.
What’s most difficult for entrepreneurs is that much of the time they feel alone in their journey and don’t know where to turn for support to deal with the pains of growing a business. It was easy when you were able to keep your arms around everything in the business. You were aware of every customer, made every decision, and were able to manage all the operations and finances of the business. But then, you outgrew your abilities to manage it all, and you didn’t know what to do. It became overwhelming. What gave you energy building the business was now exhausting you to keep up with the growth. Does this sound familiar?
Rapid growth within your business is both a blessing and a curse. A suddenly expanding business means your organization is providing an essential service that the market lacked. You and your team are creating value by filling a hole in the market. You are experiencing increased revenue, profits, shareholder value, and brand recognition – all great things.
However, this can also be a very dangerous time. There tends to be a lack of future planning for the company as you become consumed by the day-to-day growth and excitement. Without envisioning and planning for the future, you risk another company coming in and doing what you do, only better, and quickly losing relevance.
You will never know what the future holds, as the best laid plans often go awry. However, you know that the future is on the horizon and you are especially confident about yours because your organization is growing and thriving. In this period of growth lies the best opportunity for planning that you will ever have.
If you want your business to continue to grow, it’s important to recognize that what brought you your current success isn’t going to take you to the next level. You will need to start thinking about where you want to take your company and what that will take. It’s critical to prepare for the jump to that next level because you have the resources and momentum to invest in what’s next.
Is there a new product or service offering you want to introduce? A new customer base you want to reach? Do you want to expand into new or different markets? Any of these things will take significant investment, from product development to hiring to marketing, etc. You need to start planning for your jump while you have the money and energy to invest in it.
Because if you don’t act while your company in on the upswing, you’ll reach the peak of your current upswing and then you’ll begin the decline. You’ll start hearing negative feedback from the marketplace. Your customers will begin telling you that what you’re doing isn’t working for them anymore. Think about what happened to Toys “R” Us. Other retailers started doing what they did – selling toys – only better. They began losing money and then couldn’t make the jump to their next level.
The longer you wait to make the jump, the less time you have to carefully plan and invest in your future. And you may begin to run low on resources and need to pull in outside investors to make the jump. The only way to avoid falling off your peak after a period of growth is to prepare to jump to the next level before it happens.
While it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of your company's current growth, take a minute to survey your team. Where does everyone think the company is on your growth curve? Do they feel the approach of the peak of the curve? If so, start the planning phase for jumping to the next level. What do you need to do to ready your company for another period of growth? Do you need to financially prepare? Do you need to increase hiring in anticipation? Do you need to strengthen your corporate culture to support your next phase? Decide what's best for you, but always be aware of where your company is on the curve.
Jayne McQuillan, CPA, MBA, CEPA is a strategic management consultant, and the owner of Journey Consulting, LLC, in Green Bay