Ok, before we start, I realise how ironic it is for a growth consultant to write an anti-growth post. But hang in here - there’s a method to the madness.
Too many businesses have toppled because they did not manage growth with the respect it deserves. From companies rushing to grow before they’ve even found product market fit, to companies suffocated to death after a surge of new customers poked holes in their fragile infrastructure.
Growth is a serious game, where the faster you move, the harder it is to stay in control.
However, like most games, there are rules to stick to and tactics that you can leverage to increase your odds.
Always know why
Take a step back and judge why right now is the best time for accelerated growth. Be brutally honest with yourself around hard questions: Are your existing customers happy? Is your technology resilient? Do you have the right team?
At QTA we’re taught to explain business growth in the context of human physiology.
There’s a reason we don’t spring into life as 5-foot babies. We’re small and gradually grow for a reason, and when we grow too fast - our body makes sure we feel the growing pains.
I think Edward Abbey nailed it when he said, “growth for growth's sake is the ideology of a cancer cell”.
Being willing to ask yourself why, more times than even Simon Sinek would think practical, can help bring clarity of purpose to your efforts and ensure you’ve got all systems in place for the rocketship growth you’d like to achieve.
In fact, growth is a byproduct that occurs when a clear purpose is present - more specifically at the intersection of 3 purposes coming together: self purpose; customer purpose; world purpose.
I’ll briefly break them down below:
You’ve probably read enough posts by now to know that money can’t be the mission in and of itself. You need to centrally agree on a mission and purpose that can drive yourself and team to bring your A game every day and continue to dig deep when times get tough, which is most times.
If this was something you didn’t think long about when starting a company, not to worry. A good exercise to do is to ask each team member to anonymously answer one question. ‘Why are you here?
You may be surprised by the answer and it will give you a good starting point to build upon.
Equally as vital. Why does what you’re doing matter to your customers? And just as important - how much does it matter to them?
One of the things we spend most of our workshops doing with clients is really interrogating perceived customer value vs actual value.
When building a company, it’s very easy to mistake your internal development effort with customers value. Just because it took you years to build something, it doesn’t necessarily translate automatically into that level of customer value.
The opposite is equally true, something like Facebook’s like button could have taken a day to build, yet changed the companies entire trajectory.
Before thinking of scale, you first have to build something that your customers love. Gmail creator Paul Buchheit lays this out perfectly by suggesting you’re in a much better position for growth having a product that 100 people love rather than something 1000 people kind of like.
No, I’m not getting wishy washy on you here. The reality is, whether overtly or more subtle, almost all fast growing companies impact their world in a meaningful way. Why it matters so much, I’m not entirely sure.
As someone who also spends part of their week running a charity, I can at least share my own take on it. Running a business is hard, and you often spend your time doing the hard. If it weren’t for my original purpose and the knowledge that I’m making a difference, I would have given up before getting through the growing pains. It gives you a reason to keep getting up - you have no choice.
Discover your purpose and grow
I don’t want to present growth as a scary concept. Every company has to grow or face inevitable death.
I’m simply calling for more businesses to meet growth with the planning and effort that it deserves. Early stage growth is likely to be the hardest thing your company will ever endure.
At QTA we realise supporting companies with advice is also a subtle skill, which is why we only use people who have worked in both a pre and post growth environment to guide you on obstacles you’re likely to face.
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