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Most People Will Never Be Great At Growing A Business. Read Why!

What?  How could a leadership coach say something like that you say?  It’s easy.  Listen to small business owners complain about customers who barter them down to a price proposal that’s unprofitable.  Work with a small business owner who can’t tell you what their sales were for last year – but still want to make more this year and next.

Yes, it’s a challenge as a leadership coach to help small business owners get out of their own way.  It’s also a challenge providing leader as coach training in creating an environment where individual owners can develop the self-awareness and authenticity they need to become successful.

Yet, talk with those business owners who are successful in business growth and they will all tell you that there is hope.  Let’s review some of the critical steps to success and growth.

Step 1: Develop A Business Plan

Correct.  You heard it. Develop a business plan. Write it down!  Have a vision, a mission, specific objectives, implementation strategies, and action steps.  Make sure you address your strategies for marketing, sales, strategic alliances, and set milestones.  Look at your management structure, personnel plan, and identify management gaps.  Oh, and let’s not ignore your financial planning – what are your financial assumptions, do a break-even analysis, a budget, projected income statement, and balance sheet.

Related: What You Can Learn From Jay Niblick About Self-Awareness And Authenticity – Part I

Step 2: Plan For Value

Align your goals and objectives to a specific value set.  Establish your values and guiding principles such as: –

  • Humility, Loyalty, Trust
  • Respect for self, others, the competition
  • Caring, Responsive, Adaptable
  • Integrity, Credibility
  • Industrious, Hardworking, Fulfills Obligations
  • Socially Conscious, Legally compliant with laws.

It’s important that you are working on a business that aligns with who you are and reflects how you can impart those values into your plan, employee selection, as well as marketing and sales strategy.  Seek congruency throughout the business in these elements.

Step 3: Determine Your Growth Strategies

Work to align your business functions to meet customer and employee requirements.  Seek to leverage information technology to establish and improve efficiency in customer service, production, sales & marketing.  Establish goals that allow performance incentives: motivate your employees to grow and succeed.

Step 4: Develop A Targeted Marketing Strategy

How will you retain a customer and who are they?  Develop a cross-sell/up-sell strategy by identifying what your customers like.  In order to increase sales, research to find more customers.  Contain marketing costs by examining the most cost-effective ways to advertise to potential customers – and measure the results.

Step 5: Develop A Solid Financial Management Process

Budget, then budget some more and tie the budget to your business plan.  What are your projected revenues, cost of goods sold, and other expenses?  Perform a budget analysis and develop that break-even analysis.  Continually review your monthly income statements and balance sheets.  Are you making progress reducing expenses and increasing sales?  Do you perform at least a monthly cash-flow analysis? Develop an effective and aggressive accounts receivables process and maintain a regular and steady accounts payables process to maintain a good credit rating.

Step 6: Develop A People Management Program

Who does what, when, for what purpose? And how well?  Develop job descriptions, pay rates, performance-based pay, and performance appraisals.  Prepare an employee handbook to define and describe your business’ rules of the road.  Have a benefits plan for medical, leave, and retirement.  Oh yes, and tie all these to your values and guiding principles.

Step 7: Develop A Transition Strategy

In my leadership coaching I find many owners who wait for retirement.  They may even want to pursue another business endeavor and wait for that.  Or perhaps the owner has visions of his children taking over and waits for that.  My recommendation – the day you start a business is the best and most appropriate time to implement an exit and transition strategy.  Why?  Well, you start out focused, tracking your personal goals and business objectives.  Remember what the late Steven Covey recommended: Begin with the end in mind.

Related: You Will Thank Us – 11 Tips About Business Plans You Need To Know!


After years of successful leadership coaching, training, and consulting it all boils down to these recommendations:

  • Have a plan
  • Have a budget
  • Have a valued product or service your customers need
  • Have fun!

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Image: “Business to grow in the active high /

Warren runs The Executive Suite, providing leadership & executive coaching programs, professional recruitment, One Page Business Plans, and franchise coaching services to businesses. Located in Hyannis, MA Warren is expert at people management, helping business executives hire, manage, and motivate others smarter. . He serves as the Director of Coaching Programs for Innermetrix, Inc. He is accredited in a variety of assessment and coaching methods. He is an ardent advocate of innovation, creativity, and inspirational change in business in life.

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  • John_Twohig

    Great post Warren, one word missing is discipline, the discipline to get up every morning and face into another day with the same enthusism, because business is an on going daily test of that discipline. It’s also one of the outstanding habits of all sucessful business people.

  • Great addition John. For me, that’s where the fun comes in. Thanks for the uplift.

  • Absolutely brilliant,I love your posts

  • Thanks Debi.

  • Luke

    I would love to say that communication is one of the best key to promote any business. I really appreciate your article which can be great solution to grow the business. Most of the successful businessmen really prefer
    plan cover letter which is the key in various sector to get more investment and more profit.

  • I like the topic. I’ve often wondered if it’s also true if there are many businesses that can’t grow due to some limiting factor such as location and offering. Take a dry cleaner for example. Regardless of the owner’s focus on growth for that location, there must be some sort of upper limit based on the amount of business available within a certain distance. Do you think the energetic owner who wants to grow should acknowledge that the business has reached its growth and apply his energy to either expanding the offering or other locations?

  • Luke – thanks. Great observation. Effective communications are a cornerstone to business growth and success.

  • It’s true that there is a ‘creative crisis’ in business. Google, Pixar and Apple have long been creating environments where creativity can thrive. It’s very much about allowing people the space to simply ‘be’ rather than ‘do’, allowing them to come into contact with all sorts of other people and situations to stimulate the creative process, and the embrace ‘mistakes’ along the way.

  • Thanks for your thoughtful post, Lewis. At my company, HubSpot, we do our best to promote collaboration and transparency–both positive contributors to collective creativity. One example, we have a crazy active wiki which democratizes the process of questioning everything in our business. Executives share company financials, reports, future plans, and wish lists; employees share feedback, creative ideas, and constructive criticism.

    As for working together with competitors, well… not so much 🙂 However, we don’t obsess over them or try to one-up what everyone else in our space is doing. Rather, we’re more focused on reinventing how marketing is done and forging a new path. That releases far more creativity in teams, as well as forging an esprit de corps that is remarkable.

    But what *most* interests me about collective creativity is its capacity to create a new kind of culture beyond just the work space. For instance, I’m co-producing an event series in Boston called The Loft Sessions that brings together artists, thinkers, entrepreneurs, musicians, and more to explore what’s possible when people with a vision come together. I believe this kind of cross-disciplinary collaboration and transparency is the future not just of business, but of knowledge and creativity itself.

    Steve Haase

  • Hi Steve, thank you for your comments. They are also remarkably timely. Just yesterday I had a long conversation with someone who works with Hubspot, and what you say rings so true of their way of working – and it shows in the product, which carries those good qualities through.

    The Loft Sessions sounds like a great idea. I’d love to see if we can duplicate that kind of thing here in Vancouver and I have friends in New York and LA who’d be interested, so let’s talk.

    For your amusement, I found a great quote from Gary Hamel:

    “If you want to see the future coming, 90 percent of what you need to learn, you’ll learn outside of your industry. There is nothing that you can learn from inside your industry that will help you get ready for the future. Literally nothing, because you already know it.”

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