10 tips for high-growth business owners/managers
by Jan Bowen-Nielsen
1. Work smarter, not harder
Prioritise your own efforts carefully. Whether you are starting up, or running a large business, your time is precious. It is natural to focus your attention on tasks you feel most comfortable with, that you are trained to do and enjoy.
But are these the activities that will make your business successful? Are you the right person to do these? In our experience, this is one of the most frequent areas we help business owners and managers tackle – getting their priorities right and being effective. And closely linked to this:
2. Stop being a hero
High growth businesses are often in constant crisis mode. Every day brings new challenges that need resolving (and always urgently), so business owners often spend most of their time responding to queries and trouble shooting.
It can become addictive and end up as the culture of your business: “We are really great at pulling together when the s**t hits the fan”. However this is not sustainable and will limit the growth of your business. So …
3. Take the time to think!
Business owners often tells us at that this is one of the key benefits of the coaching sessions i.e. taking the time to think in a effective, supportive yet challenging way; to work on the business, rather than just in the business.
A successful entrepreneur needs to be creative, ambitious and brave
As the leader of your business you need to take a step back and look at how things are working and the bigger picture, examine your long term business goals and develop your plans to get there. And then …
4. Make it happen
Being flexible and responsive is a great asset for a small high growth company, but to move the business forward on a deliberate path also takes focus and perseverance. Hard choices will need to be made. You may even need to say “no thank you” to some opportunities because they will divert your resources away from the long term goal.
To make it happen, you may need to fundamentally change some of the ways you or your business has operated so far. Business coaching has the great advantage that we help you create your own goals, strategy and plans – you own them, you believe in them and you are responsible. The likelihood of you implementing them is therefore much higher than if we came as advisors and ‘told’ you what you should do. The coach is also a great asset for challenging and supporting you to continually monitor progress and to preserver when the inevitable obstacles get in the way.
5. Believe in yourself, but don’t be a fool
A successful entrepreneur needs to be creative, ambitious and brave. If they knew what they let themselves into, they may never have started! Entrepreneurs are the driving force behind creating and growing new businesses.
But don’t fool yourself! You can also become the very person holding it back. As your business develops, so do you need to develop!
You need to become a leader, bring in expertise, change your own role, learn to delegate and trust the people you have hired.. and the list goes on. Your coach is an excellent sounding board to help you increase your own self-awareness and give you some of the ‘tough love’ you need to recognise your strengths and weaknesses (don’t expect your employees to tell you).
The coach will also help you develop and apply your leadership skills so you can get build a stronger, more effective, motivated team around you, so you can focus your efforts on growing the business.
6. Tackle underperformance
Whether the business has one employee or thousands, employees are for many business owners and managers an unending cause of frustration. It is a very frequent occurrence that the business owner brings “how to manage” some problematic or underperforming employee(s) into the coaching conversations.
Often the problems have been festering for a while, it is a constant worry and the owner is at a loss for what to do. This is where an experienced coach with business leadership experience can be a great source of inspiration to explore the underlying causes of the problem – which may in some parts lie with the owner him/herself – and to find new, productive ways forward to get it turned around.
7. Keep your eyes on the money
Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity – and we may add – cash is king. It is vital that cash flow is monitored closely, particularly in high-growth businesses. It is galling to see good businesses perish due to too much success.
This is also closely related to funding, which is regularly a key bottleneck for growth businesses. No coach has access to a money tree, but a good business coach can help you critically evaluate what your financing needs are, get both you and your business ready for investment, and help you understand sources of financing and how to access it.
8. Lead change
Most growing businesses will at some point have to go through a significant step-change to adapt to internal or external pressures, a ‘revolution’ rather than just ‘evolution’ to enable future growth. Indeed it may be the very thing that we as coaches are called in to help the management team to achieve.
The change may involve a radical change in strategy, acquiring another company, going international, implementing a new production process or a complete reorganisation etc. Such change can be both exciting and empowering, or scary and alienating.
Many a good manager has tried to manage change with little understanding of how to engage and get buy-in from staff, and have gotten themselves into an awful mess. A good coach with change leadership experience will help the business owner/manager lead change.
9. Be a competitor
Growth businesses should by nature be highly competitive. However, business conditions change constantly and yesterday’s market leading offer may not cut it tomorrow. It’s a jungle out there and those customers just don’t seem to appreciate what is good for them. So to keep competitive you must understand your customers’ needs well, also as they evolve. You must service existing customers so they stay loyal and you must constantly look for new customers, new markets and new opportunities. Also – you must recognise that as you grow, your competitors will start to notice you –and they may bite back!
10. Innovate or die
Constant innovation in all areas of a business is the key to maintaining and competitive edge and to long-term successful growth. It is very easy to start losing momentum in a growth business – to rest a bit on your laurels maybe?
As business coaches to high growth businesses we may start the conversation looking at the barriers to growth, but once we have helped build a picture of the realities of these barriers, it is usually through innovation, doing things differently, looking at the problems differently that these barriers are overcome.