By Kate Pierson
It requires time, patience, energy, dedication – and not necessarily in that order.
No, we are not talking about a blossoming relationship, family network, or a developing child. But, if your business sprang to mind when considering the port of call for these tactical traits, you’re right.
Because a business is like a living entity, it needs these things to survive. But unlike a human being on the evolutionary journey through life, its growth in size, maturity, efficiency and capability is not a natural given.
Instead, growth is inspired by the winds of change you blow its way, business scaffolding which provides the backbone it needs to survive and the strategies allowing it to flourish.
During this time of financial recovery and optimism, many business will be banking on growth. But for an injection of growth, it is important to remember it’s a two way street and you only get out what you put in.
With headlines such as “Tauranga growth defies all predictions” and “Bay of Plenty set to prosper” circulating in our media midst, central New Zealand’s owners and operators will be looking at how they can grow their potential across the business board.
A 2009 case study by economic analysts and forecasters Infometrics, revealed Tauranga is one of the country’s top places from which to do business.
The National Government also recognises the potential for growth in the area, driving funding expenditure into a four lane state highway in Tauranga, dubbed the central corridor.
The government is confident the investment will improve service and productivity and accelerate economic growth in the region.
So, with all eyes on the prosperity prize and economic forecasts predicting things are about to heat up in central New Zealand, there has never been a better time to strategise for growth.
The question now, is how?
Scaffolding for growth
With a PHD in International Relations and an impressive professional portfolio including consultancy, strategy and senior management roles with major corporations such as Ernst Young and Southern Cross, Dr Mike Ashby knows business.
As a business coach and managing director of the National Business Coaching enterprise, Ashby is now utilising his strategic knack and know-how to help New Zealand businesses fulfil their potential.
He believes a critical step for growth involves implementing business scaffolding which involves utilising outside resources. First and foremost however, to grow a business you must grow the owner and grow the people.
“In business you are the most important person because you represent the company,” Ashby says. He also emphasises the importance of the owner having self belief.
“Once people have self belief, they need to train and inform their staff so they can turn their attention to the company’s market, growth and acquisition,” he says.
Ashby says it is also beneficial to seek out people who will tell you the truth – “the plain, unvarnished truth” and this involves bringing in a detached advisor.
At times, in their pursuit for independence or the desire to be self-reliant, businesses become parochial and are unable to identify the areas where they are falling short or have room to grow. Having someone to assess what you are doing and how well you are doing it, will facilitate improvement and in turn promote growth.
Because owners and operators become comfortable functioning within the parameters of what they are familiar with, they can become trapped in a self-perpetuating cycle and develop habitual tendencies which cause a plateau or decline in productivity.
“Businesses tend to keep doing the same things which are not working for them. The better they do those things the bigger rut they will be in,” Ashby says.
By bringing in an advisor you can utilise the advice of someone who is seeing the business and its practices with fresh eyes.
“A golfer can’t watch himself swing,” is his comparative analogy for this approach.
Strategies for growth
Having had the experience of being a business manager himself, Ashby has identified three key strategies for growth, which can be administered at any time by any company.
These are “prune to grow, find the dream team and maximise your time. These may sound like simple strategies, but they are critical for success.
“Pruning to grow,” is about letting go of what’s not working. The first part of the process when pruning a business involves defining your customer base.
“The A-class customers who value what you do,” Ashby says.
Then, businesses must identify the core products that will appeal to this consumer demographic. Continuing to target people who have no use or need for your services and supplying products incompatible with the needs of your target audience, results in wasted time, resource and expenditure.
When thinking about current or potential employees, the expression “When the dream is bigger than the team, drop the dream or change the team” is pertinent, Ashby says.
Employing accountable individuals who understand and appreciate they are a vital component in a company’s productivity and success is paramount.
Find employees who love what they do, enjoy their job and come to work to improve themselves.
Maximising time is perhaps the most obvious of the three strategies, yet the potency of this tool is perhaps what makes it the most expendable and why businesses are failing to do it.
While simplistic in a superficial context, maximising time and doing it well, is critical.
Achieving time maximisation is a project in itself and requires the employment of a structural and organisational framework to ensure it happens.
Owners and operators often feel they are making no progress and quite simply, it’s because they’re not.
To progress, businesses need to plan, and to plan, they need to make time to brainstorm. It is also easy to become disoriented when working on multiple plans or projects, so to combat this, businesses need to “create a path and a sense of what’s next – plan a little but often,” Ashby says.
There are various short and long-term tactics for improved time management.
A daily resolve involves identifying the company’s top priorities and tasks, listing these and working towards them every day. Leaders also need to take a day off for themselves to recharge and a day to work on the business itself.
“Owners and managers forget there are more important things than business. People think they have no options and no choices, but they do,” Ashby says.
Move into the growth zone
Whether it is financial, structural, systematic or general growth you are striving to achieve, realising your goal cannot be left to chance.