There are a number of challenges to business growth today, in some cases these are linked to issues associated with product or service developments, but probably the biggest barrier of them all is people. People are often their own worst enemy when it comes to unlocking growth potential.
Breaking down the barriers that could potentially stifle growth, involves changing the thought process around what growth means and ensuring everyone shares that exact intent or line of thought. A great historic example recalls JFK famously asking a janitor who was mopping the floor, what he did at NASA – to which he replied: ‘I’m helping to put a man on the moon’. Quite simply, the janitor got it; he understood the company vision, the intent and purpose. He also understood the part he played and the importance of his role in the overall objective.
To unlock growth, leaders need to consider not only what they believe they can achieve but also what their team believe they can achieve. Much of this is not just about embracing a goal, but also about understanding the point of it and supporting each other as a team in a way that allows every individual to grow with purpose.
Lack of clarity will stunt growth
True success is always about people. You need people with the right mind set, ability, will and desire to grow. That means you need to invest consistently, in technology, systems and the tools to facilitate growth. People are the process in business, but you need robust systems behind that process to enable growth to flourish.
Historically, experts believed that 2% of your business turnover should be reinvested to enable growth, but the truth is not nearly enough businesses are investing anywhere near that percentage at the moment. Despite this, pressure on leaders to grow revenues and increase bottom line profit continues to soar, regardless. The reality is, greater investment needs to be put back into teams and people as well as the systems that sit behind them.
There are of course a number of other issues that also stunt business growth. Lack of clarity and intent is a major problem in business today and it is more common than you might think. Having worked in the past for companies that have struggled to grow, it is interesting to look back and draw lines of correlation between the desired objective of growth and the lack of clarity and intent that was clearly present.
We talk about goals and goal setting, but often, amidst our day-to-day operations we can easily go off track and find we are a million miles away from the goal we originally set. As a business you have to be clear on your intent, so clarity of mind is vital from the outset. Set the goal and make that intent the backbone of your growth strategy. That goal can only be achieved if it is present in every decision you make, every meeting you attend and every crossroads you come to.
Reinforcing shared vision
Communication also plays a major role in business growth, since no one ever landed on the moon in isolation and without the support of a much wider team. If everyone shares that same vision and intent, you have a much higher chance of success, but you have tell people what you’re doing and why you’re doing it to constantly drive and reinforce that message. Whether that is verbal, written, internal or external, you have to explain clearly what that intent and goal is and why clarity is so important.
As a business you need to grow at a sustainable pace too, a stop start approach is never advisable. Having a vast sales team that hits targets daily is great, but if you cannot deliver or fulfil that need, you’ll have to take your foot off the gas and that can be damaging for reputation and future growth. Finding the right balance is key to managing gradual growth so that you don’t encourage that stop start approach that operates in unpredictable peaks and troughs. This also paints a confusing picture for the rest of the team on the overall goal if you are constantly changing tactics and reacting to inconsistent activity.
To flourish, all businesses need sustainable revenue to instigate and maintain that growth curve but locating weaknesses in your business can also hold the key to unlocking growth potential. People matter so you need to look at the individuals in your teams, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel, and answer truthfully if they are fit for today, fit for the future and capable. Have they really got the capacity, the bandwidth and the depth to grow the business or will they potentially become a barrier?
Creating a pride and envy dynamic
Other weaknesses may be visible via the level of investment given to the business – have you under or over invested in technology or systems and has this had an impact on how you operate? Are your systems fit for purpose now and for the future? There are always growing pains to growth but in many cases they can be predictable, so if you are able to hypothesise and predict potential pains or barriers you can make appropriate plans to deal with these.
Weakness takes many forms and being vague or unclear on what your business does creates vulnerability. It sounds very obvious but having that concrete or ‘super intent’ takes effort. Why do you do what you do? What is your businesses goal? What’s the difference between you and your competitors? Why are you better than the next? Why are you unique? Instilling answers to these questions into your team develops a pride and envy dynamic – you should have a line of people wanting to join your business because it is this ethic that drives a sense of pride and self-respect needed to support growth.
Change is another factor that drives growth and it’s no secret that this concept can make people feel uncomfortable. As a leader you need to have a core team by your side that are willing to embrace change. Leading and implementing change doesn’t require a large number of people but it is very hard to do it alone. If you find you are leading a business where everyone is resistant to change, including those key influencers within the team, then in the interests of the business, it may be necessary to cut once, but quickly and deeply. It can cause delays and obstacles to growth, not to mention become very frustrating for leaders, if they choose to allow key influencers that are resistant to change the time to adjust to the idea, when there is no guarantee they will.
Cut once, but cut deeply
When change is needed, time is rarely on your side. It may take six months to manage resistance out of the business, it may take a further six months to recruit someone new if things don’t pan out and it may take a new recruit a further six months to get their feet under the table to understand the business and its goals. Few leaders will be given comfort blanket of 18 months to implement change. Every scenario is different and we learn lessons from them, but spotting bottlenecks to change is vital early on, if you see real barriers and threats to change, you need to deal with those quickly and respectfully in line with your goal.
Implementing change is about leading with character not persona. Such decisions are always made simpler for the wider team if you are able to explain and articulate why that change is needed. If a business is broken, change is needed to fix it, if not, more uncomfortable changes may lie ahead such as redundancies or loss of earnings etc. Explaining the goal is key at this point. Communicating with sincerity and credibility as to what these changes mean for the team and what is in it for them is important and you need to constantly update everyone around you on that journey of change. By the time you have around 40% of the team on board the journey and enjoying change, the concept tends to be self-managing.
Culture is a massive element of successful business growth as many would agree, but what is culture and how do you measure it? Many businesses talk about the importance of culture and will say they place it at the top of their agenda; yet the mantra has no impact across the business. This is usually because they don’t know how to measure its success or whether they have a good or bad culture. You need to agree the best way of measuring culture by thinking about what kind of culture you are trying to achieve and then start plotting that course.
Adopting a coaching style can make for a positive step towards a strong, happy culture. Coaching allows people to find their answers on their own, it lets them make their own mistakes and learn from them. It’s not about giving direction, giving people the answer or giving instruction. Good culture recognises and rewards, it celebrates successes, but it doesn’t hide mistakes, errors and losses. You have to acknowledge these but don’t dwell on them.
Relinquish control to unlock growth
Culture is about creating an environment that is firm, friendly, fair. It works in support of business growth so why reinvent the wheel? If you are coaching well it actually equates to empowerment, responsibility and ownership. Working on the ‘power of three’ is a good focus for growth too. Few people can effectively work on more than three key goals, objectives or priorities. How often do we go to meetings, send emails, make phone calls and complete tasks that aren’t driving those three goals?
To achieve growth, leaders also have to be prepared to relinquish control. Management is about control; a good manager is a good controller, but leadership is the opposite of management. It’s not about one voice, but releasing that control and allowing others to make decisions through coaching. You won’t take people on the growth journey with you if you don’t give them the autonomy they want. Most businesses are people businesses, humans make mistakes, so expect mistakes along the way, don’t start a witch hunt or create a blame culture as this will only stifle growth potential, instead, nurture teams to own their mistakes and try not to look through the rear-view mirror – growth is about looking ahead.
About Kevin Watson
As managing director at Amadeus, Kevin has led an ambitious growth strategy since taking on the directorship in 2012. Since then, he has succeeded in doubling the turnover and tripling profits for the award-winning venue and event caterer.
About Amadeus (www.amadeusfood.co.uk)
- Amadeus delivers catering solutions to venues and event organisers who want to provide visitors with a unique and memorable food experience.
- Unlike its competitors, Amadeus does this differently by drawing on over 40 years’ experience operating in venues and creating events as part of the NEC Group.
- The customer portfolio includes delivering catering solutions to around four million visitors per year at the NEC Group venues (the NEC, ICC, Genting Arena, Arena Birmingham and Vox Conference Centre)
- In addition, it caters for approximately 150 corporate or private events per year, including 6 major international sporting championships and at over 20 external venues.
- Its varied portfolio includes Cadbury World, Belfast Zoo, Belfast Castle, Compton Verney, Library of Birmingham and the newly contracted Stratford Racecourse among others.
- Amadeus also operates the Starbucks brand at three franchise outlets in addition to managing outlets for retail partners JD Wetherspoon, Subway, Cornish Bakery, and FCB Artisan Espresso Bars.
- With more than 1000 staff, the Amadeus team has won more than 650 awards for quality and innovation in catering.