In the quest for business growth, it's sometimes tempting for business owners and leaders to seek out the quickest possible route to the fastest possible result. That can be great for the business equivalent of a sugar hit, but it's not really sustainable in the longer term. It's an approach that usually ends up being something of a start/stop affair as the adrenalin rush of seeing rapid growth crowds out any thoughts of real value creation.
Sustainable business growth comes from:
a steady supply of the right customers (or clients, depending on your business), buying the right products and services for the right price;
a team of engaged employees willing to contribute "discretionary effort"; and,
a structure and operational model that supports and enhances both the customer and employee experience.
Only when these three conditions are met and are maintained can a business truly grow sustainably and build real value over time.
Here's some ideas to help you build sustainable growth in your business.
Who are your best customers and why?
Most businesses depend to at least some extent on repeat sales.
For some, it's a critical dimension of their business model. It's important to understand why your best customers decided to buy from you in the first place and why they continue to do so. Don't assume - ask them directly through targeted customer research.
Knowing as much as you can about your repeat customers is essential for two reasons:
the more you know and understand about their behaviour, the better you can serve their current and future needs making them more likely to stay with you; and,
you can use this knowledge as input to a detailed profile of your ideal customer making engaging with prospective customers less of a hit and miss affair.
There's even more to your customers...
When they make purchasing decisions, customers and prospective customers are a lot less rational than we tend to give them credit for. Rather, emotion plays a part in pretty much any purchase you can think of.
Creating an emotional connection with customers
is therefore vital.
Your business purpose is the bedrock of that connection.
We only need to look to research from around the world to confirm this to be the case. According to the Zeno Group, 94% of consumers say purpose is important in businesses. And they’re 4 times more likely to buy from a brand with a strong purpose – that is, with which they feel an emotional connection.
Once you build an emotional connection with a customer, it’s an extremely difficult bond to break. These are the customers who’ll support you through good times and bad, And with that support, growth becomes a lot more sustainable.
It's a similar story with your employees
None of us wants "just a job".
Again, the evidence is in....employees are likely to be more engaged - and more productive - if they can see how what they do contributes to a bigger picture.
Global research shows that clarity of business purpose is a strong driver of employee engagement. So strong, in fact, that according to one piece of research by HR Dive:
....around half of all employees would take a lower salary to work for a truly purpose-driven business.
Like customers, employees are driven by emotion at least as much as they are by rational thought. Clarity of purpose helps create an environment where your employees feel engaged, committed and prepared to deliver effort beyond their “job spec”.
These are the employees who:
say great things about your business. They become advocates, spreading a positive message to other team members, potential employees and to customers (both current and prospective). They tend to tell anyone who wants to listen how great it is to work in your business;
have a very strong sense of belonging and would need a crow-bar to get them to leave. They're extremely loyal and tend to defend your business when things aren't going so well; and
will work hard to do the very best they can by contributing that discretionary effort we mentioned earlier. They won't need to be asked to go the extra mile...they just will. They're the ones who deliver consistently high performance.
In short, engaged employees will support you and do whatever they need to do to help in delivering sustainable growth.
And employee engagement is known to be higher in businesses that are truly purpose-driven than in those which aren't.
Structure and process must be all about the customer and employees
How many times have you phoned a service provider with what you think is a simple request, to be told: "sorry, but the system doesn't let us do that"? Or tried to make an online purchase on a site that's clearly not been built with the customer experience top of mind?
And as an employee, how frustrating must it be to want to provide a great service to a customer but find it difficult because internal processes are more about making it easier to create "management reports" than it is about making life easier for customers?
Spend a little time thinking about your own experiences and there's no doubt you'll come up with plenty of examples.
Every single process and system in your business should be built, as far as is possible, with the aim of creating a brilliant experience for your customers and making it easy for your employees to do their jobs. It's that simple.
Clarity of purpose makes designing structure and process a breeze - with purpose as your validation point, your customer expectations are clear. You know precisely what you have to deliver, to who, and how. There's simply no excuse for any artificial roadblocks in delivering to that purpose. It's really as simple as asking, when designing and implementing new systems, "how is this helping the team satisfy customer needs and deliver to our purpose"? If the answer is no, then frankly, it's back to the drawing board.
The bottom line
Sustainable business growth isn't just about "making the numbers". Of course profits are important, and clarity of purpose has been shown to improve the financial outcomes in businesses that embrace purpose as their "north star".
It's just not possible to build a business without the right customers who enjoy the experience of dealing with your business. Or without a team of engaged employees who are your advocates. And processes that lock horns with your ability to deliver a great customer and employee experience simply won't do in the 21st century.
As we pointed out in our previous post, there's a shift in mindset needed to operate in a purpose-driven way. If you're not thinking seriously about how to create sustainable business growth through a commitment to purpose, you can bet you have competitors who are.
Food for thought..
We'd welcome the opportunity to discuss your needs with you and invite you to contact us to arrange a meeting, face-to-face or virtual.
Alternatively, you can book a time for an initial discussion here.
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