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Five-point checklist for sustainable business growth

Updated: Mar 30, 2023

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Five simple steps will help you create long-term sustainable business growth

Another financial year done and dusted.

Which always presents an excellent opportunity to take a breath and think about the year ahead. And there's a lot to think about. We thought it would be helpful to provide our followers with a short checklist of the issues to focus on when planning for the year ahead.

Because, as they say...if you fail to plan...well, you know the rest.

So here's your checklist.

Get your purpose clear and embedded in your business.

Business purpose is our "special subject" here at GrowthCatalyst.

There's just so much research from around the world that points to the many benefits of being a purpose-driven business. It all points to one simple fact of business life...

...if you're not clear on the non-financial reason your business exists (your purpose), you should be.

Suppose you're not there yet or feel that your purpose needs a little refining. In that case, your first step should be workshopping the options to develop a purpose statement that genuinely captures why your business exists beyond pursuing profits. Involve as many of your employees as you can in this because they need to feel a sense of ownership of purpose. And when they feel that ownership, it significantly contributes to engagement.

Purpose should be the validation for everything that happens in your business

Your purpose should be unambiguous enough to become the validation for everything you do and every decision that's made in the business. At that point, it provides the framework within which everyone in the business can be more effective. It's also a great enabler of innovation because it creates a feeling of safety in taking measured risk, which is the basis for business growth.

Getting to this point and fully embedding purpose in your business isn't an overnight job. It takes time. And as with many things in life, the best time to start the process is right now. If you'd like to know more about how purpose creates business value, check out this previous Insight.

Align your strategy to your purpose.

The second item on your checklist is to pause and review your strategy. To be as effective as possible in moving your business forward, strategy should be as closely aligned with purpose as it can be.

Strategy driven by purpose gives your business clear direction.

As a result, there's less time spent developing and regularly reviewing strategy leaving more time to get on with execution.

In your strategy review, if you identify elements that don't help the business deliver on its purpose, we'd argue that those elements don't belong among your strategic priorities. There's little sense in committing the business and your employees to activities that, when it comes right down to it, are irrelevant to the bigger picture. Doing so is confusing and distracting for your employees, who'll quickly come to believe the business has little or no real commitment to its purpose. If that happens, employee engagement will suffer, as will client service and overall business results. We see it time and again.

If your strategy isn't aligned with purpose, we'd wonder what (if anything) is keeping your business heading in the right direction - apart from good fortune.

Next, check that business and action plans support the delivery of both strategy and purpose.

For the sake of the argument, let's assume you have your strategy firmly aligned with purpose.

That's great, but it's not the end of the story. Unless your business and action plans are similarly aligned to strategy and purpose, you run the risk that day-to-day activities won't fully support the bigger ambitions of the business.

Here's why...

Whatever process you use for your business and action planning, the result should be a set of KPIs for every job.

The sustainable growth planning process

Imagine you're a customer service representative in your business, and you're handed a bunch of KPIs (sadly, that's how it still all too frequently happens....KPIs dictated to staff rather than properly negotiated). You look at them and, in the absence of any context, what you're looking at is a series of seemingly unrelated tasks you must form the view t perform within a given timeframe.

Now imagine you're that same customer service representative, but understand and buy into the bigger picture - the business purpose. That and strategy has been clearly communicated across the business multiple times and using various channels. So you understand how your role and daily activities contribute to the achievement of the broader ambitions of the business.

In the second scenario, you have the context you need for your KPIs. And it gives you the context to question and negotiate the outcomes you're expected to achieve.

Which customer service representative would you rather be?

Here are some tips on crafting KPIs that work.

Check-in with clients

It's surprising how often we hear business owners and leaders say they think they know what their clients would say about them and their business.

It's equally surprising how much resistance we get when we suggest those same business owners and leaders should do something about finding out exactly how clients feel about them. We figure it's because there's a certain anxiety about asking people their honest feelings about you.

That anxiety is only really justified if the people you're asking happen to be your teenage children (if you have them) because they're not in the habit of pulling punches...

That aside, in your business, you can't possibly effectively create a brilliant and engaging client experience based on what you think. Because there are some really important things clients won't tell you unless you ask them directly.

Do you really know why your best clients chose to deal with you? And why they continue to do so? Do you really know what they value about their relationship with your business? Or do you simply think you know the answers to these and other important questions?

Clients are a wealth of valuable information. Information that can be used not only to create higher levels of real engagement with existing clients but to attract new ones more easily.

Most decisions made by human beings aren't made at a genuinely rational level. They might research purchase decisions quite rationally and conclude that because they do the same thing, a Kia is a more sensible purchase than a BMW. But ultimately, in almost any purchasing decision, the heart wins over the head every time.

So unless you know what drives your best and most valuable clients, you're flying blind.

If only it was this simple...

Any time is a good time to approach your clients for the information you need...we've thrown it in as part of the New Financial Year checklist because now is as good a time as any! As Nike would say, "just do it".

For more on creating an effective client survey, check out this Insight.

Check-in with employees

Last on our New Financial Year checklist is to check in with, and create ways to stay close to, your employees.

It's no exaggeration to suggest we're experiencing a significant talent drought across various industries and professions in Australia. Your employees and prospective employees also know this because they probably keep up with the world around them. They're not afraid to jump ship for a better employee experience (note this doesn't necessarily mean more money).

As part of your thinking about the year ahead (and beyond), be as honest as you can with yourself... you know (really) how engaged your employees are? And why or why not? How's your employee experience stack up? Is yours a business your employees openly express pride in working for? Do they deliver effort over and above expectations?

Many readers of this post will no doubt start their responses to these and other employee-related questions with those two dreaded words...."I think...", which will lead them down all sorts of rabbit holes.

Employees today have a particular set of expectations, among them fair remuneration, recognition and flexibility/remote/hybrid work arrangements (by the way, it's pointless to argue that last's not going away).

Most of all, though, they want to work for a business whose purpose is clear and demonstrable. They have a strong desire to understand how their work contributes to a bigger story. We all want that, but it's the Millennials leading the charge and who will even do the same job for less money in a purpose-driven business. Since they'll shortly be the largest demographic in the workforce, they're a collective voice we all need to listen to.

What's the best way to keep on top of employee preferences and motivators? Ask them...either through surveys and pulse checks or face to face. Surveys often yield better results depending on a range of factors because a face-to-face situation frequently leads to somewhat guarded responses.

Have a read of this Insight for more on improving employee engagement.

So there you have it.

This isn't an exhaustive list of things you can do when reviewing progress in your business. But the issues we've covered are among the most important things to keep under continual review.

It's hard to step back from working in your business to work on it. And we often hear business owners and leaders say they're just too busy to focus on anything much more than what's in front of their noses.

Our response to that?

When are you not going to be busy? What's the cost of delaying some of the important work we've discussed in this post?

The real irony in all this is that taking the time to focus on the bigger picture will actually create time in your business...not just for you as an owner or leader, but for everyone in the business.

Of course it's hard, but putting it off doesn't make it any easier. In fact, the reverse is true.

Feel like you're too busy to work on the business?

But not achieving your growth objectives?

GrowthCatalyst can help you set your priorities and create a realistic, workable and time-effective action plan for growth.

We invite you to contact us to arrange a conversation, face-to-face or virtual.

Alternatively, you can book a time for an initial discussion here.

And how sustainable is your business growth?

If you're keen for immediate feedback on how sustainable your business growth might be over the longer term, please follow the link to our "Sustainable Business Growth Health Check".

It'll take you no longer than three minutes to complete and you'll get your results instantly.

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