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How to unboil an egg: cracking five key barriers to business growth

Photo of a boiled egg
Growing a small/medium sized business can sometimes feel like trying to unboil an egg

When you're trying to grow a small or medium-sized business, it's not unusual to encounter obstacles that seem as daunting as trying to unboil an egg. Just as an egg's structure seems irreversibly fixed once boiled, businesses often face barriers to growth that appear just as insurmountable.


It's reasonable to suggest that discovering how to unboil an egg would require ingenuity and effort. Likewise, overcoming growth barriers in business demands creativity, strategic thinking and a willingness to adapt.


In this Insight, we're using the metaphorical challenge of unboiling an egg to explore how SMEs can identify and meet head-on five key barriers to growth. From the lack of a purpose-driven strategy to challenges with employee engagement and other potential growth inhibitors, you'll find some actionable ideas to help you break through these barriers and achieve sustainable growth.

So let's "crack on" (sorry, but we just had to say it...).


1. Establish a purpose-driven strategy


Running a business without a purpose-driven strategy is (we imagine) much like trying to unboil an egg without a plan of attack. A purpose-driven strategy serves as the foundation on which all business decisions are built. Without it, there’s a high risk your business will drift into “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

As one of our clients put it, "purpose provides the validation for every decision we make."


To unboil this egg:


Define your purpose: ask yourself this fundamental question: if the profit motive wasn’t a thing, why would your business exist? What’s the impact you want to make on each of your stakeholders, including clients, employees and investors?

Yellow sticky note with the word why written on it in blue pen
Being clear on your purpose - why your business exists - can create a whole new growth mindset

Put simply, why did you start your business in the first place (over and above the need to make money)?


Craft a clear vision: what do we mean by "vision"? Imagine, in high definition, the future state of your business and articulate the goals you aim to achieve. A compelling vision, well (and often) communicated and clearly understood, inspires and aligns the efforts of your team.


Set strategic goals: establish measurable objectives that align with your purpose and vision. Break them down into actionable steps to guide your growth efforts, making sure there is single-point accountability for achieving each objective. Consider each of these objectives dispassionately...if any of them don't align with your purpose and vision, it's fair to ask why they're on the to-do list.


Communicate effectively: take every opportunity to craft and deliver multi-format communications to ensure that every employee in your team has the chance to understand your purpose, vision and strategy. Transparency and alignment are key to driving collective and targeted action. Note that we say "every opportunity"...this is not an exercise in communicating once and expecting everyone to "get it". Repetition and demonstrating commitment to what you're communicating is critical.


2. Create the ideal client profile


Sustainable business growth largely depends on providing the right products and services to the right clients willing to pay the right price. The first challenge is to identify the “right” (i.e., ideal) client profile or persona. Without a clear understanding of who their best clients are and what they need, SMEs may struggle to tailor products or services effectively, leading to missed opportunities for growth.


To unboil this egg:


Conduct your research: who are your very best clients today? Do you understand why they became your clients and why they remain so? Don’t assume you know the answers to these and other client-related insights. Instead, surveys, interviews, and informal feedback loops can be used to find out for sure. The very worst answers to questions we ask of new clients are those that start with "I think..."

group of people standing in a line with a magnifying glass focused on five of them
Don't leave things to chance. Have a close look at your existing client base for insights

Create customer profiles: based on what you learn from your clients about your clients, develop detailed profiles that represent your ideal client. Include as much detail as possible about their objectives, challenges, and aspirations. Use these profiles to guide your marketing, sales, and product/service development efforts. Don't, in other words, try to be all things to all people.


Personalise your approach: tailor your messaging, offerings, and client experiences to resonate with different segments of your target audience. By addressing their specific needs and preferences, you can attract clients who – as “new wave” as this might sound – form an emotional connection with your business and your brand. When that happens, they become your advocates and an excellent source of word-of-mouth marketing.


3. Create an environment that fosters innovation


Unboiling an egg would require off-the-charts innovative effort. Similarly, SMEs must constantly adapt to market dynamics and rapid change to thrive in a competitive environment. Resistance to change is a major barrier to growth that will hinder your efforts to capitalise on emerging opportunities and stay ahead of the curve.


To unboil this egg:


Foster a culture of innovation: encourage creativity, experimentation, and risk-taking within your organisation. Celebrate the successes that come from innovation. If and when you experience failure (which you almost certainly will), look at it as a learning opportunity. Clarity of purpose is a natural support to innovation because it provides direction for decision-making.


a grey mat with ideas written on a lighter grey strip
Some of the best ideas that will ever surface in your business will be from employees

Embrace technology: leverage the right emerging technologies to streamline processes, enhance effectiveness, and deliver superior client experiences. Embracing digital transformation informed by a purpose-driven strategy helps SMEs to remain agile and responsive in a rapidly evolving landscape.

Keep your eyes on the bigger picture: stay abreast of industry developments, consumer preferences, and competitive threats. Adapt your strategy, products, and services to meet the evolving needs of your target market. While it naturally and correctly should be created with longer-term outcomes in mind, your strategy shouldn’t remain set in stone in the face of external forces.


4. The yolk is important: foster employee engagement


The yolk is at the centre of an egg. Similarly, engaged and motivated employees are a vital ingredient in the pursuit of sustainable business growth. Engaged employees are more productive, innovative, and committed to the success of your business. However, disengagement can curdle morale and impede growth.


To unboil this egg:


Cultivate a supportive culture: create an inclusive and supportive work environment where employees feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their best work. It’s a tougher ask with remote/hybrid employees, but there are many ways to ensure they always feel like they’re an integral part of the action.


Encourage open communication: this is a non-negotiable. It’s so important to foster transparent communication channels that enable employees to voice their ideas, concerns, and feedback, both good and not-so-good. Actively listen to your employees and involve them in decision-making as much as possible. Check out more on this topic here.

five stick figures in a group with the one in front holding a sign that says team
Create an environment where your people feel safe to speak up


Invest in professional development: invest in learning, growth, and advancement to empower employees to reach their full potential. Recognise and reward their contributions to foster a sense of belonging and motivation. A classic objection to this point? “I don’t want to provide too much in the way of development to my employees…they’ll leave for a better job.” Guess what? They’ll leave if you don’t (and probably sooner than later).


5. Manage resources effectively


Boiling the perfect egg requires precise timing. Unboiling would, we’re prepared to speculate, be the same. SMEs must balance resources carefully to fuel growth. Ineffective allocation of limited resources results in wasted efforts and missed opportunities for expansion.


To unboil this egg:


Prioritise initiatives: what high-impact projects might you undertake? How quickly will you see a payoff? When you can answer those questions, you can better allocate resources strategically to maximise returns. Of course, the focus should be on activities that align with your strategic objectives, deliver your business purpose and offer the greatest growth potential.

Streamline processes: identify and eliminate inefficiencies in workflows to optimise resource allocation and improve productivity. We say this with an important warning…sometimes, efficiency is the enemy of effectiveness as we wrote in this previous Insight. We’d much rather have effective processes that deliver a great client outcome than the most efficient processes that clients hate.


Delegate effectively: empower and encourage employees to take ownership of projects, leveraging their expertise and skills to drive results. Delegating effectively enables you to focus on strategic decision-making and business growth. It’s also a great way to provide employees with professional and personal development opportunities.


Have we unboiled the egg?


Well, maybe not.


But to be fair, based on our current body of scientific knowledge, unboiling an egg may be impossible.


That’s not necessarily so in business where, with the right approach, even the most daunting challenges can be overcome.

By addressing the non-financial barriers to growth that we’ve discussed, SMEs can unlock their full potential and achieve sustainable growth.


So, the next time you find yourself facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles in your business journey, remember the metaphor of unboiling an egg. With creativity, determination, and strategic action, you can crack through barriers and unleash the full potential of your business.

chalk drawing of man climbing stairs toward the words "what's next?"

How's your business growth?

Not where you want it to be?

Perhaps a bit inconsistent?

A conversation with a GrowthCatalyst adviser could be just what you need to get you on the road to long-term, sustainable and profitable business growth. And keep you there.

Contact us to arrange a face-to-face or virtual conversation.

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


In other news...

GrowthCatalyst has joined forces with a number of like-minded professionals to form the advisory group Konektis (check us out here). Collectively, the Konektis team provides integrated, multi-disciplinary advice to SMEs to deliver a "one strategy" outcome.

Take the Konektis Pulse Check and receive immediate, actionable ideas to grow your business.


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