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Mark Richardson: What is growth?

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Mark Richardson: What is growth?

We often think of growth strictly as an increase in top-line sales, number of projects, or number of team members. But there’s much more to it, writes business coach Mark Richardson.

By Mark Richardson, Contributing Editor September 7, 2012
Mark Richardson: What is growth?
This article first appeared in the CB September 2012 issue of Custom Builder.

It has been said that if a business is not growing, it is dying. During business downturns, I cannot count the number of times I have heard builders say, “I am not interested in growing,” or “I would prefer not to grow and just maintain what I have,” or “I don’t want to grow, I just want to improve the bottom line.”

We often restrict our definition or concept of growth to top-line sales, number of projects, or number of team members. Growth, however, if viewed through a different lens, may not be optional if you want to survive and be successful in business.

To play out this notion further, there are parents among us who wish to freeze time when their child is young and savor it. But we know that a child’s growth is inevitable. How he or she grows is the variable. Or, if we plant a tree, we cannot keep it from growing. It’s going to become much bigger over time and may require regular pruning when it reaches a certain point. If a tree or a person stops growing, that generally is because of death. I would argue that if a business stops growing, it may also result in death.

On the other hand, if you accept that growth is inevitable, you will not only include it as an integral part of a healthy business, you will also make the process of growth and improvement an ongoing strategy. The following are some aspects of growth to help expand your growth vocabulary and mindset.

Team growth

Strong businesses need “A” players. A strong business needs to retain and grow good team members. They want to grow, which is part of what makes them an A player, or they will leave you. Team growth comes in many forms. It could be financial, responsibilities or accountability, or overall knowledge growth. These and others are all part of team growth. Just as businesses need a road map or business plan, so do your people. What percentage of your time is committed to your team’s growth? If it is less than 20 percent, then you need to revisit your priorities. People really are your greatest assets. Like other assets and investments, they should be revered and developed to get the best return.

Product and service growth

We know how fast the world is changing. We know there has been a proliferation of products introduced in the last few years. The best businesses have grown or redefined their product and service offerings dramatically over the last five years. If your clients and the overall business environment have changed, don’t you think your products and services need to grow and change too? This growth process should be a regular event and part of the business culture, as well as the team’s expectations.

Imagine doing what you’re doing now, five years from now. For most that sounds a little boring, and for great leaders it would be unbearable. The same place is not where you want to be. Your growth can come from within the business, or it can come from outside your professional life. But you will need to grow the business to have the opportunities for your personal growth.

In closing, do you wake up most days thinking about growth and opportunities, or do you primarily wake up focused on tasks you need to accomplish that day. If it is the latter, begin to make one-hour appointments with yourself to focus on growth. Longer-term thinking and perspective will result and become more a part of a healthy mindset.

Mark Richardson is a member of the NAHB Remodeling Hall of Fame and a Fellow at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Richardson is the author of the best-selling book, “How Fit is Your Business?,” and a forthcoming book, “Fit to Grow.” He can be reached at mrichardson@casedesign.com.

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