How much untapped potential lies within your business?
If all the stars were to align and you had every tool you needed, if you made every effort possible, and if innovations yet to be thought of were implemented, how much more do you think you and your team as a whole could realistically create in annual sales revenue?
In the same context, what is the maximum that one individual could sell or create in annual revenue (say in sales or marketing efforts) three years from now? Why can’t several people on your team be performing at that level right now?
I believe and have experienced that the vast majority of companies have the potential to dramatically accelerate growth especially in this current environment we are experiencing right now. With aggressive innovation and effective strategic thinking, three-year objectives can often become this year’s reality. But senior executives achieve this not from efforts focused just on marketing or individual selling skills or productivity innovations for growth, but by focusing holistically throughout a company. If a concerted effort is made to accelerate growth from every angle possible, often, significant growth is right around the corner. The first step though is creating a vision of your maximum and optimal growth potential.
It seems that 80 percent of the leaders of small to mid-sized companies feel that they have a well-defined and complete strategy all mapped out and effectively being followed through upon. But the reality I see after auditing many of these plans and supposed strategic processes is that the vast majority of these companies don’t have a fleshed-out strategy and are missing several key elements, such as decisions on direction, essential areas of objectives, and, most importantly, steps that make a strategy a process. Most companies could significantly build up, rev up, and more effectively follow through on an intensified growth-focused strategy. Ensure that there is a regular, quarterly walk-through of your strategy and constantly look for the areas where you can punch up your strategy with more aggressive and growth-oriented steps. Also consider an annual or even semi-annual complete audit of your strategy, objectives, and progress.
You want to go beyond your past interpretations and expressions of your Vision. The current forms of these aspects in your existing strategy may be limiting, so consider beginning an audit, and facilitate a “souping up” of your vision. Here are some methodologies for doing just that.
How to Construct a Vision of Significant Growth
Does your business have a compelling vision of growth that inspires your team? In our consulting, I’ve seen teams and individuals reach three-year revenue objectives, doubling and even tripling the rate of revenues in just 100 days, because of having a crystal-clear three-year target vision and initiating significant amounts of innovation. Because of both political and technological opportunities, we are living through one of the greatest opportunities for accelerated growth. Without a stretch vision for this time, you may be missing out on the full performance potentials within your team. I encourage you to have both leadership and sales producers create “Blue Sky” objectives that focus on what is possible—not just probable—in a growth pattern over at least a three-year period. When possibility objectives have been set and are continuously strategized upon, revenues inevitably increase because of the innovations that are discovered and implemented.
In the classic sense, a vision and its structure are quite flexible. A vision statement can be a five-page document of an owner’s or leader’s long-term desires, hopes, and dreams for a company, or a 10-word outcome-focused description of what an organization hopes to achieve in its market or in the world. Some companies have 100-, 50-, or 10-year vision statements. Some century-old companies that created 100-year vision statements have realized exactly what they intended. Other companies, especially those in survival turnaround mode, may have visions that are only looking out several months or quarters due to significant constraints and survivability issues. Often companies are in need of a turnaround because they never had a compelling vision, or even had a vision at all.
Top leadership usually shapes the vision statement, but it can also be a collective effort. For your purpose of forging ahead into an accelerated growth mode, I strongly suggest that you reshape your vision to be acutely angled toward aggressive growth, with specific detail about what you aim to realize. Just as I challenge every leader we work with, I challenge you to think about the answer to this question: If all the stars were to align, and your organization were to accomplish all that it possibly could accomplish in the next three years [or what you think the appropriate vision timeline might be], what are the most optimistic outcomes you can imagine your organization achieving? I like the three-year timeline because it’s readily imaginable to most people. As one client quipped, “It’s just the year after the year after next.”
On the one hand, you need to balance any vision, goal, or target with a certain amount of realism so as not to lose the buy-in of your team. You should research, report, and discuss with your leadership team what past growth patterns have looked like for some of the most successful companies in your industry or of a similar nature or structure. This research can give incontrovertible proof as to what is possible, and it shouldn’t be a limiting factor. You must emphasize with your team that fantastic future growth rates are based on innovations and changes that you have yet to discover or implement. So I challenge you to push the envelope, and create a vision that is both believable and highly optimistic.
Perhaps the greatest limiting factor in the growth of a business is the boundary of the team’s thoughts. Myriad stories are available of great achievements based on visions that in some elicited mockery but in others inspired thoughts of faith and hope of what was possible. As a leader you must realize that your thoughts may be the single greatest constraining factor in the growth of a business. As a leader, your casting of a limiting vision may be the most limiting factor for your company. Far better for you to err on the side of aiming too high and too great in your hopes. If you have any doubt about the optimism and the appropriate stretch of your vision, you need to call in for an outside party’s confidential advice.
There have been some presidents of our client companies who were about to cast a vision but held off on sharing it, and either listened to the team about what they thought was the fuller potential or just raised the bar from their original vision’s target based on our exhortation. In most cases like this, a much greater achievement was realized. In other words, momentous growth in a company occurred, based on one single and relatively small change in the hope of the vision. A vision is as powerful in changing the course and achievement of a company as the relatively small rudder of a ship or a strand of DNA.
Ask yourself every quarter if there is any needless limitation in any aspect of your vision.
Communicating the Growth or Turnaround Vision
A vision kept secret is as worthless as no vision at all. Visions must be shared and discussed often, all throughout the organization. A great vision is a defensible competitive advantage that cannot be taken away from your company, so proclaim it boldly and often.
Your team may be languishing because they are unclear as to what the vision is or they may be uninspired by the long-term direction of your business. Their faith and motivation is built when they feel a sense of direction and greater purpose. Some leaders instinctively know what path to take in order to reach the business’s vision and goals, but they aren’t effectively communicating the vision and thus are limiting the speed and potential of achieving that vision. One of your top responsibilities is to communicate and discuss the vision. This responsibility isn’t just for the titular leader, but anyone who is part of leadership. This is why it is critical for you to ensure that adequate buy-in to the vision is happening within the leadership team.
If you aren’t sure whether your vision has registered throughout the team, begin interviewing people about what they know the vision to be and what they think their part in helping to bring it to fruition is. Often you’ll find there is a quite a gap between what you’ve been imagining and what the team has been hearing…or worse, guessing the vision to be.
About the Author
Since 1990 Mark Faust has been CEO of Echelon Management International a growth advisory firm. He has been an adjunct professor at University of Cincinnati and Ohio University. His book Growth or Bust! Proven Turnaround Strategies to Grow Your Business has been featured and quoted in the WSJ, MSNBC, Forbes and many other magazines and outlets. Mark is also a syndicated columnist and speaker to CEO groups and associations.