It is tempting for entrepreneurs to look for a “magic bullet” or conclude they should replicate what has worked for other successful business owners. Why not try acquisitions if that is the growth strategy that has driven the growth of several Inc. 500 companies? Maybe they should just avoid venture capitalists because so many business consultants provide warnings in their articles. A franchise expo can be fairly seductive. Maybe that’s the answer. The reality is that the best growth strategies are the ones that are compatible with your own entrepreneurial style.
As The Growth Strategist® working with over 800 rapidly growing midsized companies across the past 30+ years, I have identified four predominant entrepreneurial styles (deal-led, production-led, innovation-led, and sales-led). Entrepreneurial style is all about what takes the lead in your business. Knowing your entrepreneurial styles helps one make decisions about organizational structure and staffing, growth financing, compensation, pricing, etc. It also increases the likelihood that you will follow through–not sabotage– on your decisions and realize return on your investments.
One entrepreneurial style I have dubbed the “Promise and Hurry” style leads with sales.
- While a production-led entrepreneurial style tend to emphasize consistency and stability, truly sales-led companies are best served by growth strategies that are conducive to flexibility. They want to keep their permanent overhead and personnel costs down which directly impacts real estate investment decisions.
- While a deal-led company may focus on equity partners and a production-led company will favor full time employees, truly sales-led companies benefit from a core group of employees augmented by a wider group of subcontractors and outsourcing.
- While the production-led company will want strong operations and marketing managers, a sales-led company will typically need a strong sales manager and an equally capable manager over the purchasing (or recruitment) function(s).
- As the production-led company will go for term loans and the deal-led company emphasizes profit sharing, growth financing for sales-led companies comes from lines of credit. The company dips into the line of credit to cover the up-front costs when a large account is landed. The line of credit is then replenished as payments arrive. While the debt-to-equity ratio is critical for deal-led companies, the management of cash flow becomes the central skill for a sales-led company.
- While production-led companies often swear by Six Sigma, truly sales-led companies don’t waste time and money perfecting standard operating procedures for products/services they may never sell again.
- While production-led companies swear by fixed prices, successful sales-led companies typically authorize their sales professionals to negotiate prices based on volume and urgency and are incentivized on gross profit.
- Resource decisions of successful sales-led companies are often driven by three pipelines…sales projections, cash flow, and capacity/backlog.
- While innovation-led and production-led competitors will strongly emphasize team incentives and not want to pay commissions to “glorified order takers,” truly sales-led companies will prefer commissions and bonuses for individual star performers.
Do you know your predominant entrepreneurial style? Every business has its own entrepreneurial style that reflects the philosophies, beliefs, experience, and preferences of its key leader(s). Entrepreneurial style has nothing to do with the geographic location, the industry, or the size of the company. As a business grows, it is so easy to lose sight of its core entrepreneurial style.
If you are tempted to look for a magic bullet or copy what has worked for someone else, it could be far more productive to reflect on your past patterns for hints about your predominant entrepreneurial style. What were some of the turning points in your business? Has your growth been driven by landing big accounts? Being an innovator? Sharing risks with others? What is your first inclination when you face financial difficulties? It pays to know what is in the lead.
Known as The Growth Strategist®, Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP helps professional service firms, technology-driven businesses, and construction-related product/service for distribution companies reach their goal of Achieving Accelerated Growth With Sustained Profitability® through a combination of speaking, consulting, executive coaching, authorship, and growth financing. She has executed an ESOP, grown multiple international businesses, won multiple awards, provided expert testimony on economic growth at over 30 legislative hearings, conferred with Presidents in the Oval Office, and has written over 100 articles. Aldonna was named the national (USA) “Woman Business Owner of the Year” and one of NJ’s Best 50 Women in Business. She currently hosts a weekly Internet radio show, The Growth Strategist® on at www.GrowthStrategistShow.com every Tuesday at 11 a.m. ET. Aldonna Ambler can be reached at Aldonna@AMBLER.com, 1-888-ALDONNA (253-6662) or at www.ambler.com.