A few philosophies have been very useful to the sustained profitable expansion of my business ventures over the past 27 years, and it looks like they will be even more important in the future.
Businesses Have Development Phases
Viewing one’s business as a living organism that needs to be fed, nurtured, and enjoyed has helped us. Like people, companies grow through developmental phases. Sometimes it’s reassuring to remember that a difficult phase will be temporary (like adolescence). I was certainly glad to see that one phase involving a few unethical competitors was short-lived.
Plus, thinking in terms of phases has made the achievement of short-term milestones more exciting. It’s definitely less overwhelming than dwelling on some huge, abstract, long-term goal.
For example, when my strategic planning firm was in a “global expansion” phase, we celebrated little successes like finding the right branch managers, passing foreign language tests, negotiating good office space deals, and holding our first video teleconference staff meeting. These little “parties” made “going global” feel doable.
Our Businesses Are In Multiple Phases at One Time
As our businesses grow, each element will be in its own developmental phase. For example, at one point in the life of my public speaking firm, we were in our infancy (working with speaker bureaus), our adolescence (marketing to major conventions), and were fairly mature (taking care of our customers). This definitely influenced our staffing decisions because some people thrive on creating and starting things while others excel at improving our maintenance.
Transformation, Transition, & Developmental Change Each Requires Its Own Blend of Emphasis on Focus, Follow Through, and Flexibility
During that same “global expansion” phase, it was helpful to emphasize follow through over flexibility. Having a model for new branch offices, criteria for the recruitment or promotion of leaders, and concrete steps in the process helped us manage that transition.
Whereas when that same business went through a “succession planning” phase, we viewed it as developmental change rather than transition. None of us really knew exactly how we wanted our roles to evolve. We hadn’t seen a model that addressed all of our needs. There was no clear or pressing deadline, so we took our time to create our own modified ESOP. Key employees obtained shares of the business in lieu of raises which helped us retain important people and protect cash flow despite a lingering recession.
Thinking back, I’ve noticed that we tend to rely more on coaches during our developmental changes and project managers/coordinators during our transitions.
It Pays To Put Yourself Where The Opportunities Are & Speak Up Early in the Process
I had always been curious about venture capitalists. My clients were always seeking growth financing, and bank loans are not always the right answer. We tried what I now call “The SONY Method” of positioning.
SONY had called a press conference when they were “thinking about getting into high definition television.” The result was the attraction of resumes from very talented research scientists and product developers clambering to work with SONY on the project. Plus they got calls from prospective customers and appointments with financial institutions that were interested in funding their venture. They were attracting business before they even committed to start.
So I started to say that I wanted to become a venture capitalist someday. I’d weave the remark into my speeches. Sure enough, investors and entrepreneurs with business plans approached me. Over time, my venture capital firm became more formalized. One year, we placed more money than the New Jersey Development Authority.
We used the “SONY Method” to get accounts in Idaho, too. I simply pointed out that I had two states to go in order to have clients in all 50 states. Once people knew it was Idaho and Alaska, they offered referrals. People can be marvelous if/when we express our dreams.
Our Evolution as Entrepreneurs Needs to Be Managed, Too
When I started, I was perfectly happy doing 12 billable days/month plus all of the bookkeeping, the marketing, the sales, and even the filing. I did not envision 98 consultants and 6 offices at the time. My consulting practice was on a national scale only because I wanted mobility (flexibility) so the location of my firm would not impede my husband’s capacity to accept career promotions that required relocation. I recall a time when I would make sales calls to the west coast at the end of long days to take advantage of time zones and expand my customer base across the country.
Later, I was not satisfied with only helping other bright entrepreneurs grow their companies. I wanted first hand experience and not just with services. I wanted to know what it was like to grow product-related companies, too.
Although it has been a challenge to manage multiple ventures, I’m absolutely convinced that the desire to have first hand familiarity with the growth strategies that we teach has helped us to be better consultants/speakers/trainers/coaches.
I have tried my hand at geographic expansion, licensing, acquisitions, strategic alliances. Although I’ve done franchising, roll ups and IPOs with/for dozens of clients, I have yet to do mine, but hey, there are still several phases, changes, and opportunities yet to go.
Known as The Growth Strategist®, Aldonna R. Ambler, CMC, CSP helps rapidly growing midsized companies (typically $20 – 200 million/year) realize their goal of Achieving Accelerated Growth With Sustained Profitability® through opportunity/resource analysis, executive coaching, strategic working sessions, and her intermediary role regarding growth financing. Her clients are among the brightest, most ambitious business leaders whose names now appear on published lists of the fastest growing privately held corporations. The recipient of 23 prestigious awards for her success as an entrepreneur and industry leader, Ambler hosts a peer-to-peer Internet radio program, aptly called The Growth Strategist™, which features lively interviews with CEOs of midmarket companies who have successfully executed the growth strategy of the week. She can be reached toll free at 1-888-Aldonna (253-6662), by e-mail at Aldonna@AMBLER.com or online at www.TheGrowthStrategist.com.