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Ask the Expert

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Ken Keller: The Goldilocks mindset

Posted: August 24, 2013 5:39 p.m.
Updated: August 24, 2013 5:39 p.m.

Ken Keller

 

My maxim is that “if your business is not growing it is dying.”

Growing a business is a conscious decision made by the owner. I define growth as increasing top line revenue, adding the right kind of clients and increasing staff to sell and serve the expanded client base. To do this, the owner has to learn new things, do new things, and grow as a leader.

The owner will have to learn how to facilitate growth and learn how to manage it. The result will be a different person; hopefully one capable of running a larger and changed organization.

Managing a company of five is not the same as leading a company of 25. Dealing with a single location is far different than managing five locations. What got the company from Point A to Point B won’t get it from Point B to Point G. A different set of skills is necessary as the company moves through its life cycle. The owner will start to see things through a different prism. Where time is invested will change; the owner will be further removed from customers and layers of people will filter information. These employees and managers will have different priorities and objectives than the owner.

Through the years I have met owners that weren’t interested in growing their companies. Like Goldilocks, those individuals believed that their companies were “just right” and didn’t want to invest, for whatever reason, in what was needed to grow their companies.

If the past six years have shown anything to owners, it would be that things can change, literally overnight, in any industry, without warning. This still happens today and it will continue. Owners beware.

Industries go through a life cycle. When an industry reaches maturity, the products and services become a commodity; client resistance to higher prices becomes the norm and the company, in response, seeks lower costs to maintain margins.

Some companies try to breakout by re-emphasizing service in its many perceived forms but often fail because the pull of the commodity tide is too strong. Buyers are price focused.

Other companies resurrect products and services and repackage them as new. The iPod is a combination of a record player and transistor radio; smaller, with the option to play only the songs you like. Not many companies can pull this off; Apple was unique in this regard. This kind of thinking can be valuable in any industry.

My thought about growth for individuals and the brains in their heads echoes my thoughts about companies: if your brain is not expanding, it needs to because your job, your income, is at stake.

It doesn’t matter if you are an owner or an employee.

Why do I say this? Too many people take a job in an industry and believe two things. The first is that they will have that job, for life, at ever increasing rates of take home pay. The second is that once comfortably ensconced in the job they don’t or won’t have to learn anything new for the rest of their careers.

It is not so much a resistance to growth as it is a Goldilocks entitlement attitude of “I’ve worked hard to get this job now leave me alone.” Unfortunately, this is not how things work anymore.

It’s all about learning and growth at the individual level; learning what you don’t know to get where you want to go. Focusing on learning will make a difference every day in your business.

Ken Keller is CEO of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with small and midsize business owners to grow top line revenue. He can be reached at KenKeller@SBCglobal.net. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

 

 

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