A note on ambition and fast development

The equation is relatively simple: ambition – action = frustration.

The ‘get-up-and-go’ attitude needs constant reality checks. It is not always a way of slowing a hot-headed idea down, as there are times where you need to act there and then, but it is good to remind ourselves that scaling a business up is an adaptation game.

It is about having a plan, knowing strengths – that of your own as a leader and those of your brand – and building on them. Make those steps with confidence and adapt along the way. The goal is to lead to sustainable growth. Scale your business by design, not an impulse.

You won’t last a marathon if you just turn up at the starting point without having trained for one. But if you dream about it, if you have this goal in your head from the first moment you put your running shoes on, it will be easier to withstand the rigours of training, stay committed and appreciate every mile you put it, every time you improve your personal best.

Knowing what you’re aiming for enables you to plan steps towards it. It requires discipline – to both execute the designed plan and not to get ahead of yourself. There is a balance between pushing hard, going out of your comfort zone, and knowing when to recover. It’s a delicate procedure with many facets. There are tangible aspects to it, cash flow, space, equipment.

As well as less physical, but no less noticeable: culture changes when you are growing a team.

You may be moving from a one-level group to a hierarchy, which changes the dynamics, relationships, and communication style. Each may impact productivity, customer care, and the overall standing of your brand.

That is why I cannot overestimate the importance of sustainable business growth. Otherwise, it is ambition without implementation, which leads to frustration. Or worse, ambition with haphazard implementation, which often leads to frustration and financial loss. What is more, the latter tends to setback businesses a year or more.

Therefore, it is vital to grow by design and at a pace that is conducive to your growth. Does that mean staying in your comfort zone at all times?

No. That means stretching yourself, where appropriate.

The trick is not to lean too far so as not to fall over, but with the right support, you are able to reach further and jump higher. Incidentally, I will be talking about systems in my next article.

Have you heard about feet of clay? It’s a metaphor for a hidden weakness, and growing too fast, too chaotically, or too reactively can mean your business is standing on feet of clay. These are not going to support you in the long term. After the initial period of development, they are likely to crumble. Success needs to stand on firm foundations. Ones that can be sustained and expanded; otherwise, you are wasting your effort and mismanaging your resources.

Here are a few basic things to keep an eye out for when you are growing:
  • Monitor your culture

Are you growing a team or witnessing existing structures crumbling?

  • Observe communication patterns

Now that you have more people involved in your operations, both your team and outsourced resources, is the communication still smooth, or are you noticing delays?

  • Get to grips with new technology

It’s meant to help, not hinder your operations, so if you are spending more time figuring out how to use that software rather than actually using it, perhaps you could benefit from a training session or input from a consultant.

  • Ask yourself if you are following trends

It’s good to be up to date with the latest discoveries in your industry, but it may mean you are falling behind the leaders if you are merely following them. What can you do to start setting the trends instead? Consider your products, your services, the value your team brings to the organisation, and your own attitude. What stands out? Is there anything that you are underestimating and is of importance to your clients?

  • Revisit your value proposition often

The value proposition is not a statement to be developed and left to gather dust. By all means, make it known and visible, but as soon as it is established, keep questioning it: is it still relevant?

Have the circumstances changed? Has my customer evolved? Am I still delivering it through my organisation?

Treat it as a working document, as for your own and your customer’s sakes.

As soon as you set it aside, you are risking a rupture in your values. Expanding your organisation is an exciting process. An incredibly challenging one, too, as the euphoria of growth may overshadow the mundane structures necessary to maintain the development. Keep going and keep growing. As Tom Peters, an American business author, wrote you can’t shrink your way to greatness.