What Is Sustainable Growth and What Does That Look Like for Your Business?

Posted by Liz Wotherspoon on 21/08/2018 3:09:52 PM

Growth matters but growth by itself isn’t the answer.  A business can fail to reach its full potential by growing too fast and too slow. Growth should be deliberate and disciplined. 

The difficult task for owners and leaders in owner-managed businesses is to make sure the business lifts its ability to handle growth at pace with its revenue line because only then will the growth be profitable and sustainable.  And really, what’s the point in growth that isn’t profitable and sustainable?  Lifting the ability to handle growth is about capability – competence, skill, ability - and about capacity - how much resource is needed.

Liz Wotherspoon The Icehouse What is sustainable growth and what does that look like for your business

The classic traits we admire so much in our owner managers are that you are:

  • Visionary and pioneering
  • Great at seeing possibilities where others don’t
  • Always searching for new opportunities and challenges
  • Passionate and energetic
  • Driven to achieve results with high standards of excellence
  • Confident about risk taking
  • Love new challenges and believe nothing is impossible
  • Always striving to do things better

So, what do you need for deliberate and disciplined growth?

The importance of planning and people

In addition, you need to plan, including balancing short-term and long-term goals.  Be sure that what is in your head in terms of where you see the business going and what you want to achieve doesn’t stay in your head because your team are not mind readers: 

  1. You need to communicate to produce alignment.
  2. You need to build your team and facilitate their working as a team.
  3. You need to understand that a deliberate culture and the right people are your key assets.

How people feel about working in your business is a key determiner of your success.  And you need to learn from your successes and your failures, from mentors and advisors and from other entrepreneurs and owners.

Read blog: Motivating You and Your Team - 3 Simple Steps to Success

Business is a full contact sport

I don’t know who said it, so I can’t give credit where credit is due, but business growth is a full contact sport.  The value comes in the collision between opportunity, intuition and the big picture and having really good systems, processes and structure.  Strong systems and processes enable all the things that need to happen as a matter of routine to happen as a matter of routine so that you can put your energy and focus into capitalizing on opportunities that move you closer to achieving your why.


Of course, this means you need to be really clear on what your purpose or why actually is.  Being very clear about this means it can act as a beacon as you make decisions related to where and how to grow.  Setting goals and making a plan (and writing it down) are critical to sustainable growth.

Then it’s about keeping your strategy dynamic and alive in the business.  Strategic plans should change and change often.  Everyone in the business needs to know their part to play.  Each team member should have an action plan with aligning goals and the ability to achieve them.  All goals should have measures and targets that can be tracked and reported on.  The business needs to stay focused on implementation reviewing progress and status of goals and adjusting and/or pivoting as required.   Don’t be afraid to fail but fail fast and fail cheap.  And be sure there is a system to communicate progress. 

Loyal customers are the most important source of profitable and sustainable growth.  Knowing why your customers choose you and what really matters to them is vital.  Being clear about who your best customers are and why and having plans in place to keep these customers and find lots more like them is equally important.  It isn’t about what you do, it’s about what they get.  It’s about adopting an extreme customer focus, reviewing the customer experience often and having good processes in place to make it easy to do business with you. 

Your winning strategy

The typical business will at some point find itself banging up against a glass ceiling – same results, different year.  Markets are becoming more competitive, customers more demanding and the momentum is incredible and accelerating.  It is more important than ever to make time and create the space that allows you to come up out of your business and out of your industry and consider the forces at play at a more macro level.  Think about what you can do to take a broader, long-range, future approach to problem-solving and decision-making that involves thinking ahead.  Leaders in strong growth companies spend at least 1-2 days per week developing and implementing their strategy.  And remember strategy is as much about what you choose not to do as it is about what you choose to do.

This blog is written by Liz Wotherspooon, Head of Growth at The Icehouse

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Topics: Business Strategy & Planning

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