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Discussions on Growth

~ with Alan W & Candice R

Alan, will you kick this off with some clarity, what is “GROWTH” all about anyway, in the business sense?

Alan W:

Business Growth. To me it is a personal thing. It means different things to different people. I’m not AGAINST growing a business, I'm just aware that it might mean something different to me than to others. We should consider and evaluate the REASONS why we want to grow the business or why the business is growing. If it is for example because of demand, then we should carefully look at how we scale and if we even HAVE to scale. What is the REAL reason behind wanting to sell even MORE apples if the current number of apples sold is just fine?

The common understanding of growing a business might be something like this: business growth is a stage where the business reaches the point for expansion and seeks additional options to generate more profit and increase revenue. Your business can have less turnover though. The business's market share and customer base are growing. It can include strategic growth, internal growth in the business, growth in business partnerships, and so on. I'd also say it can be an organic or a deliberate decision to change the way the business operates or forms partnerships and gains market share. An important aspect for growth is the business structure and how we manage the business. It also includes great financial statements, a clear roadmap, hiring the right people, encouraging transparency, and holding oneself accountable. Business school will teach you all the right things about growing a business.

For me there is another element: why is expansion always the goal? Is economies of scale REALLY the answer? For me, it's as if the business matures over time. It’s about the people that make the business - EVERYONE that is involved. For me it is about the impact the business makes on EVERYONE that gets to know the business.

Candice R:

Traditionally a growing business meant bigger offices, high employee count, and an expansion of offerings. For the Creative Entrepreneur, growth becomes a much more unusual and unique challenge, where it is possible to grow without increasing employee headcount by simply collaborating or contracting independent contractors/service providers. In this example of growth, there is no need for the bigger office, not to mention how we can take advantage of how lockdown and covid advanced acceptance of remote work as a new norm too. Creative Entrepreneurs can get really clever with how they structures their non-traditional business model or financial model in a way that raises profit margins without having to increase product/service lines, employee counts, and so on. For example, a financial model that transitions from the more traditional time based say in the consulting type of firms, to value based pricing model, could substantially grow a business in terms of profits when executed well. So can adopting a Business-Of-One business model that works on collaborations to extend service offerings, this too can equate to growth in an unusual way. In essence, we need to approach growth with a more creative mindset to what it may have traditionally meant in business.

How did you even come across this topic of “GROWTH”, what’s the backstory?

Alan W:

I have always known about the concept and always knew I don't want to grow MY business too much. I wanted to remain small enough yet be successful enough to always enjoy what I do. So the concept of “growing my business” was always and I guess still is, something I am very cautious about. A few years ago a client asked me to help them grow their business. Their viewpoint was to hire more and more people. It was directly related to their business model - charging by the hour - so the only real way to ensure growth was to hire more people. Increasing their rate wasn’t an option. I then realised there is more to it, more to business growth that we care to admit. I guess in a business sense it is about making more money, getting more clients and so on. So I started looking at all the ways a business can grow and for me it includes the business side of things as well as the human side of things. And to ME it’s NOT always about the economies of scale.

Candice R:

I too have never been drawn to the traditional notions of growth as you me mentioned more employees to offload more business. The idea of taking on employees as the business grows, I know many businesses want to increase headcount and of course that does increase the businesses assets if you like, but it wasn’t the path I wanted to pave for my business. I also realised that the types of people we were engaging with, wanted (like me) to remain independent and to be their own boss, and so this Business-Of-One model naturally evolved where we would draw on experts in the form of collaboration whilst they still remain independent. We realised we were growing but in an unusual way and that this simple business model helped us to keep growth simple and manageable.

Is this notion of “GROWTH” something that CE’s should be considering?

Alan W:

Yes, but keep the balance. Let’s take, say, a university. If we say: if they’d only expand and branch out and hire thousands more professors and go global and open campuses all over the world and secure more funding…..THEN they’d be great universities. Of course we don’t do that. That’s not how we measure the value of these institutions. So why is it the way we measure business? Don’t grow just for the sake of growing. If you DO decide to grow the business, grow slow and see what feels right. Have you ever noticed how small businesses wished they were bigger and how big businesses wished they were smaller? Ramping up doesn’t have to be your goal. Remember, when the business grows, expenses, infrastructure, processes, IT, and so on also need to grow. These things don’t just happen by themselves. When you take on these new things you also take on new challenges. So as i said earlier, grow slow, do what FEELS right. I’m not saying DON’T grow. I AM saying when you make the decision to "grow", ask yourself WHY, HOW and WHAT. Also ask what: will change for the good and what will change for the not so good. There is always a trade off.

Candice R:

Why work harder at growth when we can work smarter in achieving growth. The smaller nimble business can easily draw more profits than the clunky big global business, dont be taken by the illusion that bigger in size means bigger in profits. As Creative Entrepreneurs we should always be looking at how we can grow in non traditional ways, applying our creative minds to what makes sense for our business when it comes to growth. However, this is easier for CReative Entrepreneur who has a bootstrapped or quite independent business and not answering to investors' views and expectations of growth. As you said early on Alan, growth is personal and means different things to different people. All who are invested in your business need to be aligned in terms of that vision around growth.

What are the benefits of investing in/doing “GROWTH” in these more unusual ways?

Alan W:

Let’s think outside in: the benefit is the goal: to make the experience with your business including the service you render or the product you sell, better. It includes your team being inspired, growing in their personal lives and careers. It can also mean making things in the business better by means of collaboration, and the things I mentioned earlier: strategic growth, internal growth in the business, growth in business partnerships, and so on.

Candice R:

For me the key benefit in approaching growth in unique ways is that one can tie it into the life we as the Creative Entrepreneur behind the business, want to live. It allows you to set up clever ways in which to approach growth for your business in a way that suits what you want to be doing everyday. Do you want to manage people and increase headcount, or maybe you develop passive revenue streams so that you can find that balance with your personal life, for example. Creative Entrepreneurs are masters of their destiny so yes they should be carving out a business that fosters growth in a way that works for them as humans.

What are the questions I should be asking myself, if I'm considering pursuing “GROWTH” for my business?

Alan W:

One question: WHY? Another thing you hear a lot: “What’s your exit strategy?” You should be thinking about how to make your project grow and succeed, not how you’re going to jump ship. Focusing on getting customers to love you is one of the most important questions to ask when it comes to growing your business. You should be thinking about how to make your project grow and succeed, not how you’re going to jump ship. If you do manage to get a good thing going , keep it going. Good things don’t come around that often. Don’t let your business be the one that got away. So the pursuit of growing your business is to make it better, not bigger.

Candice R:

Again, one has to go back to one’s vision. Ask yourself if your vision lines up to your growth mechanisms. Are you willing to relook your business or financial model to grow in a way that aligns with your end vision. The big question though for many is looking at how you are currently set up for growth, is there a roof in terms of growth ie only 8 hours in a day per employee with a time based billing model, there is a roof to growth, you can only grow by increasing headcount. Consider how you we work smarter not harder in terms of growth. And as mentioned earlier, who has a say in how you should grow, are there investors, etc, as this decision making and growth strategies in such a scenario becomes quite complex.

Final pearls of wisdom to share on this topic?

Alan W:

It can be a good thing to grow a business, again, i always ask: what's the goal of growing the business? And more importantly, don't lose track of why you started the business in the first place. Growing your business should not become the be all, and cause stress. Personally, I'd rather be happy in what I do with my business than grow the business because it’s apparently the right thing to do. Think carefully about the reason you want to grow your business. Don’t be insecure about aiming to be a small business. Anyone that runs a business that’s sustainable and profitable, whether it’s big or small, should be proud.

Candice R:

Let’s not forget there is a Creative Entrepreneur, a human being, behind every business and we cannot forget that personal growth is just as important as business growth. This means being able to continuously learn from both the successes and the failures on the journey, when we do this, we cannot avoid the personal growth that results from such a mindset. It is also important to consider growth in our personal and professional lives in tandem, if one side has to give too much, we almost stunt growth in one area for the sake of the other, so balancing how we grow personally is important too.

~ From the podcast, "WHAT IS GROWTH FOR THE CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR", take a listen over here

Work with Alan W

Work with Candice R


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