In an earlier blog, I set out the four main types of business person and promised more detail on what defines each type, why to some extent they are that way, and what you might do to change that. And I said that there is some overlap, which is true of Low Growth.
Low Growth characteristics
An example of a Low Growth business might be engineering because they are often characterised by large or fixed overheads, and so have limited ability to quickly expand without significant investment. There may be a natural caution – you don’t make a big investment until you know your expanded market will be maintained. Or it may be a family business, where there is caution because of the need to preserve the business for future generations.
Is this you, and if so, why are you like this?
You may have ambitions for significant income, and are very good at the “job”. But you are risk averse and do not give up control easily, perhaps because you do not think anyone can do it as well as you. You may be right, but it limits your growth ambitions. This is often coupled with poor people management and development skills, making your control issues self-fulfilling. If you have an assertive style of management or one based on older style command and control principles, this can stunt growth as well. Your personal objectives are not being met, and you try more of the same, which leads to frustratingly slow improvements.
You are energetic, ambitious and determined.
You put in a lot of time.
You may have started the business because you were fed up working for someone else, and you think you can do better. You have found that it is more difficult than you thought.
You know that you don’t know enough about other areas of the business – whether financial, marketing, people and maybe some other areas.
You may not trust anyone to do the job as well as you.
You have difficulty in letting go and let employees manage their time and effort.
Customers are very loyal, especially to family businesses and this can be exploited to ethically sell other products. They can see that you care about your business, your products and them. This is pure gold. Take every opportunity to reinforce this.
Family businesses come with two agendas, family, and business, and sometimes these can clash.
Your inability to trust others may limit your ability to take external advice and thus, inhibit growth.
Trying to do it all yourself – cheaper isn’t always better. For any new task, you will be slower than an expert, and opportunities will go begging as you learn. Also, you have a business to run.
Identifying yourself completely with the business brings both benefits and issues. Your energy may be high but it might be better directed.
You make products which are the same every time, yet you find it inexplicable that people don’t behave like that. Yet you still expect the same, predictable results from different people.
People management (whether employees, customers or suppliers) is a challenge, and you do not give up control until after it has been repeatedly proved that your risk is vanishingly low. This may be too slow for your good people, who may have moved on, so “proving” your point.
Family businesses can become too personal, and issues can cloud judgement. Often, you expect the people in your business to care as much as you, as though they were family. This may be asking too much of them. You may end up with many of the issues of a family business even with no family members.
Find ways of defining the business processes better so you can see whether your people are competent, and then you can let go a little. You will still be in control. See our short video on Growth + Control.
Improve your knowledge all the time. Do this by asking people who know more – professionals will often share their time and knowledge with you, especially at networking events and seminars.
Consider outside experts to help manage the family dynamics specifically to fill skills gaps. It’s more difficult for family issues to be raised with outsiders at the meeting.
Define roles and responsibilities for the business, and ensure family agendas are not allowed to interfere. Make sure that discussions focus on the issue, not the person, family or not. No “you did this” but more “this happened”. Remember they still have to be your family, whether tied by blood or business, after the debate.
Develop employee growth strategies so that the people you trust can grow with the business. Don’t expect perfection, and allow people to take on jobs when they are about 80% ready. Coach them.