Grow or Contract?

Grow or Contract?

As every business knows you either grow or you contract. Rough seas and uncertain times are no exception to this rule but you have to weigh caution with risk. Caution is conserving, possibly rationalising a little. Risk is not growing at all. I have seen enough businesses to know that every rationalisation must be swiftly – preferably simultaneously – accompanied by growth. That is risky. Not to do it is even riskier. “Business success,” I was told when young, “is to the bold”. All I have seen since confirms that. Can’t the bold also be caught in a trap? Yes, but failure to be bold is an even worse one.

Stand back for a minute and think what the new world political order is about. It can be described as “fed up”. There are earthier versions of the same expression. We have always been fed up with authority, naturally. Lining its own pockets, securing its future, creating a cosy cabal of like-minded self-protectors, authority is a pompous block to our freedom. Until, of course, we become authority. Then we move from being the person in the car behind to being the person in the car in front. It happens in a flash.

Aspiring presidents and prime ministers find that they become the real thing – and are suddenly the car in front. Now they have to deal with the agitated, the restless and the “fed up” – the people in the cars behind. Being leader was going to be fun but perhaps it is not quite such fun in this current fog? We all want to see our leaders lead but those who seek true leadership should first look in the mirror. You are the leader.

Since timing is the key to growth should we not wait until the dust settles? Do that in 2017 and the planet may disappear before the right moment arrives. Given that business is mixture of planning and opportunism we should apply the five rules of both to determine our strategy and tactics.

[1] Know where you aim to go and when you want get there. You would be surprised at the number of businesses that have no idea where they are going beyond “20% better than last year”. If that is your owner’s policy beware. You are being run by someone whose interest in the business is strictly personal – his or hers – and not the company’s.

[2] Ensure that your aimed-for target is growth. You may have to rationalise to achieve it but the net result must be growth. Businesses that don’t grow die.

[3] If rationalisation is part of the plan, balance it with growth as quickly as possible. Sunset must always see sunrise just over the horizon.

[4] Get your Tactics Team operating together. Their remit is straightforward opportunism so they must be alert to every possibility. Don’t have a Tactics Team? Then you are leaving opportunities to chance. A few may happen, most won’t. Do not concern your TT with the strategy of the business. It is your job to reconcile strategy and tactics. It’s what leaders do.

[5] In the inevitable conflicts between strategy and tactics use common sense not dogma to decide which dominates on any specific issue. The upset a tactic will cause to your strategy has to be weighed against the sort-term benefits of the tactical move. Lean in favour of strategy but never ignore tactics.

The answer to grow or contract is – both. Sensible businesses combine strategy and tactics in the same way that they combine growth and contraction. Are you doing that?