What does it take to grow a business?
- Good operating procedures? Yes.
- Adequate working capital? Yes.
- A capable and engaged team? Absolutely.
- Effective marketing and a sales team that convert? Almost always.
We could keep going down this list. It’s a big one. But there’s one thing I like to see at the top of the list when we start working with a new client.
It is a growth mindset.
A growth mindset describes the mindset of a business leader that is all about growing and expanding the influence and reach of the company’s mission. This isn’t easy. It is pretty much the opposite of running the company by the bank balance and trying to maintain the status quo. But at the same time we aren’t talking about raising a million dollars. We aren’t talking about landing a six figure sales contract. We aren’t even talking about having a specific level of technical expertise or experience. We are talking about a mindset. And that is a place where everyone can start. What does this mean in practice.
To grow a mission you have to have one. Your company has to do what it does for a reason that goes beyond money or profits. Think I’m crazy. Look at any iconic, long standing, successful company and you will find that the mission existed long before the profits ever showed up. This isn’t a coincidence. Growth of mission guarantees growth of profits. But growing profits without a sustaining mission is usually either happenstance or a short term affair.
Assuming a mission exists, the push to grow it, the growth mindset of the leader that is driving everything forward, creates a positive level of stress in the company that does several things.
Positive stress and evaluating competency
Growth creates lots of opportunities to see whether people can rise to the occasion when challenged. It forces them to develop new skills and abilities to meet the growing responsibilities entailed in their job descriptions. Without growth sub par performance can stay below the radar and go unnoticed. During periods of growth even star performers will struggle and occasionally fail. There is no other way to develop and get better.
Positive stress and culture
Growing companies are crucibles of culture. They are intense and sometimes stressful environments where people must hammer out interpersonal and relational differences while accomplishing a common goal. A hallmark of growing companies is either self destructive, dysfunctional, acerbic cultures (e.g. Uber) or empowering, supportive and familial cultures (e.g. Zappos). If you want your culture to improve [articulate and define your values then] adopt a growth mindset focused on growing your mission. Some of the trivial interpersonal issues on your team will fade to grey as people have something more important to spend their time and energy on.
Positive stress and priorities
Parkinson’s law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. The same is true of priorities. Without an overriding push to grow that requires focused effort we fill our todo list with 100 meaningless tasks. But faced with expectations and goals and deadlines we suddenly find that just a few things rise to the top and become priorities.
The same is true of individual roles and responsibilities. Each person on your team has a highest and best use, but without a growth mindset there is no need to focus effort and energy on the things that are most valuable to the company’s forward progress. Growing business have more opportunities to put people into areas that use their unique gifts and skill sets. Status quo businesses have fewer areas where excellence is required.
The Growth Mindset in the Family Business
Family businesses in particular run the risk of underperforming if they don’t have a growth mindset. The stakes are higher for them than for other businesses. Why?
In a family business simply trying to maintain the status quo there are only so many opportunities for leadership, for skill development, for management opportunities, and even for ownership. We find that without a growth mindset the culture in family businesses is often apathetic and it’s not hard to understand why. You’re basically working with a group of people who have resigned themselves to sitting in second place. The presumption is that all of the good spots will go to kids or siblings or nieces and nephews. The business isn’t growing so I just have to be satisfied with where I am.
But in family businesses focused on growing the mission over generations of leadership and ownership there are untold possibilities for future advancement, leadership and personal growth. The family business owner, more than any other, has a responsibility to grow mission so that non-family members get a shot at contributing to the fullest.
Proof of a growth mindset
How do you know whether you have a growth mindset or not? Simple. Do you have a plan? A growth mindset is a commitment that you are going to grow the company. That commitment is on paper where others can see it, critique it, build it out, be held accountable to it and measure progress.
Without a plan it is a wish.
If you want to change the world grow your mission. If you want to grow your mission start building the plan today. Then tomorrow, get to work.