Our growth strategy is suffering. Help!

We are great in a crisis but can’t seem to get going without one. Our growth strategy is suffering. Help!

At this time of the financial year, as we reflect over the highs and lows of the past 12 months it’s useful to ask ourselves the question: “what worked?”.

Last week I visited a business (let’s call it Purple Group) that I first worked with a year ago. Here is one of their “what worked” stories. What’s yours?

Twelve months ago the Purple Group did a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis and sitting high in the boxes of both “strength” and “weakness” was “crisis management”. Essentially the business produced its most creative and well-executed work when it was under pressure. But while this seemed to work well in terms of client delivery (they have a plethora of raving fans) it meant that the business never quite got on top of it’s strategic projects. In truth strategic projects never became a priority because they didn’t come with an immovable deadline and a client to please.

At the SWOT meeting a year ago the Purple Group acknowledged that they didn’t have the discipline internally to work to strategic deadlines. Every member of the management team agreed that when he/she got their papers assembled for the monthly meeting to review progress on the strategic priorities, they knew that there would be no push back from the team. Their fellow team members would be sympathetic to their (true) reasons for having not made progress; and they wouldn’t be challenged.

The Purple Group management team realised that they needed to be accountable to a serious-someone for their strategic projects and that the serious-someone needed to be external to the day-to-day business. The Purple Group needed a non-executive director.

The CEO quickly set about forming an advisory board by hiring two external directors. He chose people whose expertise could add value to the business, and he settled on a couple of fairly intimidating types who would demand progress from the management team and would not accept the regular excuses. Notably he hired the directors at a considerable dollar cost – quite something given the CEO’s reputation for being a tightwad – to prove how serious the role of the board was to the business.

That was a year ago. Five strategic projects completed this year have resulted in the Purple Group successfully launching a new product in Australia and selling their existing range into a tough US market. The prior year saw not a single strategic project completed.

So what worked? The management team credits the advisory board. “The monthly meeting with the directors made us focus on moving our projects forward. We had to put on a good show for the board, we quickly learnt that ‘being too busy on client stuff’ wasn’t an option.” said one of the team. “Simple, effective but changed the business” said the CEO.

To read more Profitable Growth expert advice, click here.

Julia Bickerstaff’s expertise is in helping businesses grow profitably. She runs two businesses:Butterfly Coaching, a small advisory firm with a unique approach to assisting SMEs with profitable growth; and The Business Bakery, which helps kitchen table tycoons build their best businesses. Julia is the author of “How to Bake a Business” and was previously a partner at Deloitte. She is a chartered accountant and has a degree in economics from The London School of Economics (London University).


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