After a year of lockdowns and shutdowns, even the best-laid business plans have been disrupted. Most SME owners are focused on the here and now, taking each day as it comes.
But when you’ve got your head down in the weeds, it’s hard to look ahead and grow your business.
Australian entrepreneur and RedBalloon co-founder Naomi Simson says adopting a growth mindset is the key to navigating a pandemic and emerging with a thriving business.
Speaking on a recent SmartCompany webinar hosted in partnership with tech giant Airwallex, Simson had a clear message for all overworked SME owners feeling the squeeze.
“Don’t work in your business. Work on your business.”
Simson joined a star-studded panel including Vijay Raghvani, Airwallex Head of Customer Experience and Growth Revenue, and Julie Mathers, founder of Flora & Fauna to discuss the secrets of business growth.
What does a growth mindset look like?
Growth has been top of the list for business owners in the past 18 months. But Naomi Simson says a growth mindset doesn’t always mean planning for increased headcounts or worldwide expansion.
A growth mindset means looking beyond “vanity” metrics like revenue and cash flow, and instead focusing on constantly improving your offerings to build a loyal customer base.
“I encourage any business owner or business leader to think: “What did I do to build my business strategically today? What did I do to prepare for three months, six months and 12 months from now?” Simson says.
“Each customer represents not just revenue, but also an opportunity to build a brand.
Simson measures growth by the number of advocates and brand ambassadors her business has. If people speak well of her brand, they’re likely to refer her to others and organically grow her customer base.
“Growth has to be at the centre of every conversation”: How to cultivate a growth mindset today
If you’re a small business owner looking to kickstart your growth, it’s easy to think that ‘doing more’ and working harder is the answer.
“When we think about growth, it’s not just about doing more, more and more in the same way,” says Simson.
“The way you serve your first customer is not the way you serve your millionth customer. Without systems and processes, it’s very difficult to scale a business.”
Simson says entrepreneurs often focus on spot fires – “rushing to the urgent [customer] that wants something in my inbox” – rather than stepping back to make strategic decisions.
But cultivating a growth mindset comes down to prioritisation. Prioritising your time, effort and investment in activities that move the needle.
“Growth has to be in the center of every conversation,” Simson says.
“What did I do to grow my customer base? What did I do to grow my footprint? What did I do to grow my brand story?
Growth mindset and leadership is about you controlling your time and energy. Not other people controlling it.”
“Focus and discipline” are the keys to growth
Raghvani agrees with Simson that the most successful business owners are the ones that can prioritise their time and energy.
“Focus and discipline are the two traits that I see consistently through businesses that are scaling and growing quickly,” he says.
Raghvani credits the meteoric growth of Airwallex to his CEO Jack Zhang’s curiosity and disciplined approach to customer feedback.
Zhang aims to speak to at least three customers a week, using this feedback as a sounding board for continued company growth and improvement.
“Growth is a cultural piece that needs to be built through the business,” Raghvani says.
“I find that if you’re in any fast-growth business and you don’t like talking to customers, you’re probably in the wrong business.”
Don’t “chase the dollars” – aim for long-term growth
So what’s the difference between revenue and growth?
It depends on whether you have a short-term or long-term mindset.
Mather says establishing Flora & Fauna using her own funds taught her to be “laser focused” on strategic growth—rather than chasing short-term revenue.
“Every dollar you spend has to earn its place,” Mathers says.
The pandemic has highlighted the difference between businesses with a short-term mindset and those with a long-term mindset, Mathers observes.
“All retailers have gone incredibly promotion-heavy. But the bold ones will say no to that and be more selective.
While it may be easy to “chase the dollars” and gain fast revenue with another promotion, that’s not necessarily what will help your business grow in the long-term, Mathers says.
“You need to maintain a real focus on your brand and your customer proposition, who you are, what your purpose is, what your value is, to move your business forward.
What you do today, you’ll reap the benefits of tomorrow.”
To hear more insights from this expert panel, watch the full webinar here.
Airwallex is a global fintech payment platform with a mission to empower businesses of all sizes to grow without borders, and by doing so, contribute to the global economy. With technology at its core, Airwallex has built a global financial infrastructure and platform to help businesses to manage payments, treasury and expenses internationally, without the constraints of the traditional financial system. Today, the business operates with a team of over 800 employees across 12 global offices.