Whether you run a two-person graphic design shop or a 200,000-person global manufacturing conglomerate, you’re likely craving growth. We all do. Expansion fuels profits, serves customers, drives share price, and impacts the world. Through building five companies of my own and helping at least 100 others scale, I’ve seen two repeating growth traps that have stunted many organizations. Keep an eye out for these obstacles in your organization, in order to accelerate growth and mitigate risk:
1. The Overcorrect. Inevitably, growing a business involves solving a series of problems. You’ll have your share of moments where you proclaim, “D’oh!” (think Homer Simpson) at how stupid you were for doing something a certain way. The natural instinct is to sprint in the exact opposite direction. If you had zero client sign offs, now you’ll want 78 of them. If you lost a team member because you provided no ongoing training, you decide to offer three-day-a-week development sessions. By overcorrecting, you run the risk of creating a new problem while solving the old one. Resist this temptation, even if the original problem fills you with disdain. Otherwise, reducing one challenge may create a new one, just like the carnival game of Whack-A-Mole. Life, and business, is all about striking balance, and the land of unintended consequences is no way to get there.
2. Gorging on Too Many Opportunities. As your business expands, you will be seduced by a growing number of new opportunities. You could add to your product line, expand internationally, hire 20 new sales people, or film a documentary. There will be no shortage of shiny opportunities luring you away from your focus. Flip-flopping leaders who embrace the flavor-of-the-week strategy rarely build sustainable companies.
Remember this: More companies die of indigestion than starvation. When you look back five years from now, your success will be based much more on the times you said “no” rather than the times you said “yes.” As the old Chinese proverb states wisely, “Chase two rabbits and both will escape.”
As a leader, seeing your company through the treacherous waters of growth may feel overwhelming. Remain vigilant in identifying these traps coming at you and, in turn, you’ll be able to avoid them. Stay focused on the rewards awaiting you on the other side of the chasm, and fight to reach dry land as quickly as possible. If you can navigate through that challenging growth stage, you’ll end up in the rarified territory reserved for champions.