Better is Better
By: Gerry Salontai
There is much hullabaloo made in our industry about growth and size. And it seems these are believed to be the largest measures of success for companies. The temptation to focus on growth is great as the topic comes up in nearly every conversation when peers meet and there is a constant barrage of surveys for published lists in the various industry trade magazines and local business publications. Then there are the conference panel discussions that quiz leaders on their “growth strategies” with the larger the companies getting marquis attention of course and thus the feeling that size matters. It’s no wonder companies aspire to not be listed in a survey but to appear at the very top of that list. At times, it appears everyone is in a “race” to the top.
One must ask oneself if the measure of success is that you are bigger than a competitor? It certainly can’t be the sole measure. In fact, I take a different viewpoint on growth and size. It starts with the understanding that when people talk about “growth strategies” we need to be reminded that growth is not a strategy – rather growth is the result of executing good strategy. Growth is the result of doing a lot of things well.
An analogy would be success in team sports, where it takes a combination of strategy, good coaching, a variety of skills and capabilities among the players and the ability to execute well together to be a champion. Like team sports, a successful company should include enduring client relationships, produce quality work, perform well financially, have a great workplace environment, advance people’s careers, be sustainable from one generation to another and of course achieve good growth to name just a few characteristics.
With all the above in mind, we can now begin to think how to build a well-rounded company that achieves success in all aspects of the business.
This starts with developing a strong Vision and Purpose for the company. A Vision that is bold enough to look beyond the day-to-day to ultimately take the company over the horizon and seize on new opportunities. This combined with a meaningful Purpose that defines why the company exists, inspires commitment and engagement of the employees around why they believe their work is significant while ultimately contributing to people’s lives. In combination, these create a rally cry and singular focus that drives companies to unstoppable success.
Next, establishing just a handful of clear and very focused strategies to move along that road to reach the Vision and live out the Purpose will set that course. Strategies that are a balance of external opportunities, in terms of client sector markets, service offerings or geography and those internal opportunities that can invent a new paradigm of performance or strengthen the company from where it is today.
Organizationally, it’s then crucial to keep the company client-centered. This can include the way you are structurally organized but more importantly it’s about by empowering your people to deliver what you do best rather than encumbering or bogging them down with needless complexity and process that frustrates both them and your clients. Those that work with clients should be at the top and focal point of your organizational chart.
Operationally, it’s important to run your business like a business. Be disciplined and consistent in your approach and overall management. Ensure you are making the right decisions for the right reasons that focus on financial success in all categories. Don’t fall prey to a “lifestyle” approach that benefits only a few. Accept above median performance only as a the “low bar” in bad years and strive for “upper quartile” profitability. And use prudent cash and balance sheet management that does not put undue risk, financial leverage or debt on the company.
Live the reality that we are in a people business and its crucial to recognize that company success is directly tied to people success. Take the time to hire the right people who will occupy the right seat on the bus while getting those that don’t quite fit or perform either to a new seat or off the bus. Empower those right people to excel and reward them for success. Move their careers along and reward them generously for what they do to contribute to the success of the company.
Lastly, invest in your future. Spend profits in the right places. Investing in new markets, equipment/tools, training and leadership development are key to that future. Vigilantly retain some of that precious profit in the company to build a strong balance sheet to strengthen the company today and to ensure a smooth transition in the future.
Hopefully the above will help you in your endeavor to achieve success in your company and you won’t fall prey to the race to be at the top of a list. They are not a complete list as we know there is a lot of heavy lifting in our business – but they are indeed important. And most importantly just remember that bigger is not better. Better is better. And if you focus on better you will get bigger.