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Risks of Strategic Growth Decisions

Author: Larry Chester, President

Nearly every business strives for growth.  Sales increases are the hallmark of your success.  With the current economic crisis, some businesses have found success, but many businesses are struggling to survive.

Even in a normal business environment, entrepreneurs struggle as they try to understand where they should be in 3 years or 5 years, and how to get there.  The key is strategic planning, and strategic decision making.  Dreams are important, but when it comes down to it, what do you need to do to get there?

Questions surface when sales targets are set:

  1. Can we get the supplies or products that we will need?
  2. What are the purchases or hiring decisions that we need to make to position ourselves?
  3. What kind of back office support must we have to satisfy that need?

That last point – Determining the kind of support you need is a major issue.

  • How do you provide scalability?
  • When do you add that scalability?
  • How do you Assure it’s the right decision?
  • Risk Assessment is an important key.

The HOW – Identify the skills needed:

  • Do it yourself: The least expensive, but most time consuming of the options. Plus, it’s not scalable.  What is your ultimate role in your company?  As the leader of your business, you can’t learn or do everything.  You can’t wear 500 hats.  But, if you have limited financial resources, you may have no choice.
  • Employ someone new: Find a match for your needs and company culture.  Take the time to do it right.  Go with your gut, but back it up with pragmatism.  Stretch to hire that new salesperson, designer, engineer, programmer.  Assure that they have the skills that you need.  Check their references, dig deep during the interview, and have others take part as well.  Both the financial and time commitment are big.  But the payoff is bigger.
  • Hire fractionally from the outside: This is a gig economy. Companies have released their “excess” workers, and they’ve become consultants – fractional experts in their functional area.  It’s a different commitment from a full-time employee, but you will likely get a much higher skill level, while saving significant money.

The WHEN – Timing is everything.  Do it today, or put it off?  You could:

  • Wait till things are critical. The logical reason for this is to put off the expenditure and the commitment.  This will save you money, but will it stunt your growth?  If the resources aren’t available, growth may stall till they are.  Also, you might be stretching your current staff while they try to keep up.
  • Start when the need actually presents itself. Delay the commitment till you need the resources TODAY.  This may cause a time delay, but you’ve minimized the risk, and expense till you need it.  But understand where you can find the resources, so that you can quickly put them in place when the time is right.
  • Do it now! Make that strategic decision six months before you really need it.  You will need time to do the planning, find the resources, integrate them into your current organization.  You’re making the commitment early, but your growth continues its steady climb.

ASSURE this is the right decision – The simple answer is that there are only two decisions, do it, or don’t.  There are multiple approaches to any problem.  How do you pick the right one?

  • Identify the problem precisely.
  • Develop alternate approaches.
  • Determine the timeline, costs and resources needed, and expected results from each approach. Play the devil’s advocate.  Every one of them has strengths and weaknesses.  Become your own case study.  What is the expected outcome of each?  Write it all down.
  • Get outside input on each of the alternatives. Talk to friends who are also business owners.  Discuss it with your accountant or your lawyer.  Get your employees’ input, so they can fully support the choice you make.  Their buy-in is going to be critical to the success of your choice.

There is RISK to every strategic move you make.  But there is also risk if you DON’T do it.  Avoiding making the decision may come with its own risk.  Be sure to identify the risks you face.

  • If you decide to NOT make the strategic change, you may not reach the goals you’ve set. Maybe you won’t be able to serve your clients, or reach your financial goals. Or you may overload your existing staff.
  • If you make the strategic change, there’s going to be a cost. What is the short term or long term cost you’ll have to bear?  What additional services are needed to support that change?
  • What is your fall back position, if it doesn’t work? Do you have the resources you need just in case?  Is the risk greater than the reward?  If failure means that you need to close the company, then the risk may be too great.  But if the risk means that you get set back three or six months, it might be worth it.

You’re always thinking about changes to your company.  Some of those changes are part of a growth plan that’s been in the back of your head.  But with the changes in the business climate, you feel that now is the time to do something, or you may not reach your end goal.

The farsighted person is always looking to the future.  There are strategic moves that you’ve been thinking about for a long time.  Why are you still waiting?  Reach outside of your comfort zone.  Grab the reins of your company, and kick it in the ribs to turn that next fateful corner.  Be bold.  Assess the risks.  Plan for the future.  Determine what you really need to do to get there.  It’s not going to happen while you’re sitting at your desk.  Get up and open that door.  The future is waiting for you to make that next step.

Make changes today that affect profitability tomorrow.

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