The five pillars of growth

The business coach names the five foundations of a growing business

Do you sense that your business is reaching a plateau? It's an inevitability, says renowned business coach Darren Shirlaw – and it's time to focus on five essentials

You don't need me to tell you that running a successful small business is no mean feat. Growing it profitably is even tougher. However, our work with hundreds of mid-tier businesses across three continents has demonstrated five key attributes that allow a business to reach its full potential. A company which has these five aspects in place has crossed the line from being a small business limited by skills, to one that is in for the long haul – achieving continual profitable development. And, having crossed that line, a company also becomes an attractive proposition to corporate financiers or acquisitive corporates, or whatever long-term vision you have for the business.So, if you are frustrated that your business sometimes appears to be standing still and all your time is taken up fire-fighting daily problems rather than planning the company's future, then here are the areas you should be looking at:


What is your primary focus in the marketplace? Businesses need to be clear about what they are offering to their customers and, to ensure customer loyalty and maximum profitability, it should be one of the following:

Product focused, for example Apple with its iPod

Market focused, for example Saga targeting the over-50s Service focused, for example Amazon with its personalised product recommendations Price focused, for example easyJet, with its low-cost flights. Lack of focus makes a business weaker and more susceptible to the threat of competition and market price pressures.


Do you have the right people in the right jobs? Are you and your senior team busy handling day-to-day administrative tasks rather than looking strategically at the business? Getting everyone in the company to understand their roles and responsibilities is one of the fundamental issues faced by mid–tier businesses.

Decision making in context

How do you and your team make decisions? We all have choices – and everyone in your company will be making decisions every day. If all your employees understand and agree the context, or the bigger picture, then they can make better choices and don't always have to seek management intervention. Moving away from a task-oriented environment to an holistic orientation not only increases the likelihood of people making the right choices, but it also allows a more hands-off management style.

Managing third party relationships

How do you get new business? The most effective way is through recommendation. You need a process in place to efficiently manage business relationships that will encourage and increase referred business.


What happens to the business if you leave it? For your business to be viable you need to be continually writing yourself out of a job – ensuring that the value of the business stays with the company and not with an individual.Over the coming months I will look at each of these topics in depth and encourage you to take a fresh look at how your business is organised. Running a successful business is down to basic formulae. By introducing a series of frameworks, based on these five key aspects, you can take control and shape the future – and fulfil the vision that made you start your business in the first place.


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