The 5 Catalysts of 7 Figure GrowthBy Andrew J. Birol, President, Birol Growth Consulting, Inc.
- Table of Contents and Forward
Table of Contents
Section One: The Five Catalysts of Seven Figure Growth
Chapter 1 From Apprehension to Conviction: How an Owners Mindset Drives the Firms Growth
Chapter 2 The Conviction-to-Customer Connection: Developing Your Best and Highest Use
Chapter 3 From First Dates to Diamond Anniversaries: Enhancing Your Sales Funnel to Find, Keep, and Grow Customers
Chapter 4 To Market, To Market: Tending Your Systems for Fulfillment and Delivery
Chapter 5 Keep On Keepin On: Repetition and Consistency for Stable Growth
Section Two: The Five Sales Milestones of Business Growth
Chapter 6 The First Day of the Rest of Your Life: Growing from Start-up to $1,000,000
Chapter 7 Gaining Traction: Growing from $1 million to $5 million
Chapter 8 Tasting Confidence: Growing from $5 million to $20 million
Chapter 9 Who Have We Become?: Growing from $20 million to $50 million
Chapter 10 The Times, They Are A’ Changing: Succession and Transition
Appendix Owners Exercise Series
About the Author
Somewhere around the turn of the millennium, people started calling me a “business owner.” An owner—as opposed to someone who was “consulting” or “starting a business” or “out on his own.” I felt honored. Having broken away from the corporate world, I had been accepted into the greatest yet most solitary fraternity in the world: business owners.
I bet you understand. When people find out we own businesses, dont their eyes often shine? The first eager question is usually, “So, what is your business?” Once we tell them, their responses vary depending on whether they want to sell us something, assume we are wealthy, or need a job. But the gleam in their eyes typically remains.
Business owner. The phrase has a certain aura, a sparkle of achievement. Whether you are a sole proprietor, a Mom and Pop shop or franchise owner, a local or regional manufacturer or distributor, or the leader of a nationally recognized company, as a business owner you are living the American Dream that escapes most people. Business ownership is about freedom, choice, and personal victory over risk and control. So, I ask you: if we owners are living the American Dream, why do so many of our businesses fall short of our expectations?
Lets face it, anyone can set up shop and proclaim himself a business owner. With few exceptions, we owners are not qualified by anyone but our own self-confidence. We are unlicensed and need no certification, not even a college degree. While the great heroes—Henry Ford, Fred Smith of FEDEX, and Bill Gates, for example—shine, most others survive, fail, or struggle to keep hope alive until the next loan payment, customer order, or suppliers credit terms. Running our own firms is an equal-opportunity pathway to great respect and achievement, or to embarrassment, regret, and failure.
Owners know this. Psychologically, its a pretty clear fork in the road. As Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”
Trouble is, how do we know which path leads to success and which leads off a cliff? The stakes are so high that as owners we tend to creep along an inch at a time, or, even worse, simply stand still. Change involves risk. The status quo becomes set in stone. And we are great at rationalizing: This is how weve always done it. If a business isnt growing, however, it is falling behind.
I see scores of owners who subsist in a kind of purgatory I call Dead Firm Walking. There is the extremely talented “freelancer” who is content with just surviving. The scion of the family business whose ambition is trampled beneath the rush and clutch of greedy relatives. The owners who are insecure, or who lack critical resources and the conviction to secure them. Then there are the over-prideful, for whom taking the business to the next level—or any level—represents a loss of purity, as they see themselves “selling out”. Finally, there are owners of successful firms who have hit the Peter Principle; they cant admit that the business needs more than their present leadership can provide.
We owners have all of the tools and certainly all of the incentive to grow our businesses, our national economy, and parts of the developing world. New problems demand new solutions. Since I live in Ohio, many of my clients are located in the Rust Belt, which is a little like fighting from the trenches in World War I—so many owners are so focused on not getting shot that they have yet to peek up from the mud. Once dependent on the now-embattled industries of rubber and steel, the region lags behind the rest of the country in transforming itself into a New Economy player. But guess what? Some companies are growing. Many are thriving, in fact, and the winners arent all service providers. In this book you will read about manufacturers who have transformed their companies to keep pace with foreign competition. Their example highlights both the need for, and the potential of, U.S. companies to reinvent themselves.
The question is how?
You think; therefore, your business is
For most businesses, the tendency toward inertia is reversible if the owner is willing to seek help and make changes. After years of consulting with hundreds of owners, I knew it was time to write a book about the key steps to growth. This isnt a new topic. Yet, while so many MBA entrepreneurial programs, large consulting firms, and companies interested in serving entrepreneurs address the clinical needs of a business, they neglect to explore the profound impact an owners attitude, beliefs, and level of confidence have on his or her business.
The book you are reading is not the book I would have written ten years ago, before my own business grew from start-up through confidence and now success. I came to consulting after many productive years in the corporate world, where I honed my skill set, gained critical knowledge particularly in sales, marketing, and the politics of business, and pushed around enough symbolic paper clips to know I am not cut from corporate cloth. Despite the vast resources of my employers, and despite great talent in the upper ranks of management, very little got done. Stuff didn’t happen—it just sat around. Endless meetings and lunches and reports and strategic analyzing led to … more meetings, lunches, reports, and strategic analyses. I worked for good people. Why, then, did we accomplish so little? Was there something in the water cooler? Was it politics? CYA? The collective, competing wills of an entire tier of managers each committed to being the last man (or woman) on the island?
Once I began running my own show and my means were finally, irrevocably connected to my ends, the answer became clear. My employer companies were guided by corporate stewards who simply lacked the passion, conviction, and financial stake in the business I had gained as an entrepreneur. Those early months contained enough surprises to convince me that I was orbiting a whole new galaxy from the corporate stratosphere I had known. What I had thought would be difficult—drumming up clients and convincing them my services were worth actual money—proved to be the easiest part of my new job. The trouble came, ironically, in my former area of expertise, database management. I became so mired in time-consuming and ill-conceived administrative functions that I hardly had time to service the new clients that were proving so easy to find. To save my business, I had to redesign my billing practices and delegate the administrative tasks in order to focus on what I did best: helping companies grow.
These experiences taught me three crucial points about business ownership. First, companies either grow or they are sold. Sometimes the go to someone else who grows them and sometimes into bankruptcy, where they are salvaged for whatever value they can offer to creditors. Second, nothing can stand between an owner and his or her business. There are no obstacles between what we want and what the business is capable of doing if we are truly committed to making it happen. The business succeeds (or fails) on the strength (or weakness) of our sense of purpose, our drive to succeed, and our level of commitment.
Third, I learned that every entrepreneur carries a unique skill set much like an amateur golfer (I plead guilty) who caddies his own clubs, only some of which leverage his strengths. You may hit onto the green in two, but if you keep three-putting a par-four you wont be winning any trophies. The baggage a person has while in the corporate world will not magically disappear once he hangs out his shingle. Someone with poor people-management skills will still have a hard time dealing with people as a business owner. A chronically disorganized employee will become a chronically disorganized owner.
To succeed, we owners must possess great passion and purpose, but these are not enough to sustain a business beyond its early successes. As owners, in other words, we shoulder both the opportunity and the obligation for controlling our firm’s destiny. Owners with passion but little direction often become paralyzed by their desire to do everything right, or flail around in so many directions the company is pulled apart. Owners who are all direction with no passion breed passive subservience throughout their firm. Avoiding failure does not equal succeeding, as competitors focused on excellence will prove. And owners who lack both conviction and knowledge of how to deliver tangible benefits for their customers are kidding themselves—and everyone around them—about running a business.
Remember Y2K? The fever pitch of worrying that somehow our computers clock would stop the business world created an entire industry with perhaps the shortest life cycle in history—eighteen months. But its impact was far greater. The management attention, passion, and money poured into this boondoggle could have been put into product development, Internet applications, and customer service. “But nooo!” as Steve Martin would say. We had to fix Y2K! Meanwhile, young sales people were never taught how to be more than order takers in a booming economy. Recruiters chased aging COBOL programmers who milked employers for every cent they could. Then the Internet bubble burst and we survived airborne torpedoes destroying our treasured symbols on 9-11. We business owners were only distracted further.
What if we could have stayed focused? How many of us could keep a clear sense of which customers to serve, why those customers would buy, and what made our companies unique? Heres an answer. By the time the economic recovery took hold in 2004, hundreds of distracted businesses were out of business, and probably several million were hunkered down, too anxious to take bold steps and seize their day. All this during a time when interest rates made money almost free and technology workers were available in droves!
The cost of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) on our businesses and economy is profound. It suffocates the business owner’s ability to grow.
True business growth is a natural consequence of excellence. If in doubt, we must peel our company onion down to its essence: real customers with real problems must spend real money to purchase real products or services his company really makes which solve real pain or create real opportunity real soon. Everything else is a distraction. Nothing virtual about this reality!
Doesnt this seem like an obvious point? Yet examples of businesses that “just dont get it” abound. Some of these firms are near death, others are outwardly successful, but all share a set of symptoms:
- The owner is ambivalent and conflicted.
- The company isn’t in touch with the value it provides to customers.
- Thus, the company squanders its best opportunities for growth by failing to sell what its customers most want or need.
- Customers are only partially satisfied and understandably fickle. They will keep buying only until a better competitor comes along.
Just as a tiny ranch house and a city skyscraper collapse in similar ways if their foundations are weak, inertia can afflict any company, from a sole proprietor start-up to a national firm with a rich history and healthy sales. The rationale is to avoid pain (skimp on the cost of the foundation) rather than to create opportunity (build it strong to support future development). Ask any contractor—which eventually costs more?
Too many businesses change only when they hurt. As long as minimal growth is acceptable, changing seems risky. If our attitude toward growth is conflicted, our firms will struggle with how to find, keep, and grow more customers. Thus we squander time, energy, and money instead of asking the hard questions.
This book is written for owners and their managers and advisors who want to grow their companies in a more consistent, efficient manner. The PACER Process (an acronym for “Process for Acquiring Customers and Enhancing Retention”) I have developed takes the guess work and frustration out of business growth by supplying a duplicable system owners can apply at each stage of growth, from starting out to achieving higher and higher levels of sales and finally to creating a legacy and transitioning the company into the hands of a successor. By applying the same core principles (the five catalysts) and modifying them for each successive milestone (seven-figure growth) you can create and repeat a cycle of organic growth.
The core principle of this system is my conviction that an owners drive, passion, and potential carve out the future of his or her company. This concept is hard for some owners to accept in that it can be mistaken for a modern version of Freud’s “blame the mother” tendencies; anything that is wrong with your “baby”—no matter how old or independent it becomes—is all your fault. To the contrary! When you truly grasp that your firms success is an outgrowth of your passion, conviction, and drive, you feel the power of your position. No longer must you stress out over the things you can’t control—a competitor trying to steal your best customers; a marketing slogan getting poor results; the customer retention software that keeps letting you down—because there is so much you can control.
As you will see in Chapters 1 and 2, by deepening your conviction you can discover (or recover) how your particular passions and talents translate into unique solutions for your customers. This is what I call Best and Highest Use®. By pursuing what you love and do well, you can target customers who most need your talents, meet their specific needs, and build loyalty through excellence. The beauty of Best and Highest Use, or BHU, is that it allows you to clarify your goals and simplify your decisions. It is your guide to the actions you must take. Why fret about a competitor targeting your customers? Instead, deepen your relationships with those customers to insure they stay with your firm. Likewise, if your marketing is ineffective, you can analyze it in terms of your target market; if the message isnt telling your best prospects about your firms BHU, you know exactly what changes to make. Ambivalence and passivity melt away. You will be free to take positive action and avoid repeating old mistakes (the “baggage” you bring to the relationship) at the same time you are leveraging your and your companys greatest strengths.
The Five Catalysts of Seven-Figure Growth is divided into two sections. The first five chapters present each catalyst in detail to give you a solid understanding of the role it plays in creating business success. Beginning with conviction, these catalysts examine how an owners passion drives the success of his or her company; how to translate this passion to capitalize on a companys excellence and create simple systems to find, keep, and grow customers; how to sell and deliver this excellence to a defined market; and how to continue building on the goodness and value a business provides. The catalysts are easily comprehensible yet rich in application. They are, to borrow a term from one of my mentors, Wayne Willis, “MECE”—mutually exclusive, comprehensive, and exhaustive. If you focus on these five catalysts, your firm will grow.
In the second section of the book, which begins with Chapter 6, you can apply each catalyst to different phases of growth. As these chapters show, although all five catalysts are critical in growing your business at each stage, the specific questions, challenges, and applications you confront will change as your business grows. I encourage you to read the first section to understand the critical nature of the five catalysts. Then you will be able to launch into the final chapters to examine where you have been, where you are going next, and what actions you must take to drive your company to the next level.
Throughout the book, youll see a special icon reminding you to turn to the Appendix, where you will find the Owners Exercise Series to help you grow your business. These exercises are specially designed to help you clarify and quantify your business growth.
So, owners, start your engines. Yours is the opportunity to mold your business into a unique projection and extension of all that you are and all that your company can do. This is where the fun begins.
Articles by Birol Growth Consulting are © copyrighted and all rights are reserved. However, articles may be reprinted with prior written consent if attribution is included as follows:
© Copyrighted by Andrew J. Birol, President of Birol Growth Consulting, who helps owners grow their businesses by growing their Best and Highest Use ®. Andy can be reached at (412) 973-2080, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the web at www.andybirol.com.