Leadership, Let's Talk Business

What Does Growing a Business Really Mean?

By , February 17, 2019

If you can’t define what growth means to you, then you’ll never be able to succeed, because you haven't defined growth in the first place.

“How do you define growth?”

This is a question I posted recently on LinkedIn—and one I ask often when I’m speaking to audiences of businesspeople. And it always amazes me to see the diverse range of answers I get.

In a world where there’s immense pressure to expand and keep up with the competition, we tend to associate growth with more revenue, higher profits, and bigger business value. But many of the responses I got sounded like this: “Growth is attaining a measurable level above where you started.” And, “Growth is always searching for more, being open and hungry to continually learn.” And even: “Growth is more than higher turnover or profit. I want to grow as a person, to learn more, to help more people and to enjoy life more.”

What this teaches us is that the question of growth is not one-size-fits-all. It’s not something you should try to figure out by looking behind your shoulder at the next business owner. It is unique to the type of business, the current stage that it’s in, and where its leaders want to go next.

If you can’t define what growth means to you, then you’ll never be able to succeed, because you haven’t defined growth in the first place.

To illustrate my point, here are three examples of what growth may mean to one business at different stages:

Let’s say you own a coffee shop with seating for 60, but you only fill 30 seats on average. Your goal might be to grow your sales through marketing and promotional efforts. Once you are able to fill X number of seats, you know you’ve accomplished that phase of growth.

Once you’ve hit that goal, your next goal might be to increase efficiency and turn tables faster, leading to higher profits. Once you’re turning over X number of tables per hour, you’ve accomplished that growth phase.

And if your coffee shop is operating at maximum efficiency and you’ve achieved your sales and turnover goals? Your next phase of growth might be to expand your locations or opening a franchise. Once you achieve your goal of opening X number of locations, you’ve achieved that phase of growth.

And so on and so forth.

You may also be perfectly happy with your income level and the size of your coffee shop—but you want to grow in improving the workplace culture, bettering the work-life balance of your employees, reducing stress, or another area indirectly related to profits. That’s fine too, as long as you identify a specific, measurable goal and stick to it.

In our personal career development as well, we can ask the same questions. If you’re a designer, what do you need to do to become a senior designer? A creative director? To open your own firm? Whatever it is, take the time to determine what your next phase is, how you’ll know when you achieve it, and what you need to do to get there.

The bottom line? When thinking about growth, don’t leave anything up for interpretation. Be very specific to the stage you’re in and the goal that will bring you to the next. Know where you are now, and where you’re going. Ask yourself: Am I focused right now on acquiring the mindset, skills, and resources that will take me to the next level of growth—whatever that means to me?

Here are 3 Ptex Practical Pointers for businesses and people who want to achieve that next level of growth, but aren’t sure where to start.

1. Ask yourself: “What does growth mean to me, right now?”

What does your business need most at this phase of its existence?

2. Figure out what you need to do to get there. 

What skills, resources, tools, knowledge, and people do you need to achieve your goal?

3. Determine how you’re going to measure your goal. 

What benchmark are you going to use to know whether you’re hitting that target, so you can be sure you’re actually achieving what you’ve set out to do.

Remember, change doesn’t happen overnight. Just as babies must learn to crawl before they can stand, stand before they can walk, and walk before they can run, business owners can grow effectively if they’re willing to take it one step, one stage at a time—and think deeply about what success at each level means to them.

I’d love to know: What does growth mean to you? Comment below and let me know.

Meny Hoffman

Meny Hoffman is the Chief Executive Officer of Ptex Group, an Inc. 500/5000-ranked marketing and business services firm headquartered in Brooklyn, NY.

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