By Erica Olsen
Reach $1 Million Through Strong Strategy

At the end of the day, what is every business trying to do? Grow. More customers, more sales, positive cash flow, larger deal sizes, higher volume, more billable hours, justification for higher prices, etc. Ask any hard-working entrepreneur what she is working on and you’re bound to hear a comment related to growth. Why? Because if you’re not growing, you’re shrinking. It’s why we are all in business – to build or create something bigger than ourselves. And specifically, how do you grow your business to more than $1 million in revenue?

The standard growth strategies are numerous (and confusing) such as partnerships, market expansion, acquisition, product extension, and franchising. While these strategies are important and useful, I believe growth is ultimately determined by providing value to your customers, the people you hire, the processes they develop, and culture you choose to build. So instead of thinking about the detailed strategies themselves, let’s look at a few exciting and practical ways to help you move closer to the $1 million mark.

Drive the organization with big vision. Growth requires thinking big, then executing like crazy. Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent persistence. But that 10 percent is critical, otherwise the 90 percent is lost, aimless, and unproductive. According to Alvin Toffler, “You’ve got to think about the big things while you’re doing the small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.” Growth comes from pursuing a worthwhile plan with measurable rigor.

Account for big goals. Every organization sets goals, but sometimes they aren’t big, and sometimes they are not written down! A big vision is achieved through accomplishing big objectives and goals. That’s all execution really is – your organization’s ability to achieve goals. First, pick 3 to 5 strategic goals that you will focus on in 2007. Make sure all of these goals are focused on growing your business to $1 million. Second, develop action plans for each goal. Identify a responsible persona and a due date for each action item. Review regularly and hold people accountable. Create a culture that people that people feel responsible for “not missing a due date here.” That’s all there is to it – it doesn’t have to be complicated, confusing or time consuming.

Celebrate wins along the way. Publicly share big accomplishments, milestone, project completion, revenue goals. This sharing drives growth in two ways: 1) It motivates the people driving those accomplishments to press on. 2) Success and profit sharing breeds confidence, fueling enthusiasm for further growth. Everyone wants to be appreciated and we often dwell on what we failed to achieve, instead of celebrating the small wins. Do something special for yourself and your team. After all, it’s the journey, not just the destination that matters. Enviable growth business happens when you create something with ‘a feeling that we’re in this together.’

Seek out new ideas. Invite left and right-brained people into your organization to create a complete “brain trust” of skills and competencies. You need both perspectives to invent creative solutions, challenge the status quo, find hidden connections, new models, analyze data for discoveries, and explore parallel industries for new methods. Henry Ford could not have grown faster than everyone else had he not borrowed the division of labor manufacturing line concept from a meat packing plant. Walgreens could not have grown as fast had they not changed their approach to increased convenience instead of big stores, big ticket items. Southwest could not have grown had they not reinvented airline service and the hub-and-spoke approach. Challenge conventional wisdom to solve your customers’ issues and pains with non-traditional approaches.

Ignore distractions. In tandem with new ideas, we must focus! This is the never-ending struggle for entrepreneurs – too many ideas, too little resources. In an increasingly competitive environment, growth comes from being great at one thing at a time. Succeed at one thing that you know customers need. Thattakes focus – focus on the customer and focus on what you choose to do better than anybody. Use your vision as a filter to keep out distractions. If the activity is not line with your big goals, even if it is a good idea, table it and move on.

Empower through ownership. Inside almost every motivated employee is a frustrated entrepreneur. As we know, entrepreneurs like to build and own their work. They are achievement-oriented and take pride in results. Feed these engines with premium fuel by assigning ownership. Recognition is the number one motivator. You can unleash powerful output by clearly defining roles and responsibilities. Give ownership of action plans. And help everyone in your organization understand their purpose and impact on the big picture.

Neutralize negativity. There is no such thing as “try,” there is only “do.” That’s the attitude of a sustainable growth company. The question is never, “Are we going to make it?” The question is “What do you need to make it” and the answer is “here’s how we can”. But be realistic. Most growth companies don’t grow quickly without sustaining some damage. Consider how to avoid road blocks and road bumps along the way.

Know your market cold. As a wise person (I can’t remember whom) once said – sell something that people want to buy, not something you have to convince them to buy. In other words, know (don’t guess or assume) the needs and wants of your customers. Offer them something that solves their problems, makes their life better, something they can’t live without. Talk to them, go to their business or home, and learn as much as you can about how they use your product or service. And use that information to make your offering the best it can be. Don’t forget, it is your customers that will get you to that $1 million mark!

Passion overall. If you’re motivated and excited about what you are doing, people will follow and your organization will grow. This may be the most important element because it is the true spirit behind growth.

To everyone out there who is striving to hit $1 million (me included), may you hit that goal and then some!