Organizational Strategies: The Quest for Growth

By Erica Olsen

Organizational Strategies: The Quest for Growth

At the end of the day, what is every organization 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 he or she is working on and you’re bound to hear a strategy related to business 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.

The classic growth strategies include partnerships, market expansion, acquisition, product extension, and franchising. While these strategies are well known, how does an organization come to select one over the other as a means for growth? And once decided, how is the company run? Ultimately, I believe growth is 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, here are some practical considerations to keep in mind on your constant quest for growth…

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, objectives and goals must be understood. Everyone needs to understand how they contribute to and impact the goals. Second, they must be measurable and actionable by having someone responsible and a due date. 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. That takes 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. This is similar to accountability, but slightly different. 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 a key business metrics. Then give that individual or team the autonomy and authority to drive that revenue past the forecast!

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.

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.

Erica Olsen ( is VP of Marketing for OnStrategy, which helps companies build market-focused cultures through customer-driven strategic planning, empirical market research, and measurable marketing approaches. Her company launched, a web-based strategic planning site for small and medium businesses.

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Erica Olsen

Erica Olsen is the COO and a co-founder of OnStrategy. She has developed the format and the user interface for the award-winning OnStrategy on-line strategic management system. In addition, she is the author of Strategic Planning Kit for Dummies, 2nd Edition. Erica has developed and reviewed hundreds of strategic plans for public and private entities across the country and around the world. She is a lecturer at University of Nevada Reno and University of Phoenix. She holds a BA in Communications and an MBA in International Management.



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