Everyone is a backseat driver. But how many are a Backseat Advisor? Turns out that when it comes to Alberta Venture readers, the answer is quite a few.
Our Next Step program is following four companies – Watch It!, Jori International, Nearctic and Oil Country Engineering – taking the proverbial next step in their growth. And we’re pairing these companies with professional business advisors, and documenting the results right here on our site. But rather than limit the good advice to the companies, we’ve opened up the floor to you. Backseat Advisor is for our readers to chime in on their hard-earned business advice. Each month we ask a question and you let us know your thoughts.
To start the ball rolling, we asked: “What is the key to growing a company effectively?”
Here is what you said:
Karen Hope, president of the Marketing Edge in Calgary, wrote that the key to growing a company is decisions made by the company’s owner or owners. “Since a small business owner must wear many hats they are often making decisions outside of their own area of expertise,” Hope wrote. “These decisions, if wrong, can doom the company or cripple its growth. The solution is to know that you cannot know it all and seek counsel from experts in the areas where they are not proficient.”
Hope also wrote that the most successful business owners she’s met have a strong sounding board of consultants they can turn to when making important decisions. “The owner must ensure the company is capitalized in order to resource expertise as it is needed,” Hope wrote. “If they do not have the capital to invest in advice and/or services they can be left to fend for themselves which only increases the odds of judgment mistakes.”
Hamish Knox, president of Sandler Training in Calgary, wrote a list type response to the question. “First, setting up systems and processes on the sales and management side, in addition to the operations, human resources and financial sides of your business, so you grow by design instead of default,” he wrote. “Second, establishing clear goals, breaking those goals down to weekly behavior expectations, then holding each person in the company accountable to their weekly behaviors.
“Third, understanding each of your employees’ personal goals so you can tie their performance at your company to the achievement of their personal goals.”
Brian Ward, CEO of Affinity Consulting and Training in Edmonton, broke his answer into mantras. The first? Be focused. “This has worked extremely well for organizations such as Google, Apple, Amazon and Walmart,” Ward wrote. “By being focused, you attract people to you who will support you on your journey.”
Ward’s next mantra? Be Authentic. “The old saying ‘fake it till you make it’ no longer applies,” he wrote. “People nowadays are highly sensitized to hype and marketing speak. We are living in an era of transparency. Just tell it like it is, don’t sugar coat it and above all create dialogue, not sound bites.”
Ward also suggested growing a company effectively must rely on courageous decisions, timely actions and, unexpectedly, empathy. “As you move forward to achieve your focus you will disturb some people. Listen to what others have to say, build consensus where needed, but don’t get bogged down in endless rounds of consensus building.”
To Ward’s five step growth plan, Theressa Conolly from Cold Lake had eight steps. Conolly’s growth steps?
- Strategic planning
- Leaders in key areas – finance, safety, human resource, and operation;
- Technology: financial and operational reporting, statistics and project management
- Customer service
- Business development and sales
- Effective use of company resources
- Focus on: employee retention, training, remuneration and performance management
- Cash Flow management.
What do you think? Did our respondents get it right or wrong? Sound off in the comments below.