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Ken Keller: Foundation of business growth

Posted: August 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Many business owners want to grow their businesses; they want more clients, more revenue, higher revenue per client, improved cash flow, reduced variable and fixed costs and high profits to reinvest back into the business to grow it even more.

I am convinced, having seen many company owners say the above and then fail miserably at it, that growth as outlined above occurs in a company only when the individuals in it grow first.

The owner who talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk is not going to have a growing business. The owner must set the example if others are to follow.

This might be difficult medicine for some owners to swallow. Many owners already have ego issues, a belief system that says they are already better than others, which is why they are owners not employees.

My point is that nothing really stays static; knowledge, like environmental laws and regulations, tend to have a short shelf life. Either it changes or it becomes obsolete.

If your business is flat, maybe it is time to start improving the situation by asking yourself a question, “What do I need to learn to become a better leader of a growing business?”

The longer your list, the more opportunity there is for personal growth.

You next need to look at the managers working directly for you. Have you encouraged them to learn new management concepts, or to brush up on those things that might have become stale or rusty?

What was your level of commitment to their continuing education? Did you offer to pay and allocate work time? Did you expect those committed to continue learning to do so on their own nickel and time? What about those you determined needed the education but expressed zero interest in following through?

If you have identified someone in management who isn’t interested in becoming a better manager, someone who can help you grow your business, why are you keeping him on as a manager?

The individual has signaled to you, loud and clear, he is not interested in improving themselves. Given that, how is this person going to help your company as it enters a new era?

If this attitude-challenged individual happens to be your sales manager, consider how inspirational he will be as they recruit new team members; imagine how seriously he will take his training responsibilities when teaching how to sell into new market segments; and, think about how much time he will actually spend conducting meaningful appraisals with under-performing sales people.

Finally, look at your front-line employees in operations, customer service, accounting, warehousing and other support areas. Individuals at this level are usually hungry to learn and eager to embrace new things as they see security tied to the growth and success of the company.

Front-line employees want to contribute to the success of their employer but often don’t know how. They want to learn how to do their job better, more efficiently, produce desired results. They crave seldom-provided feedback. They want to learn new technical skills, often technology related.

As the owner, you can increase efficiencies and productivities by tapping into this goodwill and talent by investing inexpensively with in-house training programs. Employees teaching employees is very cost effective and builds confidence for all involved.

A company can only grow if the people in it grow. If your organization is not a learning one; it needs to become one. When you’ve stopped learning, it’s just a matter of time before the competition eats you for lunch.

Ken Keller is CEO of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with companies interested in growing top line revenue. He can be reached at Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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