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The Reluctant Leader, Part VI

By Chuck Violand

March 16, 2015

I don’t know how to grow my business beyond its current size.

If the underlying cause for the lack of growth in our businesses is a lack of knowledge, then we just hit the jackpot. It’s the easiest factor to address if we are willing learners! This cause can be broken into several subcategories:

I know what I don’t know. Being consciously aware that we lack the knowledge or skills required to grow our companies is a huge admission for a business owner.

I don’t know what I don’t know. This category could read “…and I’m not sure I’d like it if I did know.” As I’ve written on several occasions in the past, owners of growing companies are constantly navigating territory that is completely unfamiliar to them. This is why a common trait of successful business owners is the ability to connect the dots that led to success in the past with what will replicate it in the future.

I don’t recognize my own deficiencies. We all bring personal behaviors, developed over our lifetime, to managing our businesses. While some of these behaviors might have been strengths in the early stages of our companies, they can easily become weaknesses as our companies grow. For example, an “any job, anytime, anywhere” philosophy at the outset can later degenerate into a blurred vision. A “hands-on” mentality in the beginning can lead to an over-controlling management style later. These behaviors may have given us the adrenalin needed to launch our companies but now may be preventing us from attracting and keeping the talented people we need to grow them.

The good news is that we have absolute control over all of these categories. It’s completely up to us. As long as we’re willing to learn new things and grow ourselves professionally, our businesses will grow right along with us.

As I mentioned at the outset of this series, the underlying factors that influence the growth of companies, causing some to grow and some not, include a lot of elements. External factors such as local market conditions and national economic trends may temporarily affect a company’s ability to grow, but they rarely have long-term effects. Internal factors such as sales processes and financial controls will certainly have an effect, but these are technical issues that can be corrected or improved. The true underlying root causes can usually be found deep within the recesses of the owner’s mind. When a business owner is serious about growing his business, he’ll find a way to grow it. Or he’ll leave it and find another that can deliver the dream he believes in.

Running a large business doesn’t necessarily make us any more successful than running a small business. Individual success is measured in much broader terms than simply gross sales or net worth. That definition is as varied as the people measuring it.

As it is with many things in business and in life, there really is no good or bad measure. It’s simply what exists, how we feel about it, and whether we are compelled to change it. For most business owners, the real measure of success is if the things we accomplish in our businesses are in alignment with the things we believe about ourselves.