Thursday, July 8, 2010

You are either growing or you're dying...

As Big Tom Callahan says about business in the movie Tommy Boy "You are either growing or you're dying. There just ain't no third direction." The recession has made everyone in small business painfully aware of this new reality. Now I know that that recession is hard for small business owners, my wife is a small business owner and it is tough out there. Capital is all but gone, costs are increasing, and sales are harder to find than ever before, but that doesn't mean your business has to die. In fact if you are still in business your company was growing and you probably didn't even know it.

Most small business owners will probably think I am crazy for saying that, but the reality is what impedes growth is a lack of understanding as to what "real" growth is and how to find it. For most business owners, growth is a tangible result measured against some benchmark on the space time continuum, e.g. growth of sales over the previous quarter. However, what if "real" growth was intangible? What if "real" growth was measured as the ability to stay in business? Would you know how to recognize areas of "real" growth in your company? Probably not, but why?

The reason why is because the business world doesn't measure upticks in creativity and innovation, so most small business owners won't either. However, I challenge you to think about your business situation for a second... Over the past 18-months have you been able to do the impossible and keep the doors open? How? My bet is that you have done it through looking beyond the tangible and focusing on the perception of value derived from creativity and innovation, I know my wife has.  She has changed the intangible things about her company.  She changed the model, method, and overall strategy of the business she got into as the recession started.

Now, I know what you (and she) are thinking, you're thinking "I kept the doors open and lights on because I slashed payroll, cut costs, incurred additional debt and did it all because my sales were down... which are tangible" and it doesn't take a genius to recognize that is the opposite of growth in the traditional text book sense. However I ask how did you slash payroll? How did you cut costs? My wager is that you intuited or perceived value (an intangible) in people (cut him but not her) and costs (kept the water cooler, but lost the fresh flower delivery) in a way you had never done before. You recognized that to keep the company "growing" you needed to cut back and change things. You realized in order to survive your company has to be more responsive to customers. It has to be doing business with the right vendors. It has to be more creative. It has to embrace innovation and it has to do all these things to buy yourself another day in business. So to put it back into traditional growth terms, despite all the cutbacks your company is still growing one day at a time. It would have to be, or else you would already be dead, because in business there really isn't a third direction!

How did you grow to survive the recession? Where will you grow when it is over? Leave a comment and let me know!

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