Stop, think, grow

Take a step back. Work on the business, not in the business. Carve out some time to think. You know you should. But it’s easier said than done.

There is always something that can’t wait – customers, sales, processes, finance, technology, suppliers – and everything has to be managed by someone.

Often the pressure doesn’t come from outside; it comes from within. You might be over-designing or over-complicating things. You may be striving for unnecessary perfection. Maybe you are ticking off easy wins (how much time do you spend pruning your e-mail in-box?) rather than planning how to achieve the important goals.

The truth is that if you are running the company, then the company benefits from the time you spend thinking and planning strategically.

And that lesson is being emphatically well learned by companies that are using the GrowthAccelerator programme, in which business owners work together with a growth manager and a coach to enter their next stage of growth.

For Giles Mortimer and Ian Chapman of Traveller, a Newcastle-based airport retail business, the simple discipline of sitting in a room with their growth coach Paul Lilley and “really putting our heads together” to work on the business has been “really valuable.” It created a forum for discussion away from the phones and day-to-day operations, and enabled Traveller’s directors to get the overview of the business.

“It’s been a real opportunity to stop in our tracks and really look at what we are doing,” says Sarah Vaughan, managing director of UK Flood Barriers, a £1.8m-turnover company in Worcestershire. Describing the process as “fantastic,” she believes that successful implementation of the plan could lead to growth “in terms of thousands of percent.”

At first, Simon Mellin was sceptical. His Pendle-based family food business, Roaming Roosters, was already growing quickly. “I thought it would be a waste of time,” he says. But it was definitely worth doing. “It pulls you back a bit, makes you doublecheck that you are doing the correct things.” The result: a business that is more than doubling its expected turnover, improving its profitability, creating more jobs than expected, and one that has paid off its debts.

Pulling back and looking at the business has given Roaming Roosters a structure in which to grow quickly, says Mellin, “when it could have spiralled out of control.”

Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, recommends that all bosses should have a “stop doing” list. But if there’s one thing that many should add to their “start doing” list is to sign up to GrowthAccelerator.

The Business Growth Service is now closed to new customers. Contractual commitments to existing customers will be honoured, as long as all support and related activity is completed by 31 March 2016. If you’re looking to find what business support is available in your area, your local Growth Hub may be able to help.