Growth doesn’t just happen. Or does it?
I’ve always battled for growth in my businesses. I was often desperately focused on it, trying to make it happen. That is an unhealthy effort and focus. If you’ve ever found yourself pushing, pushing, pushing always searching for an illusive holy grail, you’re probably applying an unwise effort. I know I was.
An unwise effort is counter productive. Its friction. It grows from an underlying place of worry. It's a worry and fear which hijacks your motivations and leads you down a road where ever greater effort and intensity deliver ailing returns. More and more investment and effort, less and less return. Ever found yourself in such a place? If so, you’re probably in the land of unwise effort.
The truth is, opportunities for growth abound. The ever shifting sands of change in and around your companies, organizations, your lives present innumerable opportunities for growth. But only if we’re looking. Holding on too tight or looking too hard limits your perspective. As every Grandma knows: “If you look to hard, you’ll never find”. My grandma didn’t actually ever say that.
The context in which you’re looking for growth is important. Are you hunting with a positive or negative perspective, an open or closed mind? Much of my thirst for growth grew from a negative context – I was really hunting greater security. Clients, new business, new revenue were just tools in the game. Such a hunt is an impossible one. You’re chasing an illusion – it’s a goal you can never reach.
Take FreeState; we stashed cash equating to several years operating expenses. There was a reluctance to spend it. It was our safety net. It fed the illusion of security. It was our equivalent of ‘holding on’.
There’s nothing wrong with this, per se, most companies, big and small, run a holding on strategy – whether they know it as such or not. Given people are ill equipped to embrace change, our companies are marshalled with ever more sophisticated ‘protection strategies’. This is a consequence of insecurity. FreeState, under my leadership, hiding behind a cash pile or Nokia’s blindness to smart phones are the same thing, albeit on (slightly!) different scales.
There is, of course, an alternative. It’s one which many entrepreneurs, leaders, company owners do practise; a growth borne of positivity and opportunity, where behaviour is less constrained by imaginary, unknown future problems, and instead focused on being alive and responsive to the myriad opportunities which undoubtedly present themselves all the time – if we’re looking.
So, if you’re not one of those company leaders predisposed to such a future facing perspective, how do you create a company or lead your team in such a fluid, dynamic way? How do you create a company, a venture, which doesn’t demand ever increasing investments of your own personal blood, sweat and tears for stagnating or, worse, decreasing returns (whether emotional or commercial)?
Change your perspective. By about 100 years. Set out to build a company designed to thrive over 100+ years. A company which would be hitting its peak sometime around 2116, or thereabouts.
There is much fear in the immediacy of problems, challenges, obstacles. Being wrapped up in these problems of the moment is bad for our heads and bad for your businesses and companies.
When we shift to a 100 year perspective, a new freedom comes into view.
With a 100 year perspective, you can orientate to impact, rather than just returns. A company would achieve a huge amount in 100 years! Think of the lives that would be touched, the people who would benefit – employees, suppliers and, of course, clients. It’s contribution to our planet would be (should be) huge. Nice.
Resting in a 100 year perspective is just, well, a whole lot more relaxing! What looks like a problem today, melts to insignificance in the context of 100 years. Taking the long view helps you make better decisions, form more considered responses.
There are other benefits too.
A company designed for 100+ years must be bigger than you. Such a perspective forces you to disentangle your own emotions. This frees the company up as much as it frees you.
The 100 year company is a company which has adaptability and flexibility built into its core. It would embrace the idea, the imperative, of constant change and renewal. It would help its people gear for that, seek and understand it. It would never be a company strangled by the noose of success, it would be a company which relished regular trips to product/business/departmental gallows! Maybe a more palatable analogy is the everyday garden; the most abundant garden is constantly tended, constantly pruned. The 100 year old company would have seen many plants, trees, ideas seed, grow and die. It would celebrate the whole rather than obsessing the individual.
Borrowing a similar analogy, the 100 year old company, like a grand old oak tree, would know it was a servant to, rather than master of, the ecosystem into which its plugged. Imagine a company which invested as much in it’s suppliers and employees, it's environment, as it did hunting clients? I know they exist, but how commonly? The oak tree relies for life on the system around it, as do our companies. The company built for 100 years would be in constant and dynamic positive interaction with its entire network – it would celebrate and bow to each and every input and contributor, each and every social, virtual and commercial node. The sum would be acknowledged to be bigger than the parts and celebrated accordingly.
Maybe now is the time for the #slowgro movement.