High Growth Companies Are Smart


High growth companies are often very smart in what and how they do things – here are 11 characteristics of a gazelle business

1. Smart Vision – Clarity of purpose know where they are going

2. Smart leadership and teams – thinkers, doers, controllers, sellers

3. Smart Propositions – ones that clearly demonstrate evidenced Impact (ROI) – memorable

4. Smart Marketing – strategic use of social and multi media tools

5. Smart Brands and IP – the value of intangibles, knowledge, know how and expertise

6. Smart Connectivity – ruthless focus on selling and client delight – achieve customer “lock in”

7. Smart Partnerships – the people/organisations you hang out with

8. Smart Mindsets – tuned into success – drive, determination and resilience – invisible forces

9. Smart Processes – KPI’s, control and measurement, finances and processes – dials on the dashboard

10. Smart Giving – to be in service of a cause and to be purpose driven

11. Smart Thinking – a culture of creativity and innovation to deliver the edge

Self Imposed Pressure


In my study of success people one characteristic that I often find is individuals impose pressure on themselves to achieve something special. Whilst a stimulus or encouragement may come from a mentor or coach, self imposed pressure often drives attainment of the prize. This pressure can become an important factor in delivering on the personal intentions we set for ourselves. For example going public with a statement of what you are going to achieve result in pressure to take action and build momentum. Here the driver is not wanting to be seen to fail to deliver or the worry of letting people down- the fear of looking stupid also becomes an important motivator for action.

Investment in new business initiatives where personal and company risks are taken often focusses the mind on what needs to be achieved by when. Self imposed pressure can drive us to what we want but this must be balanced as too much of it can be destructive – emotionally, physically and professionally. Its back to the importance of balance! However self discipline and hard work driven by self imposed pressure helps to build momentum.

The Secret – so whats missing?


I read this book just after Christmas last year and I keep going back to it in search of wisdom and insight for the entrepreneurs I deal with. The book teaches us how clarity of purpose and setting clear intentions opens us up to the world of new opportunities and how the law of attraction delivers us what we want. In many respects The Secret can be summed up in Goethe’s famous quote:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now”

In my opinion The Secret can give false hope to those who don’t appreciate or embrace one extremely simple principle – life rewards people who take action. Whilst I believe the book is a source of great inspiration, my research clearly shows that successful people have an extremely strong work ethic, whilst believing they can can achieve what they set their minds to, practice, practice, practice is essential and must follow the dreaming. If we combine the teachings of The Secret with that of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers theory – of the”10,000-Hour Rule” then I think a formula for accelerated performance can be derived. The rule claims that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. Fusing this thinking with the need for deeply rooted personal intentions delivers a potent mix for getting what you want.

A Sense Insecurity Can Drive Performance


Interesting that the feeling of insecurity is an important driver for many successful entrepreneurs. The very thought of failure or getting things wrong can become an important motivator because the individual fears:

1. Looking stupid in front of their peers

2. The demotivating feeling of failure

3. Letting others down – friends, family, colleagues, staff

When insecurity is balanced with a strong sense of ambition, momentum is often the resultant effect. Personal intentions become deeply engrained within our mindset and forward thinking strategies manifest into an invisible yet highly potent force – things get done, action orientation over shadows any negativity. Insecurity is a grounding force and avoids letting ego take control. When the latter gets hold, I think its very dangerous place to be as a feeling of invincibility often kicks. In turn you end up taking your eye off the ball, this can have a disastrous result.

As most of my blogs try to point out balance in most things is vital (easy to say, hard to do) too much insecurity can lead to lack of self worth, inactivity – the fog quickly emerges and inertia results.

The High Growth Foundation launch this week with its highly respected panelists demonstrated just how powerful humility (resulting from a little insecurity) can be in engaging both an audience and those around them. Just a big shame that TV programmes pushing arrogance and know it all attitudes are still being watched by millions. Whilst it makes good TV viewing for some, I am afraid it’s not how it really is. We must avoid breeding the wrong behaviours for the next generation of start-ups and gazelles!

Business Growth Fund…Is it supporting SMEs?


I heard on Radio  4 this morning details of the Business Growth Fund to support SMEs. Having spent time looking around the well put together web site – I then navigated to the application bit of the site and this is what it says:

Target companies that typically turnover £10m to £100m per annum and have been operating successfully for two or more years

Firstly, this rules out a massive amount of the SME population, I would guess over 70% and probably more. Secondly, successfully operating for two years or more???? how many companies do you know that have grown to £10M or £100M in two years? This is quite disappointing news for those SMEs who have built up say a sub £5M business over a number of years but have great potential. Achieving £10M in 10 years is a massive achievement – to be honest there are not many of these either.

Just flying off to the moon to get a brew…..Madness

Fusion – social media and traditional community building


Where would we be without LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter? Has it wiped out traditional communication channels and networking activity, such as, picking up the phone or turning up to events and having a conversation? The power of these new channels accelerate discussions and several new books such as the The Shift by the brilliant Lynda Gratton almost tell us that we are moving into a radically different environment where traditional ways of working are defunct. Not sure I agree with this at all.

There is a great book by Henry Hemming – Together – How Small Groups of People Achieve Big things. In his book he talks about the revival of community. He gives some brilliant examples of how people with common interests come together to drive change – read the F.C United story, the break away group of Manchester United fans. This happened in an Indian restaurant in Manchester when a group of ex United fans that wanted change, and gosh did they achieve it!

I see it in my own environment with the establishment of a village community, events and local get together where residents are encouraged to have a conversation and get to know each other face to face.

In my business world – The High Growth Foundation we are launching tomorrow has attracted 200 delegates. A fusion of social media tools to engage communities online with the traditional coming together of individuals to have a conversation in my view is the way forward…they work hand in hand.

A yo-yo mindset – critical for high growth


As I mentioned in my last blog, high growth equates to hard work and high risk. This is why I feel the yo-yo mindset of the entrepreneur is vital. When things are moving fast it is so easy to lose sight of the critical matters. Vital things get blurred almost to a point where key ingredients for success get missed or just overlooked. Getting absorbed in the excitement of growth can be dangerous if we don’t take time out to:

Rise above and take the helicopter view: where are we going? How can we add value? How do we differentiate? Shall we tackle new markets and customers? Is the finance in place for further growth? Have I got the right team? What is the company blind spot?

Really get immersed in the detail: How much cash is in the bank? Have we chased all the invoices? Who owes us money? Why have those invoices not been settled? Have we paid all our bills? Has that mailshot gone out? Has the PI been renewed? Have the staff appraisals gone into the diary? Where are the management accounts? WIP? Pipeline?

The ability to rise above (and reflect) then get stuck in to the nitty gritty is what I call the yo-yo mindset, moving from one state to the other is vital. In the early days it’s often down to you to do it but as the company grows the team approach helps to support this yo-yo activity.  Whatever the case it still has to happen, probably with greater frequency as the business grows. Its back to leadership vs management…..you need both in equal measures. Pointless hovering above the business all the time because nothing will get done. Equally being immersed in the detail means you become disconnected from the marketplace, not a good place to be.

High Growth Companies – The Reality


We have heard so much about the importance of high growth companies to the economy going forward – 6% of SMEs will deliver in excess of 50% of new jobs over the coming years. Well my question is, are the banks on board to support ambitious individuals with big dreams and good ideas…..yes but…really on board? We hear that the banks are pushing out money to entrepreneurs but at what cost. Well my anecdotal evidence is…the money is available but at great personal exposure to the entrepreneur. The PG requests and unrealistic demands on individuals with dependants still astounds me.

High growth often equates to high risk. If we are going to encourage the next generation of significant employers we must ensure that there is balanced risk on both sides. At the moment what I see is this – the bank will provide the money as long as your house and all other personal assets are put on the line. How many people are willing to do this? My experience is very few.

A word of caution for sales trainers


I have referred to this point in some of my recent blogs but I really do want to stress how important I believe the issue to be – I keep coming across the problem time and time again, both with SMEs and larger companies. The big assumption many sales trainers make is – “The business model, propositions, products and services offered by those being trained do actually capture the voice of the customer and align to needs”.  This can be a dangerous assumption to make.

This very point came to light only this week when one individual I was talking to after an event said – “I just do not believe in the product and what it delivers” – a training course will not improve performance if this is the case. In my experience is that many large corporates fail to see this and when under performance kicks in managers go straight to HR to request a relevant sales course. How much money has been wasted on such occasions?

The very fact that someone does not believe in a product could be two-fold, firstly the because market does not want it, this results in constant customer knock backs or secondly the individual has a personal hang up with what is being sold. If it’s the former – a rethink of strategy, innovation is necessary so speak to the customers. If the latter then that could be one of many reasons ranging from lack of product knowledge through to personal motivation. Coaching from a respected colleague or manager can be a highly effective way of getting to the heart of the matter.

The Power of the Brand


I was sat in Costa Coffee on Oxford Road in Manchester this morning and it created an extremely thought-provoking experience. Having been in a meeting nearby, myself and colleague Heather, decided to go and have a brew to catch up on a few things that needed to be sorted for next week……..

Within the space of 5 minutes a queue of 30 people deep developed, an orderly line leading out on the street. With only two people serving – who I must admit were doing a fantastic job – an amazing buzz was maintained in the cafe, no one moaning or grumbling.  Many of these customers had been waiting for over 15 minutes for a take away coffee without complaint. Under normal circumstances most people would have walked out but they just waited with amazing patience.

Popular brands can withstand challenges because they act as a magnet to others and create a customer experience that breeds loyal followers. There was a spirit about the place that combined – great location, sound employees, quality product and a physical environment that pulled people through the door. At the end of the day those waiting could have gone 100 yards up the road and purchased their breakfast without the painful wait – but the power of the brand and the experience acted as a form of gravitational pull to Costa fans. I got the feeling that there was no other place to go when the reality was other options did exist.

A great customer experience is enhanced by a fantastic brand, a lesson for all growth wish entrepreneurs who want themselves and their business to stand out from the ground.