No matter what industry you’re in, you’re bombarded with experts telling you how to grow. Some are partially informative. Some have a few good points. Some…not so much. Some experts are just so over-the-top as they try to make you believe that you can be either a one-man show or a full-fledged cat-loss firm ready to serve half of the eastern seaboard if it gets above-average rainfall. Stop!

Let’s clear out the fancy-pants business school buzz words and the complicated rambling from all the so-called experts. Growth isn’t created with all-or-nothing thinking. Growth is growth—just like we grew from children to adults: a little at a time. Logic always rules, and you should never look at growth problems as if they're complicated. If you’re having a problem growing, try stripping everything down to the bare facts:

  1. How big do you want to grow this year?
  2. What efforts have you made—and in what department/s? (If you’ve been reading some business books, list those efforts in the “CEO” department. If you’ve added systems, list those in the administrative department. If you’ve added equipment, that would be production. If you’ve added marketing or sales, those efforts would be classified as part of the marketing department.)
  3. How do you spend your time? How many hours, and where, each week? (Use your department guide for this question, too.)
  4. What investments or actions do you see directly causing growth?
  5. What skills do you see yourself and your employees developing? 
  6. How far away are you from your goal this year? (The answer to this will define how aggressive you need to be with further decisions about where to spend your growth efforts. There are only 24 hours in a day.)

This is actually a pretty deluxe list for you to use if you are focusing on faster growth in your company.     The goal is to get you directed to the right opportunities. As the entrepreneur in your company, you are the one your company looks to for the right effort in the right places—and for the bank account to remain in good shape. That simple list above will help you see yourself as a manager and leader when you look in the mirror.  

I'll share this freebie with you about item number 2 above: Buying equipment is probably the worst thing you can do to create a growth plan. Obviously, if you want to add a service that requires specialty gear, yes, you may need to put that purchase on the list. But I am not giving you permission to buy it just yet. Equipment is merely a piece of what you need as a business owner to organize and deliver the service you sell. And though I love the incredible manufacturers and suppliers of this industry (I brag about them all the time), the honest ones will agree: A plan to launch, monitor, and adjust your growth is far more important at the beginning than buying more equipment. Logic supports me on this. Buying equipment is too easy of a solution, and more companies would be huge if it doing it actually spurred growth.

Number 3 on our list is also a tough one. How do you spend your time? Do you need more time? If so, you’re probably understaffed. Most small businesses in America are. Recruiting harder, more often, and with time dedicated to this effort might be your first step. 

Numbers 4 and 5 are going to require some study. You are so busy with the day-to-day operations. The phone is ringing, the technician is calling and asking for directions, the UPS guy brings a delivery, your buddy comes by wanting to go to lunch, and so on until the day goes by. I get it. But managers (and the action of management) are required for growth, so we have to keep working on this. The manager’s job is to measure, assess, and make adjustments toward better sales, profitability, and stability. You are reading this magazine because you are into another, vitally important management function: research and development.   Congrats on that! So, without dedication to numbers 4 and 5 on our magic list above, you may find yourself doing what far too many small business owners do: simply “trying things" whenever you “get a chance.”  That's not why you became self-employed. “Hey honey, let’s become self-employed so we can do the important things from time to time when we get a chance.” Right….

Managers spur growth. You are your company’s manager, and it is up to you to keep track of time (days, weeks, months, and years) and to make the necessary adjustments to ensure your goals are met. During that process you will also find more fun, peace of mind, and a bit more cash in your pocket. We can all drink to that!