By Brandon H. Fredericks, CPA | Principal, Advisory and Growth | Apple Growth Partners
Managing a middle market business is all-encompassing – the owner often wears many hats, including hiring employees, purchasing, posting social media content, planning employee events, and direct sales with customers. While intricately operating the day-to-day aspect of the business, the most important role a business owner has is ultimately driving the company’s growth. Consistently reflecting, strategizing, planning, and acting on growth cannot take a backseat to the daily tasks, which could consume an owner’s time and thought process if not carefully disciplined. Leaders will be successful in growing their businesses by equally balancing the ability to work on the business while in the business. Let’s discuss a roadmap for business owners to achieve middle-market growth.
The Brains of Growth
For middle-market businesses to achieve growth, the company’s vision must be well thought out, outlined, and, most importantly, communicated. As the head of the company, the owner must clearly articulate a sustainable growth path for critical leadership roles, then ultimately, all employees. Commitment and buy-in are a must; a plan without proper execution from lack of understanding will fail fast. Strong leaders must first recognize the power of developing and cultivating a high-powered team to help achieve growth goals.
For employees to authentically understand and support the organization’s goals, the leader must set a clear vision from the top, which includes aligning leaders, departments, and people to avoid silos. Ensuring all employees are aiming towards the same goal is not just a playbook for success but also establishes a healthy communication method within the organization, free and clear of “ivory tower” resentment when a leader is fully engaged with communicating the vision of the company.
A key role directly impacting a growth plan’s sustainability is the chief financial officer (CFO). Recognizing the CFO role as the first line of strategic vision within the organization grants the company insight into cash flow, working capital, ability to secure capital, and overall financial health within the business to achieve the pillars of the growth plan.
The Heart of Growth
The heart of any successful business is that of the employees. Adapting a “people first” mentality is a responsibility all leaders should commit to, recognizing that hiring and working with the right people will improve the organization’s overall culture, which results in the best customer experience. In the last year, companies of all sizes and industries have reported difficulties with talent retention and engagement; if a business wants to grow, it can only do so if the right people are hired and, more importantly, retained.
The company’s strategic plan can also frame how employees are hired – what qualities best align with the growth vision of the business? How can the business attract the right employees – how do the company’s benefits packages exceed the needs of working professionals? These questions are critical in attracting and retaining top talent, including establishing a thorough onboarding process to ensure success upon a new hire.
One technique for incorporating a healthy onboarding strategy for new hires is shifting the mindset from “training” to “preparing.” Explaining corporate policies and procedures in the form of traditional training may discourage or bore new employees, missing out on the opportunity to engage in communicating the vision of the organization. A “preparing” mindset enables new hires to envision themselves on the path within the company as active players in the results.
Leaders are also responsible for maintaining the engagement of all employees. Staying in tune with situational changes (i.e., inflation) for employees outside of the executive salary package is critical for maintaining competitive and fair wages, establishing a rewards program to celebrate wins, and a leadership education program to encourage ongoing professional development.
The Soul of Growth
Establishing the Company’s ‘brains’ and ‘heart’ will allow a synergistic move into market growth and planning. Strategic planning should focus on how and where teams should be spending their time and energy. Is the Company’s strategy more focused on organic market growth or acquisition strategies? Are teams seeking new market expansions or exploring new products/services to further meet your customer needs? Far too often, businesses say ‘yes’ to all without truly understanding how to achieve success.
How do leaders combat these risks? It comes back to involving the right people. Asking great questions, as we move in the direction of our questions. Having a clear vision of where we are going. Embracing the strategic planning process is dynamic.
Executing a Growth Plan
Let’s address the elephant in the room – it takes extreme discipline, focus, time, and energy to successfully work on the business while in the business. Leaders should align the company and its strategic vision with forward-thinking business advisors to ensure the plan’s execution can be achieved and acted on. A plan is only as good if it’s thoroughly followed-through, which can be the most intimidating action item on a business owner’s long list of “to-dos.”
Establishing a trusting relationship with qualified and experienced accountants and business advisors results in the added support in the owner’s corner to achieve sustainable growth.
Take the first step by contacting me today to explain your company’s vision, and together, we’ll work towards achieving healthy growth.