To grow a company fast, you need to envision a bigger, better organization with new structures, innovative strategies, and an evolving culture. This process is not easy, and it's not in the wheelhouse of every CEO or founder.
As a business coach, I work with a lot of CEOs who are growing and scaling their business, often times 100 percent or more a year. And I've learned that the type of CEO who can quickly scale a company is usually not the same CEO as the one who founded it, or CEO who is going to optimize it once it reaches maturity.
Growth CEOs have a different mindset and mix of skills that help them drive expansion and navigate the challenges of rapid change. While CEOs don't need to be perfect in all of these areas, it usually hinders the process if the CEO is deficient in many of them.
1. Grow strategically.
Getting traction, early in a company, is everything. Finding the right customer segment, the right problem to address, and the right solutions to bring to market is critical. Any growth is good growth because it means you're solving a need that people are willing to pay you money for. It validates the business model.
However, once you have traction and are generating revenues, the key is to hone your focus and offering(s) so you can optimize the business. Smart growth CEOs know that even though they can solve a variety of problems, focusing on the one or two that they can do exceptionally well will allow the company to maximize margin and profits.
2. Have a deep understanding of their core customers and the market.
The best growth CEOs I know have a deep understanding of a specific customer segment. They've looked at the market and the competition, and they've zeroed in on a specific segment to strategically focus on. They work to understand not only how they buy and use their product/service, but they also understand what they are trying to accomplish and the broader needs of their customers. This allows these CEOs to drive customer insights and innovation.
3. Use effective and efficient decision making.
Decision making is always a challenge as companies scale. What needs to be decided by who and within what timeframe gets more and more complicated at the business expands. Effective growth CEOs figure out what to delegate and to whom. They balance speed with effectiveness of decision making and know how to calculate if taking another day to decide is worth the delay in the decision. They are masters of knowing "the last responsible moment" of making a decision and push the limit without going over.
4. Invest in people and talent.
Most companies are limited in how quickly they grow by how quickly they can find and onboard the right talent. Growing a company requires expanding resources, putting in place good management, and building an effective management team. A CEO who tries to grow the company through brute force will quickly falter or burn out. Growth CEOs know they are only as effective as the team of leaders they surround themselves with.
5. Focus on continuous improvement.
It's easy to look at a company and see dozens of problems that can be fixed. The challenge is knowing which problems should be fixed first. Good growth CEOs know how to analyze the business and find the problems that are holding the business back from reaching the next level.
6. Establish rhythms.
Early stage companies are a scramble. Rooting out opportunities and quickly taking advantage of them are part of the scrappy early stages of getting a company off the ground. But once you have traction, a business needs a consistent routine for reviewing progress, identifying priorities, and determining actions and accountability for implementation. Growth CEOs know how to build these habits within the leadership team and management structure to create a repeatable, improvable way of working.
All CEOs need good leadership, communication, and critical thinking skills. But when it comes to taking a business from a few million in revenues to hundreds of millions requires a set of skills unique to that stage of a business's growth. And the fact is that not all CEOs have those skills.
Putting a CEO who is great at starting a company from nothing, or one who's great at optimizing a large company, into a growth situation will lead to lackluster results. Getting the right growth CEO into the business just as it has figured out its niche and is ready to scale ignites the thrusters on the rocket ship.