There are a multitude of reasons why businesses don’t grow beyond a certain size – but one pops up time and again and that’s YOU.
I’ve been lucky enough to talk to many business owners and managers over the past few years and the conversation often centres around growth, or the lack of it. Of course there are those businesses that don’t want to grow – and that’s fine. But the vast majority of those that are struggling to grow, really want to… or so they say.
And when asked why they feel the business isn’t growing, the usual reasons pop up:
- There’s too much competition
- We can’t get the staff
- We can’t afford to expand
- There’s a recession
- etc. etc.
Now these may or may not be valid reasons, but they all have 1 thing in common: they are all external factors. They are all circumstantial. And they are all apparently beyond the control of the business.
Actually, they have another thing in common too. They all have the capacity to be self-fulfilling prophecies. Saying them and believing them will help them be real. So in the case of not being able to find good employees, believing that good people are not available, will work directly against the search to find them.
For some, the belief that they are subject to all kinds of forces beyond their influence has a very interesting and counter-intuitive consequence:
The more you feel at the mercy of forces beyond your control – the more you try to control what you think you can
It’s a very common compensatory mechanism which usually happens below your radar – you don’t even really know that you’re doing it.
And one very counter-productive way in which this manifests is in the control of your employees. You monitor and manage everything that they do in a desperate attempt to control what you can.
This creates businesses that successfully grow to a certain size thanks to the skill and drive of the founder… and stay at that size for the same reasons. In this way, the business will eventually reflect and express everything that the founder believes in – good and bad, positive and negative.
It will not grow beyond this point because you do not let it, regardless of all the protestations to the opposite.
By the way, an interesting consequence of maintaining this kind of control is that over time, the business will employ those who like to be controlled, thus further embedding the problem and making change more problematic.
So, to summarise, for some businesses that are not achieving the growth that they seek, the problem lies not with the business, not with the external circumstances beyond their control, but with the leader and their beliefs.
The urge to control will consolidate the problem and limit both the possibility of growth and change.
So if you are seeking growth that is eluding you, think again before you start to address all those things that you think are within your control and influence.
You might just be neglecting the most important of them all…
How to work on yourself in this way? Well, that’s for another post…