How do you create sustainable growth?


There is an almost magical component to sustainable business growth, but it’s not obvious and most business owners are missing it!  The key word there is sustainable – you can have growth without this component, but it won’t be easy.

When you think of business growth…what comes to mind?

Great marketing?   Really effective sales?  New products?

Super flashy advertising?  Signing a huge new client?

All of those will definitely contribute to business growth, but there’s a more fundamental attribute in sustainable successful businesses that no one talks about. It’s an unappreciated idea, but it really can be make or break when it come to taking your business beyond the brute force stage (where you’re putting in a lot more than you’re getting out).

That secret ingredient is Systems!

What are Systems? Simplistically effective Systems are a combination of written processes, tools, automation and applications that allow you…as the business owner to get things done the right way without actually doing it yourself.  A successful business is made up of a whole series of systems that work together in a seamless way…generally without any direct input or oversight from the owner.

Want to get a quick read on how well  you’re doing when it comes to Systems in your business?  Here’s a quick quiz – a few statements you can use to judge your progress.  If you want to play along at home, score yourself from 1 to 10…with 10 meaning that you absolutely are in alignment with that statement (and a 1 if you aren’t even close).

Systems Statement #1

As the owner of the business, I fully understand that my primary role is to ensure that the business is run by systems (step-by-step processes).

Score 1 to 10?

Systems Statement #2

All of the functions necessary to successfully run our company have been clearly identified and documented in a company operations manual.

Score 1 to 10?

Systems Statement #3

We regularly consider outsourcing options to reduce expenses and increase efficiencies.

Score 1 to 10?

Systems Statement #4

We regularly review our systems to ensure they are as efficient and effective as practical in delivering the desired outcome.

Score 1 to 10?

Systems Statement #5

I’m confident that my employees would know what to do if the leadership team or I were not present for an extended period of time.

Score 1 to 10?

What’s your score?

How did you do?  This quick little test certainly isn’t comprehensive, but it will directionally give you a pretty good idea of where you and your business stands from a Systems perspective.  There are several key ideas represented here:

  • Do you view your primary role – where you spend the most time (as the business owner) as purposely building your business…and the systems that run your business?
  • Are you documenting everything down to a level that a new employee could jump right in?
  • Are you and your team consistently looking for ways to improve?

So overall how did you score?

If you scored above 40…then you’re in pretty good shape…keep it up! 

If you scored between 30 to 40, then there are some things to work on, but at least you’re headed in the right direction. 

If scored 20 to 30, you at least understand it’s important, but you have some work to do.

If you scored less than 20, then it’s a good bet that you didn’t have time to read this post and you are working really, really hard all the time…and your business is at risk!

When you’re ready to unleash some magic and start building systems into your business, the best bet is to carve out some free time and lay out all the big components of your business (how business comes to you, how you close it, how you satisfy it and how you collect from it).  Once you’ve got that (in writing) then you can start digging into the details over time. 

Make sure you get your employees involved…they probably know the details in a lot of areas better than you do and they’re going to have to live with whatever system or process is developed – so make them part of the solution.

Also – get an outside perspective…maybe a coach or some kind of advisory board to help you focus and get some insights that might be hard to come by on your own.

What’s your experience with Systems?  We’d love to hear your thoughts (and share your score) in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

Photo by Pink Sherbet via flickr