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The CEO’s Lament

What to do when growth sputters?

One of the more common concerns I hear is “we have stopped growing and we don’t know what to do about it”. 

This frustrating lament by too many CEO’s usually results from complacency setting in after a period of prosperity. Once you get lulled into the “business as usual” mode of operation eventually your business will naturally stop growing. 

The business press is littered with sad story’s about company’s that failed to keep up with their customers changing requirements. 

Our world is about change and the perpetual quest for faster, better and cheaper solutions. Entrepreneurs are at the forefront of change creating the next evolution of something to make our lives better. 

As company’s mature their ability to remain creative typically diminishes in direct proportion to their level of maturity. The myriad of reasons for this predictable scenario are well documented in product life cycle theory, and obvious in our own human life cycle. 

However, this doesn’t have to happen to you. Many firms both large and small have developed a process to keep their business growing profitably. 

It’s called – PLANNING ! 

I have never met a CEO, or a person for that matter, who hasn’t agreed that it’s a good idea to have a plan. I have also visited many CEO’s who have admitted that they did not have a current business plan. 

Planning anticipates the inevitable, but if you don’t know what the inevitable might be you certainly can’t plan for it. 

Customers are changing. Technology is changing. Competitors are changing. These are all predictors of the inevitable – a marketplace that will be different tomorrow than it is today. 

What are you doing about it? 

If the answer is nothing, or we don’t know what to do, then its time for you to get started with a planning process for your business right away! 

The fundamental planning questions haven’t changed and never will: 

Where are we now? 

Where do we want to be? 

How are we going to get there? 

Without getting too technical – where are we now is determining where we are in our stage of maturity as a company and with our products. The typical company has products in all phases: embryonic, growing, mature and aging. The percentage of the volume of business you are doing in each phase averaged out determines the phase your company is in. 

Depending upon the outcome of this exercise there are sets of strategic options available to you. 

Where do we want to be – this can be determined by the options available to you in terms of what you can do with your existing products, and any new products that you can develop. 

How are we going to get there – these are your individual strategies that need to be well thought through, time-phased and costed-out with quarterly strategic milestones. 

All of this then needs to be captured in a well done business plan that each member of the management team agrees can be successfully implemented. Measuring progress against your plan will keep you focused and active in the pursuit of growth for the future. 

Hopefully this makes good sense to you. If you would like to begin a dialogue on how to get started with a planning process for your business let me know. 

Remember the old proverb:

Nobody plans to fail??..they just fail to plan   

An entrepreneur himself, Bob has spent most of his career involved with starting, growing and selling businesses. Having held managerial positions with IBM, Pfizer and Exxon, he draws upon extensive organizational experience with large and small companies in advising CEOs of growing firms. He is available online to answer questions from Chief Executive readers, as well as offer workshops, tips, books to read and a monthly online column about common issues facing CEOs of growing firms. Bob has been featured in USA TODAY for his work with Inc 500 firms and is associated with NYU’s Stern Graduate School of business in their Center for Entrepreneurial Studies where he is a Venture Mentor, Marketing Strategist and Business Plan Reviewer.

He is the author of GUIDEBOOK TO PLANNING – A Common Sense Approach to Building Business Plans for Growing Firms, which has recently been reprinted. He is a past contributor to Chief Executive and one of his articles was featured in The Best of Chief Executive.  Email Bob at: [email protected]


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