GROWTH. What is it? Have you decided?

Defining Growth

The common definition of growth is “to increase in physical size” i.e. get bigger, heavier, stronger.

Of course it can also mean increasing, developing or maturing an intangible.  Like knowledge.

Children are excited to measure how fast they grow.  It certainly has advantages, like qualifying for “big and scary rides” in the theme park.

And yet as adults we often don’t label “bigger” as growth, especially when it is our ample waist-line.  When we complete education do we say “I have grown”? A soufflé or cake does not “grow” but it does get bigger.

So what IS growth really? 

In business everyone claims to be working on growth.  But …

What is business growth?

Again here we have a traditional description that hinges on bigger in size and profitability.  But does it have to be?  And thinking size, bigger “what”?  … number of customers, number of stores, dollar sales, number of sales transactions, number of employees, size of store … what?!

Can growth be more reach? Or more impact?  Perhaps with stagnant, or decreasing profit.  If a social enterprise provides more support to their cause but keeps the bottom-line the same, have they grown?  If a not-for-profit serves more clients without more funding have they grown?

Is growth contributing more to society? – Increased social good, more education, innovation that benefits society, mass advances in pollution or increased affluence.

Is growth increased traffic (foot or virtual)?  Take the example of a gallery that provides a space for others to exhibit and sell their goods or services.   If the number of visitors has increased significantly (so exhibitors collectively see more prospects or customers) but the space itself has not changed and is not making more income. Has it grown?

If a company has a larger number of innovations or patents, but no more employees, have they grown?

Is growth perhaps in the eye of the beholder?  Is it whatever the business wants it to be?

Can it be one thing today and a different thing next week, or next year?

Something that is certain is that measurement and comparison is required. 

What is the metric? How and when is it measured?

Have you decided what determines your “growth”?  Does everyone agree – your shareholders, managers, employees, lenders? Is it generally accepted in your industry, or niche?  Does it need to be?

These can be really hard questions.  Perhaps prompting thinking in new directions, differently, new beliefs. Do you realize that asking hard questions can actually make your business easier, more successful?  And asking easy questions can make it hard?

Have you taken time to ask the hard questions in your business?

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