What to Do When Your Growth Has Stalled
If your business doesn't grow, it dies, and no one wants that. Here's how to get your growth engine humming again.
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In the startup world, growth is everything. Companies that don't grow don't survive.
So, if you're an entrepreneur craving faster growth, having a great product, teams and customer relationship almost won't matter. Without growth fueling those fires of success, your company may not last long. In fact, half of all new businesses close their doors after five years. And the more competitive the industry, the more important growth becomes.
High growth is important for another reason: These companies enjoy faster cash flows. And that extra cash leads to more new projects, talented hires and satisfied customers. Faster growth is especially essential in emerging industries, where the companies that hit the market first (with good products, of course) gain an advantage over everyone who enters late.
When growth stalls, however, a company's future becomes dependent on its founder's ability to restart the engine. Founders can't do it alone, though. The smartest leaders understand that growth accelerates only with a great team of people pushing it forward.
Related: 3 Reasons Your Startup Marketing Stalls
Follow these tips to jump-start your own company's growth and build it to be "in it" for the long haul.
1. Add empathy screening to your hiring process.
Empathy is a primary driver, not just for romance, but for a successful team. According to the 2016 Empathy Index, featured in the Harvard Business Review, the 10 most empathetic companies in the study boosted their value more than twice as much as the bottom companies did.
For entrepreneurs, the implication is that empathy isn't a feel-good luxury: It's a necessity. When people within the company understand their peers on a personal level, they are better able to anticipate needs and improve productivity. Those faster, smarter processes inevitably lead to higher growth rates.
Sebastian Bryers, CTO and head of growth for Ora Organic, emphasized this point in a post for Glassdoor. "Time and time again," he wrote, "my top team members have been those who can negotiate, understand and revise their approach on the fly. They're not necessarily the best engineers or highest-performing salespeople, but they're the best at understanding what it takes for all parties to get things done.
"Empathy enables them to see from outside perspectives, evaluate others' agendas and deliver something that meets the needs of all."
So, don't hire a bunch of selfish high-performers and expect them to gel as a team. Ask questions during your hiring process to gauge empathy to ensure that every new hire makes the company more than the sum of its workers.
2. Refurbish your data approach.
Data is king, but when the king speaks a different language than his subjects, he needs a good translator.
"While newly developed tools can make data science simpler, they still require trained professionals to harness that power," Kiril Eremenko, founder and CEO of SuperDataScience, wrote for IT ProPortal. "Anyone can now use data science techniques, but businesses benefit the most from data scientists who have deeper understandings of how those techniques work and what their value is," Eremenko wrote.
Hire data scientists to help your company identify its best opportunities, but don't limit your requirements for the role to "is good with numbers." Build data science teams that know how to connect information to business goals, so your company can turn data from a necessary headache into a competitive advantage.
"While machines and software are able to prepare and analyze data before visualizing insights," Eremenko further noted, "a data scientist is necessary to identify pertinent questions and interpret the results to craft the right solutions."
3. Invest in relationships, not sales.
Sales lead to revenue, and revenue powers growth, so you should sell all the time. Right?
Wrong. Audiences today can smell a sales pitch from a mile away, and most of them want nothing to do with it. Modern consumers crave authenticity, so they flock to brands that showcase their true, unique selves.
Don't jump on the latest marketing craze because it works for everyone else. Don't try to run a funny Twitter account (like the one Wendy's puts out) if that doesn't make sense for your brand. What works for others might not work for you.
Instead, double down on the parts of your company that your current customers already love. Promote content on social media that doesn't lead people to sales but does make them feel a deeper connection to the brand. Remember, your brand should act like a mirror to your customers, showing them the best parts of themselves through a branded lens. When you become part of their identity, they tell their like-minded friends about you, and the growth handles itself.
Related: 7 Business Growth Secrets From Successful Entrepreneurs
Stagnating growth can be scary, but if you follow these tips, it doesn't have to be permanent. Put together a strong team and leverage your most attractive features to keep the growth growing.