A boss of mine, early in my career, told me that anything that’s not growing, is dying. He had a great turn of phrase and a penchant for metaphor, so his elaboration included wonderful gardening and nature references. Even in winter plants that seem dormant are replacing cells. So does any adult species – including humans. Even when you’re old you are renewing cells until, of course, you die.
Growing is not just about becoming bigger. For Being Strategy, growth is one of our six core services. At Being Brands we pride ourselves on helping businesses grow. But that does not necessarily mean we help clients become bigger. A brand refresh, for example, could be just like replacing old cells with new ones – revitalising in order to survive. Growth can mean more than “magnitude”.
Size is of course important. Most enterprises want to be bigger. At Being we are twice the size we were a year ago, and that means more and better work, greater economies of scale, better redundancy if someone is ill or on leave, better distribution of workload etc. But growth for growth’s sake is never a good idea. Bigger is not always better and I found, in an earlier business, that more staff and more work do not necessarily translate into more profit. Two of our clients decided to rationalise and down-scale this year, and in both cases profits have grown.
Growth in size has to be accompanied by qualitative growth as well. Systems and processes have to mature – and “grow up” so to speak. Growing up is very different from growing big, and in most cases it’s much more difficult. Better systems and processes require behaviour change, investment and perseverance, all of this while maintaining good culture and a positive mindset. Not easy.
But sometimes growth is neither about size nor sophistication, but about influence. About growing in stature. It is wonderful to see a young member of staff gain confidence and skills, and to become influential in a team. Some of our clients have gone from small players to leaders in their industry, having real say and influencing attitudes and standards. Some have grown to represent the best that their organisations have to offer. That is a wonderful kind of growth.
So, growth can be a size thing, or a maturing thing, or an influence thing. What is certain is that growth is indeed, as my one-time boss said, a sign of life. Having a pulse is good, but growth is vitality. Growth is exciting but also challenging - and energising and exhausting. But it is vital – in every sense of that word.