Motivations a critical factor in growing a business
Aug 31, 2017 08:43AM
By Emily Stevenson
You want to grow your company. Okay, why? Is it because that’s what companies are supposed to do? Not necessarily. Many business owners just want their companies to succeed at their current size and make a nice living doing so until they retire. You know these business owners – they are everywhere in your community: restaurants, dentists, financial advisors, etc. So, what is it that’s driving you to grow your business, aside from having the distinct honor of being recognized as one of South Carolina’s 25 Fastest Growing Companies by Charleston Business Magazine?
There are no bad answers here. Maybe you want to grow your business because you want to bring jobs to your community. Maybe it’s because you are convinced that the more people you reach with your product/service, the better off those people will be for having it. Maybe you want to become super rich, or you have something to prove to someone who said you would never amount to much (thanks, mom). Whatever it is, the key to being successful and growing your business is to know why you are driven to succeed, own it, and plan to achieve it. Because you aren’t going to succeed unless you know your motivations and have them drive you toward your goal.
There are many ways to grow your business, and knowing your motivations will help you pick the right one. For example, let’s say you want to bring jobs to your community. You’re absolutely not alone in wanting to do that. Nearly all local governments want to increase jobs in their community – which will increase their tax base, which in turn will give them the ability to provide more services and improve the quality of life in their locality. Good Done Great benefited from participation in the Charleston Digital Corridor, a program that the City of Charleston established to grow the tech sector in Charleston. Find the government programs in your town or county that are designed to increase jobs and see if they have programs designed to help you.
In the case of Good Done Great, our primary motivator to grow came from our mission. We incorporated as one of the first South Carolina Benefit Corporations (B Corps) with the mission to facilitate the flow of charitable funds to nonprofits and charities that positively impact society and the environment. We knew that the only way to do that was to grow as big as we can, because we believe that the world would be better off if more people used our product. We have processed more than $500 million to charities in 40 countries while serving some of the biggest companies in the world as our clients, and we’re still a relatively small company. We can and need to do better than that.
We decided that we needed to grow to succeed in our mission and in our case that meant raising money. This is not always the best path for every business; in fact we spent our first five years growing slowly while completely bootstrapped. But we had reached the point where if we wanted to increase the user base, we needed to accelerate our business. We also felt like we had spent five years figuring this out and that we could responsibly take an investment and not squander someone else’s money. This is critical, because the best growth is responsible growth.
I know, I know: “responsible” is an extremely vague term. It could mean don’t drink while operating heavy machinery, and it could mean don’t spend all your money on marketing a product that doesn’t work. What I mean by responsible growth is to align your growth strategy with your motivations. For example, if you want to become rich and you’re just growing for an exit, then you might want to raise a bunch of money to increase sales and show massive year-over-year growth to justify a high valuation for sale. You may succeed at that, and that would be a responsible growth strategy for you.
If your motivation is to build a lasting company that serves the community, that might not be the most responsible growth strategy. Responsible for you might mean focusing your resources on quality and excellent service, and putting the customer first. The loyalty that you garner from the community may not bring explosive growth, but it will come and it will be deeply rooted – just as you intended it to become.
You’ve heard again and again that company culture can make or break a company. Knowing your motivation for growth is a critical component in developing that culture, as is deciding that growth isn’t for you. Look at your motivations, be honest with yourself, and then let that guide your responsible path forward.