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Business Growth Strategist Weathers the Storm

Economic uncertainty can feel like navigating a ship in a storm. Mixed signals, especially prevalent in an election year, contribute to a sea of confusion for small business owners and entrepreneurs. How do you set sail and plot a course for success in such choppy waters? The answer: strategic thinking, planning, and execution in partnership with a seasoned business growth strategist. During the economic downturn of 2008, entrepreneurs faced the harsh winds of change. Businesses hunkered down as a storm of recession-battered the marketplace. And yet, amidst this tempestuous backdrop, a few resilient businesses not only survived but thrived. What set them apart?

Business Growth Strategist Weathers the Storm

The Bellwether of Business Resilience

My Dad, weathered by The Great Depression, often remarked, “We need to tighten our belts.” That era demanded frugality and foresight, virtues that proved vital during the 2008 recession as well. Even as we tightened our financial belts, some businesses couldn’t keep pace with the surge. However, those that could sustain a growth rate of 20% or more? They did more than stay afloat—they navigated the storm. Fast-forward to 2013, and the murmurs of a looming economic decline began to surface. These prophecies foretold a global downtrend touching down in the United States by 2020. What wasn’t predicted was the maelstrom of COVID-19—a disruption that capsized a staggering 22% of small businesses by April 2020. Yet, a year later, a beacon of optimism shone through. An astonishing 89% of small business entrepreneurs firmly believed in their businesses’ survival. In other words, we’ve been through this before.

Navigating Business Growth Rates

During my time roaming the halls of UCLA Anderson School of Business, Professors Yvonne Randle and Eric Flamholtz shared how they navigated many through the growing pains of entrepreneurship. Here’s a glimpse of the five rates of growth they charted:

  1. Less than 15% Annually—Growth: Steady as she goes! This rate, while not meteoric, ensures you can double your business in five years without capsizing.
  2. 15–25% Annually—Rapid Growth: The winds pick up. Are you prepared for the increased effort, investment, and the challenge of thinning margins? This is the stretch where strategy makes all the difference
  3. 25–50% Annually—Very Rapid Growth: Now you’re catching gale-force winds. The demand to expand and innovate is palpable, and so are the rewards for those who can withstand the pace.
  4. 50—100% Annually—Hypergrowth: At this exhilarating speed, it’s crucial to keep a keen eye on the horizon to steer clear of any obstacles.
  5. Greater than 100% Annually—Light-speed Growth: This is not just growth; it’s a transformation. Here, agility and foresight will determine whether you soar or crash.

In this tumultuous economic ocean, which rate is yours for the taking?

Why You Need a Business Growth Strategist

You might wonder, “Is it truly possible to achieve such growth in today’s uncertain economy?” Here’s the secret: the courageous captains who weathered the roughest seas had a “strategist” by their side, ensuring they weren’t just reacting to the waves but riding them with intent. A Business Growth Strategist isn’t just a coach or consultant; they are your partner—bringing you clarity, sharpening your focus, strengthening your resilience, challenging your premises, assisting with setting strategy, and guiding you towards the desired horizons. They provide the compass, and the map, to discover profitable routes you might have missed.

 Your Call to Action

It’s time to raise the anchor and unfurl the sails. With strategic thinking, execution planning, a compass point for every decision, and a clear map of growth rates, you’re equipped to sail even the most uncertain of economic seas. Are you prepared to be the optimist who, in the face of adversity, not only survives but prospers? If your answer is a resounding “Yes,” then it’s time to join forces with a Strategist who can steer your course to safe harbor and beyond.

Take the helm. Be the beacon. Grow boldly, grow strategically. Grow sustainably.


Don’t weather this storm alone. Contact us today and discover how, together, we’ll chart a course for success that keeps your business thriving, no matter the economic forecast.

strategic thinking

When entrepreneurs think of “self-care,” we often think of indulging in a long walk, a vigorous run along some trails, a massage, an afternoon nap, a fictional read, or a long weekend. We would not add “carving out time for strategic thinking” to that list.

Strategic thinking, a cognitive process of clarifying your business objectives, goals, and plans, is often viewed as a task worthy of our undivided, focused attention. It’s time to concentrate intensely on planning and problem-solving using every brain cell available. Self-care? Hardly!

The Self-Care Myth

strategic thinking

Most of us conflate “self-care” with “work-life balance.”  We often place our attention and effort in the work-life balance bucket in search of a drumbeat of work and rest that keeps us sharp, focused, and innovative — only to stumble repeatedly.

And it’s not just me. The entrepreneurs with whom I strategize share the same angst.

Attempts to achieve self-care through a balanced life feel a bit like a mirage. There are continual roles to juggle, projects to implement, and deadlines to meet. That’s how business functions in today’s fast-paced competitive marketplace. Being overwhelmed by all the responsibilities of growing a business almost feels natural.

Unfortunately, self-care is usually the last item to be addressed — unless we’re “forced” to slow down, take a break, and take it easy.  But never fear! There is a way to make self-care more of a priority without losing your sanity.

It turns out that strategic thinking is the ideal form of self-care for overwhelmed entrepreneurs.

Who knew?

21st Century Self-Care is Powerful

Honestly, self-care has gotten a bit of a bad reputation.

Yet, a continual diet of stress and overwhelm that often accompanies business growth forces our bodies into overdrive. We produce high levels of cortisol. Adrenaline increases our heart rate, elevates our blood pressure, and uses more energy than normal because of the perceived or real threat. The result? Even greater levels of stress and overwhelm — only this time, our bodies are less equipped to fight back. Eventually, burnout sets in.

But you already knew that, right?

Rather than succumb to the unseemly impact of persistent pressure, why not reignite possibilities by taking time to think strategically about the future of your business?

Open Your Mind and Say, “Ahhh”

You may think you’re too distracted or stressed to take the time to think strategically — especially if you’re caught in the Messy Middle. Yet, the gains of doing so far outweigh the many perceived disadvantages.

Strategic thinkers, often characterized as having high levels of creativity, adaptability, problem-solving skills, and decision-making abilities — all important traits for any successful entrepreneur — require time to see things differently. It’s mandatory for success.

When the frantic speed begins to slow, our minds open to creative possibilities. We create space to listen to ourselves — an often-ignored quality. Strategic thinking pulls us out of the vortex of crisis thinking and encourages objectivity.

It emboldens us to look at problems from different angles and to come up with imaginative solutions not previously considered to address stubborn problems.

But it goes beyond finding solutions to problems; strategic thinking helps identify opportunities and create strategies that lead to growth. You make better decisions about where to invest your time and money to achieve the best possible outcome for your business. It empowers you to avoid costly mistakes, maximize profits, and stay ahead of your competitors in an ever-changing market.

Finally, as a strategic thinker, you are better equipped to ensure that everyone involved in a project understands the vision and objectives for each task or project. It fosters collaboration and allows your team to work together towards common goals more effectively.

In addition to gaining clarity, strategic thinking enhances well-being and quality of life. Energy levels increase since you’re not expending unnecessary vitality in catastrophizing. It improves your ability to do quality work and boosts your willingness to persist when business gets tough.

Think Smarter, Not Harder

The first step in utilizing strategic thinking as self-care is to figure out what “strategic thinking” means — and looks like — for you.

Strategic thinking involves understanding the bigger picture of your life and work and figuring out how to move forward with those goals. It focuses your energy on the most important tasks, or as one of my clients calls them, “high-impact, high-value tasks,” while minimizing distractions from less important ones. It allows you to prioritize your goals so you can focus on the ones that will influence your business growth the most.

More importantly, it recharges your soul.

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We would love to help you think and grow more strategically. We’ll even share our “famous” planning process with you. Click here to schedule a time to explore the possibilities.

business growth

When asked about business growth goals, many Stage II entrepreneurs respond in a variety of ways, like “do better than last year” or “double what we did last year”. This seemingly unplanned, off-the-cuff response doesn’t come from a casual attitude about business growth. It originates from a lack of foundation from which to set strategic goals. 

The truth for most small business entrepreneurs is that business growth is somewhat ad hoc. It’s kind of a mystery. It’s what happens to us when we’re frantically working “in” our business rather than “on” our business.

Business Growth: Not As Easy As it Seems

During the economic downturn of 2008, entrepreneurs quickly discovered the challenges of an economic retreat. Revenues dipped. Budgets were cut. Talent was reduced to keep organizations afloat.

My Dad, a product of The Great Depression, would say, “We need to tighten our belts.” And, tighten our belts we did!

Despite that, many of our colleagues were unable to keep their heads above water. The small business failure rate was 4%. An additional 12% of businesses shuttered in 2009. 

Businesses that sustained a growth rate of 20% or more stayed afloat during that stressful time. Despite the challenges, they weathered the storm.

I originally wrote about business growth rates in 2013. At that time, economists were identifying a global economic decline in 2019 (see 2. The economy will slow down…). Economists said it would likely spread to the United States in 2020. Yikes! We did not see COVID, and its accompanying financial upheaval, coming.

By April 2020, 22% of small businesses that existed only three (3) months earlier vanished despite PPP support. That’s 3.3 million businesses!  One year later, in April 2021, 36.8% of small business entrepreneurs anticipated the return to normal operations would take longer than six months. Their primary concern?  Talent acquisition.

Despite the uncertainty, small business entrepreneurs remained optimistic. In fact, 89% of small businesses queried by Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program were confident their business would survive. That’s good news!

Business Growth: How Fast is Too Fast to Grow?

While obtaining my MDE (Management Development of Entrepreneurship) at UCLA Anderson School of Business, I had the good fortune of studying under Professors Yvonne Randle and Eric Flamholtz. They created a framework to prepare entrepreneurs for business growth.

Based on their work with a variety of organizations, Prof. Randle and Flamholtz identified five rates of growth for small business firms. (From Growing Pains…Transitioning from an Entrepreneurship to a Professionally Managed Firm by Eric Flamholtz & Yvonne Randle)

1. Less than 15% annually — growth.

Although many consider this rate rather unspectacular, a firm will double its size in five years while growing at a 15% rate. (Raise your hand if doubling the size of your business in five years is acceptable to you. ?)

2. 15 – 25% annually — rapid growth. (Note: My practice with coaching business clients growing at 15- 25% revealed some interesting experiences.

During their time of accelerated growth, they admittedly worked harder. They were exhausted at the end of the week. Resources like time, talent, and money were stretched. The quickened growth — and thinning margins — often required an infusion of capital. This seems to be more common with service-based businesses due to the required talent to deliver on value.

The notion of a capital investment, whether it’s through taking on debt via a credit card, loan, or credit line is a bit unnerving. Yet sometimes that’s the risk of entrepreneurship to provide the resources needed to break through to the next level.

Being strategic can help you leverage the risk to reduce your personal stress and get a good return on the risk.)

3. 25 – 50% annually — very rapid growth.

4. 50 – 100% annually — hypergrowth.

5. Greater than 100% annually — light-speed growth.

Your Goal for Business Growth

Rapid growth is very appealing to the always-optimistic entrepreneur. However, it’s good to note these growth rates can create problems for an entrepreneurial firm. Rapid growth, for instance, can make it difficult to keep up with the needed infrastructure.  A business can actually choke on its own growth.

Isn’t it nice to have some guidelines for intentionality in planning your business growth?

What’s your growth goal? Let us know how we can help you achieve clarity, focus, and strategy to achieve your growth goals.

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Testimonial

Brooke Billingsley

Vice President
Perception Strategies

Synnovatia is a strategic coaching firm that is detailed and knowledgeable about business. i have a small business that grew from $150K to $750K because of the goal setting and resources that Synnovatia provided. It saves me years of learning on my own.

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