When it comes to growing a successful enterprise, some magazines and bloggers are always bursting with good advice. Each day sees the publication of “new” tips and lists praising the power of hard work, perseverance, vision, etc.
It’s hard to argue with such “feel good” advice, and I won’t.
What I will argue is that progress doesn’t always feel good – not at first. In fact, certain growth tactics are frequently ignored by the media because, at first glance, they seem counterintuitive. They also make some business owners very uncomfortable. But while these ideas may initially strike you as crazy – even wrongheaded – they can power your business forward.
Below are my favorite five counterintuitive growth tactics:
1. Fire clients. As a new venture, you may have to accept as clients anyone with a pulse. Because you haven’t yet proven yourself as a viable business – or a source of quality products or services – your menu choices may be limited to the offal of the market. These are customers your competitors don’t want because they tend to be difficult. They will haggle over prices and treat you poorly. But you will accept these clients. In the long run, however, such customers will stunt your growth. They will demand so much of your energy that, instead of searching for new and better customers, you’ll devote most of your time to putting out fires. There will come a time, therefore, when you must terminate these relationships. Firing them may set your company back a step, but will free you to pursue clients who genuinely value your products or services.
2. Fire long-term employees. Sooner or later, your business will outgrow the skill sets of some veteran staffers. The team you built when you first launched is not necessarily the team you’ll need tomorrow. During the start-up phase, you’ll often hire the people you can afford, as well as those with baseline skills that can be upgraded. Unfortunately, some team members won’t expand their skills and knowledge fast enough to help grow the company. At that point, you may have to fire some underachievers. Keeping low performers on board hampers your firm’s ability to expand. By letting them go, you also give them an opportunity to find jobs for which they’re better suited.
3. Don’t try to be omniscient. As a leader, you should have a good general knowledge of business, especially your own. But it’s impossible to be an expert in everything. It’s important to know, therefore, when to remove some of the “hats” that every new entrepreneur must wear, and hire bona fide experts. Eventually, you need to admit, “I don’t know how to be an accountant, IT director or VP of Marketing.” Surround yourself with a team of hand-picked pros to assume those critical functions.
4. Spend money today to make (or save) money tomorrow. I’m a big believer in fiscal responsibility, but there are times when you should spend money today on things for which you won’t see immediate returns. For example, it’s usually a good idea to invest in advertising, an attorney or an accountant. Although this spending may make you feel queasy, some of it will pay big dividends. Hiring a CPA or an attorney may seem like an extravagance, but these professionals justify their fees by preventing taxation and legal problems that might cost you dearly in a few years (or months).
5. Be the avatar of your company. Many business owners are uncomfortable with being the face of their business. They may think it’s arrogant to “brag” about the company, or they might feel awkward appearing in ads and promotional videos. But consider this: who else will promote the business if not you? As the company’s leader, you often need to talk with prospects yourself, which may mean getting in front of a camera. Even if you make mistakes or don’t like the sound of your own voice, your passion and energy for what you do will shine through. Today’s customers, especially younger ones, want to hear from “real people,” not actors. Your love for your company will go a long way toward driving your company’s ultimate success.
Originally published in HuffPost