How are feelings linked to business growth?
Well it transpires rather a lot. We work with a business lifecycle model that is based on the feelings businesses experience. We are not focusing on the usual metrics such as turnover, profit and staff numbers; in the current climate where uncertainty is rife this is particularly relevant when exploring growth.
Business are run by people, and people’s feelings impact their operational efficiency. The behaviour of leadership teams is felt by employees, commercial partners and clients. In smaller businesses the impact on communication, decision making and team dynamics is even more pronounced (this is explored further in a separate article around improving communication).
We know that the business growth journey has no fixed timescale; individuals and businesses move forwards at different rates. Some companies complete the lifecycle in a few years whilst the majority never make it past halfway.
A framework was developed by our partner Shirlaws that explores this journey. We call it “Stages”. Stages is a model based on feelings which are inherently hard to measure and for a lot of people difficult to discuss.
Discussing feelings in business is often seen as a weakness. However, when businesses open up something truly remarkable happens. We begin to have transformational conversations around topics that previously, would never have seen the light of day.
When exploring the model it is possible you may not empathise with some of the stages. It could be you have not experienced them yet or moved so quickly they didn’t register,
We can also apply Stages to employees in a business, in this context we know there will always be people at different points along the journey. This creates another dynamic which when explored, opens another set of transformational conversations.
When we present Stages, we ask everyone in the room to consider their current journey and visualise their position. At each Stage we go through different emotions and business challenges. When exploring the model try and recall the different journeys you have been through and where you see yourself in the cycle.
There are 5 Stages we consider: Start-Up, Growth, Advanced Growth, Plateau and Decline
How did you feel when you decided to start your business? Excited? This is what business owners tell us, without this emotion they would not have had the energy to begin.
What did you feel after the initial surge of excitement? Scared, apprehensive, anxious? As primary motivators these emotions cause us to experience periods of frantic energy. This enables us to complete the numerous tasks we are required to carry out in an early phase business. Consider what happens if you join a gym and one day engage a personal trainer. Suddenly there is an injection of energy and motivation, you are forced to learn quickly and train harder. Adjusting to the dynamic change in a gym is similar to the learnings required in business.
These feelings are common amongst entrepreneurs in the start-up stage; these are not businesses we generally work with until they develop further. We need the initial nervous energy to move forwards, as we do the anxiety lifts and confidence builds; we enter the First Brick Wall.
There are 2 brick walls in the Stages model; we consider these transitions phases in businesses.
The first brick wall occurs as businesses transition from start-up to growth; this change requires a level of investment to move through.
Making an investment feels like a big decision. It may appear small; such as purchasing a customer relationship management system (CRM), or, could be more daunting such as renting a desk in a shared workspace. Failure to do this or investing poorly will send you into plateau or decline; this happens to many start-ups which is what causes the majority to fail.
Business who successfully transition through the first brick wall begin to see a return on their investment and enter the growth phase. At this point companies begin to experience some success; a feeling described by the majority as good times. The business feeling is relaxed, no-one is overstretched; the company owners are making a good living and enjoying the experience.
How do businesses stay in good times? Through continued reinvestment; the correct infrastructure systems build momentum and enable sustainable growth.
Forward investment and growth can be planned, however, there will come a time when you seek to achieve the goals you set when you started the business. The energy shift of realising these goals enables the company to go through payback.
Depending on the company vision payback can look very different; some businesses strive for a commercial payback whilst for others it is cultural. Whatever it looks like, there is a common theme; a feeling of euphoria.
Only about 20% of businesses reach this stage, congratulations are in order if you get here.
A word of caution; payback does not last long. The feeling of euphoria is short lived and this phase of growth dictates what happens at the second brick wall. As we go through this phase businesses experience a period of frustration; what was once a smooth-running machine is now creaking at the edges.
The first signs are often communication challenges or poor decision-making, what happens next directly influences whether the business continues to grow or slowly fail. If you are witnessing this this first-hand then understanding Stages will enable you to impact the outcome.
Businesses who continue to invest in infrastructure systems through payback are more likely to transition through the second brick wall. Less than 5% of businesses ever make it this far. Those companies that do implement the right skills and make it through the wall into advanced growth create something incredible.
Equity value, by reaching the advanced growth Stage a business can run independently of the owners who now have a feeling of pride.
Through the introduction of growth management systems, we empower ambitious leadership teams to develop the capability that enables them to achieve this.
What Stage are you at?