I find that many in the remodeling community tend to look at the importance of the growth of their business differently from other types of businesses. While most small-business owners are constantly striving to grow larger, many remodelers are happy to stay small. In industry seminars and even in the pages of leading industry magazines, like this one, I see “high fives” being given to owners who remain a practice. And I know many well-respected remodelers from around the country who are very proud of the fact that they are doing the same or even less business this year as last year.
I find this mindset odd — not offensive, just puzzling. Recently, I attended a management retreat where we asked questions like: Is growth a verb or a noun? Is growth a journey or a destination?
As with many things, when it comes to growth, it may be that there is more than one right answer. Here are a few ways to think about growth; maybe they will spark some healthy debate within your organization.
GROWTH AND BALANCE Business growth does not happen by itself. To grow your business requires a blueprint that provides clarity for you and others. The plan must also be dynamic and respond to a changing environment.
When thinking about growth, you should keep short-, medium-, and long-term issues in balance. A visual way to think about it is to imagine that you are looking at a mountain landscape. At a distance of a mile or more, you can discern the overall shape and color of the mountain; from 1,000 feet, you begin to see different shades of color and the outlines of different types of trees; at 100 feet, you can count the leaves on a single oak tree. With your growth plan, the closer you are to the objective, the more detailed the plan should be; more distant objectives still need a concept, but not the same amount of detail.
GROWTH AND YOUR TEAM Growth affects not just you but your team, as well. Today more than ever your employees care about where they will be and what they will be doing in five years. They want to be able to advance both professionally and personally. If the work environment fails to continually challenge them, it may be just a matter of time before they become disillusioned. This is particularly true of top performers, and often leads to their leaving the company and striking out on their own. Over time, a team member represents an investment of between $25,000 and $100,000; that's an investment you can't afford to lose.
PACE YOURSELF Much of the growth-related pain that remodelers may have experienced is due to the pace of growth being too fast, too slow, or out of sync with team members. Most of us are familiar with the issue of “pace” in a sports context. Runners need to pace themselves properly to achieve maximum results — which includes being able to recover in time for the next race. Our company has adopted the growth theme “aggressive but realistic,” which communicates a sense of the pace of decisions, as well as our expectations for consistency.
Remember that growth figures can be misleading. If you look back five to 10 years and adjust for increased remodeling costs, you may discover that what appears to be growth in total revenue today has come not from increased business — which I call “real” growth — but simply from increased costs.
It is obvious that I am very pro-growth. The reason, however, may not be so obvious. Growth for the sake of bragging rights is meaningless. But growth that creates opportunities for you and your team to grow professionally and as individuals is a worthy goal for any business owner. —Mark Richardson is president of Case Design/Remodeling and Case Handyman and Remodeling Services, Bethesda, Md. In 2006, Ernst & Young named him a Maryland Entrepreneur of the Year.