12 Min Read

The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard About Growth

Everyone has an opinion, and most people are willing to share it without reservation. However, that doesn’t mean you should take their advice at face value. Don’t confuse confidence with insights. While most people are trying to help, their ideas may not be baked in reality or even valuable at all.

Growth means a lot of things to a lot of different people. So, you can imagine just how much advice people are ready and willing to share about how to help you get to the next level of success and impact. The only trouble with that is many people have read more about other peoples’ success rather than experienced it themselves. It certainly is possible to share what others have and add your flavor or perspective to it. However, that doesn’t make it good advice for you—or even at all.

What is Growth Anyway?

(Hint: You get to decide.)

It’s certainly the topic of many conversations. There are a seemingly infinite number of books written on the subject. Add to that the endless videos, articles, and research all designed to help you determine what growth is, how to achieve it, and when you know you’ve experienced it.

But you won’t fully understand or appreciate growth until you experience it. It’s not as simple, straightforward, or succinct as many would like you to believe. And that is precisely why most leaders and organizations will never experience the type of growth they are capable of achieving.

Growth is exciting in that it brings a tremendous amount of energy, focus, and success into the equation. But it also means you are constantly living beyond your comfort zone, breaking things that used to work, and always hoping the operational infrastructure will catch up with you enough to keep you from getting too far out from your capacity to deliver.

Does Growth Even Matter?

(Hint: Yes.)

This may not be the right question. A better question might be: How would you define growth? The assumption behind growth is you want to expand beyond where you are today. But that isn’t limited to what can be measured by MRR, ARR, or even EBITDA. Growth is as much about being more efficient, growing in your personal leadership, and becoming the best version of yourself.

In fact, in this age of empathy where being human matters, growth begins and ends with how you show up for your workday in and day out. If you aren’t growing personally, you won’t be able to lead a growing organization for long. And that is one of the most underrepresented variables in the equation of growth. If you aren’t growing, you won’t grow your organization.

So, yes, growth matters. Because what is required to sustain growth and make a lasting impact can’t be achieved without the right mindset, attitude, and perspective. Who you are matters. Who you are becoming matters. And how you show up for others, especially in professional settings, matters. That’s why talent optimization is so important.

What Makes Growth Possible?

(Hint: Focus)

Once you have the right mindset and you understand growth is something most likely to be achieved with a highly functioning team, then you must move toward how you balance your focus on what is working today with what will work tomorrow. This is the toughest part of growth because you will have to choose what type of growth you will allow to take place in your organization.

The most challenged with this reality are mature organizations. The irony is they often have the money, people, market share, and competitive advantage. But they are often focused on maintaining what exists today instead of evolving structures, processes, products, and measures to re-invest themselves.

Never underestimate an organization’s capacity to resist change and reject those who attempt to threaten its current reality. As a result, mature lines of business within an established market command the lion’s share of talent, budget, and support. While lip service is often given to new growth, that’s not really what is desired. Instead, those organizations and their leaders want future growth that looks like how they’ve experienced growth in the past.

In contrast, organizations that focus on where the market is moving will always have more questions than answers, cash will always be slightly out of balance with commitments, and product development and market engagement will be persistently iterative. These organizations appreciate the stability of mature lines of business but also recognize that without pruning back areas of predictable growth, you’ll never make room for new growth.

Most leaders won’t sign up for this really. They’ll pay lip service to it. But their actions, structures, and scorecards will perpetuate current reality rather than allow for new thinking to emerge that will lead to breakthrough results.

What’s the Worst Growth Advice Ever?

(Hint: Operations holds growth back.)

Charisma, energy, and opportunity will only carry you so far. You have to bring operations to the strategy table. Otherwise, you won’t be able to sustain your growth over time.

If the pandemic has taught business leaders anything it is that division of labor as a means to growth only works in a world where constants outweigh variables. But in a time of substantial and perpetual change, you need an interdisciplinary and interdependent approach that brings together a diverse set of people to solve growth challenges.

There is no magic pep talk, social media update, incentive program, or relationship that can overcome a holistic approach to growth. The leaders who try to push their organizations to experience growth without the right structures and support mechanisms in place will create a culture of fear, self-preservation, and burnout.

Nothing succeeds quite like success. If you really want to grow, then you need to think about how revenue operations can help you frame your current reality, focus on the success measures that matter, and grow in repeatable, measurable, and scalable ways.

So What? Now What?

(Hint: It’s up to you.)

You get to choose your own adventure. That means you have to decide for yourself what’s most important—incrementally improving what exists today or redirecting operational resources and budget allocation to build new revenue opportunities. There is no right or wrong answer. But there are some predictable outcomes.

If you choose to preserve and improve what exists today, know the market is changing rapidly. You will face downward pressure on pricing and fees while you watch new competitors come into your space and further commoditize your solution or service.

If you choose to explore and build new revenue opportunities, know you will need to recalibrate your organization around your customer. You don’t need another voice of the customer initiative. You need to create a listening platform that captures capacity, propensity, and interest both individually and in aggregate so you can create evidence-based segments and cohorts and build a truly responsible organization that will delight your target customer or client.

Both pathways will require an incredible amount of work. And it’s likely the market will even force large, multinational companies to break themselves apart to deliver more contextualized leadership and management. Moving forward, large organizations will start to look a lot more like solar systems rather than single engines.

Whatever growth means for you, never lose sight of the questions, challenges, and obstacles of your target market. Live in their tension until it is yours. Then find a way to bridge that reality with your capacity to build a solution at a scale they couldn’t on their own. That is the essence of what it means to create value in the marketplace.



Ben Stroup is Chief Growth Architect and President at Velocity Strategy Solutions where he helps leaders design, develop, and deploy smarter business growth strategies. Ben is a futurist, disruptor, and data champion. He leads a team that takes a structured learning approach to business challenges, which allows them to assist leaders in bridging the gap between ideas, innovation, and revenue—taking ideas from mind to market.

Velocity Strategy Solutions is an on-demand, next-generation business strategy and management consulting firm which provides clients with a relentless focus on data, execution, and results that positively impact the bottom line. Velocity delivers integrated people and revenue strategies combined with a disciplined approach to growth architecture that elevates the capacity of leaders, teams, and organizations to succeed and win more.

Topics:   Growth