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Here is a simple and effective acronym that can help you to build a sustainable, rewarding and profitable business which reflects your values and desired working style. GROWLS – growth, revenue, opportunity, wealth, loyalty, strategy.

A business does not have to be a simple, immediate money making machine. Too many businesses have about 3 months potential longevity and suffer from the feast and famine so typical of sole traders and the self-employed. They either don’t have a plan or strategy and focus too heavily on just the next client or two. This isn’t creating and building a sustainable business, it is only survival. I’ve seen too many examples of small business owners having to reluctantly return to paid employment because they cannot see beyond the next client or two.

Our acronym to solve this issue is GROWLS; five things to consider and resolve to ensure you create a commercial entity that is self-supporting and in tune with the work/life balance you desire.

G is for growth. This means have multiple streams to your business so that if one falls on difficult times then another can be scaled up. Avoid the “all my eggs in one basket” at all costs. This approach requires hard work because you need to be a specialist in more than one thing. Perhaps you have a number of different technical disciplines or maybe different skills that you can sell. For me that would include consulting, mentoring, speaking, writing and marketing delivery. You may also choose very different market sectors to address. Viper Marketing for example, has always had a balance between commercial sector, public sector and training/education. When one dips into a trough, anther sector is always on the rise. Perhaps having a number of businesses in different markets is another method to deploy here.

R is for revenue. It’s not just cash that you need but a steady and predictable flow of revenue for the next 12 months where you really can forecast that accurately a year ahead by seeing where you have retained, regular customers and balance those with the one-off projects to top up each month’s revenue. Stability is everything so don’t accept the feast and famine curse, always plan and look ahead at your revenue pipeline on a month by month basis up to one year ahead.

O is for opportunity. You have heard that change is an inevitable, so why think your business is any different. Accept that your business today may look very different to this time next year. Always be on the look out for trends in your marketplace, opportunities to innovate and develop new products and services or perhaps improve on what a competitor is already dong quite successfully already. Set yourself a target to identify and evaluate a set number of new opportunities every month. Most won’t make the cut and you’ll discard them, but some will come to fruition in the shape of revenue generating products and services.

W is for wealth. Wealth comes in two forms. At its simplest it can be seen as ‘cash in the bank’ available for future investment and payment of those all-important shareholder dividends; rewards for your smart work. The more important wealth comes from the feelings and thoughts you have inside as the owner of your business. A wealthy business owner is one always smiles when they think about or talk about their business. For some, wealth is about operating a business remotely, from anywhere. This has been my mantra for many years and I am writing this article on a white sand beach, by crystal clear waters in the Maldives, not bragging, but as evidence that it’s possible to create wealth by visioning and then living the dream. I am not rich in the sense of a bulging bank account, but I am rich in terms of lifestyle and life experience, every day. We must be very grateful.

L is for loyalty. Business owners cannot build a successful company by themselves. There are people around you, helping you towards your goals. The three most important groups of people with whom you need to establish a mutual, shared and long term loyalty are your affiliates and employees, your spouse or partner, family and friends, and of course, your customers. Openly share with them your dreams, goals and aspirations. With openness comes transparency and this invariably results in honest, two way communication. Shared loyalty is the outcome.

S is for strategy, and by this we mean the long term. I’ve heard people say things like “my strategy for next month is…”. They misunderstand strategy. A strategic view is normally between 3-5 years, depending on how quickly your sector moves. If you are in a mature marketplace with a slow pace of change then 5 years should be your strategic window. If you are in something like computer gaming or software the 3 years will feel like a very long time away. Having set your strategic window and where you will be, what you’ll be doing, what it’ll feel like and how much wealth you will creating you can then put in place your more immediate milestones that will help motivate and guide you on your journey. As with my wealth example above, I had thought I might reach my strategic goal at a predetermined day in the future, until I realised that having set my goal I then began living and breathing it every day.

GROWLS is alchemy in our hands… start today.

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