Director’s Cut: Five Disciplines of Business Growth

Over the fifteen days throughout the Chinese New Year festivities, I was invited to various luncheons and dinners by clients, partners and business associations. While the obvious attraction lies in the endless drinking and eating with close associates, there was one key topic that stirred from numerous conversations, amidst all the frenzy, particularly: “How can we continue to grow our business in the auspicious Year of the Goat?”.   

Every successful businessman, in their own way, has created a theory of growth based on experiences, instead of relentless “insistence on the “right” answers. Throughout the years I’ve spent in this industry, the interviews, projects and conversations with the business folks, have contributed to the shifts I made in my paradigm towards growth. These “reflections from practice” allow me to guide, direct and hopefully inspire many of other clients to focus on the five main disciplines for tomorrow’s business growth.

From the early days of seagoing traders to today’s sophisticated businessmen armed with infinite knowledge, we have been taught to break down problems. This somewhat eases complex business challenges and helps to manage barriers encountered along the way. The path to growth is similar to this doctrine; break it down into manageable parts in order to “view the bigger picture “.


Money Money Money

The very driver of growth is through competent allocation of your resources especially in financial terms. The various financial tools and modellings have served businesses well. That being said, financial management has always been and will continue to be the Achilles ’ heel of many businessmen in future, simply because aside from rocket science, financial management is probably the next hardest subject to comprehend for laymen and even more so for businessmen who have prided themselves for various attributes of success such as innovations, marketing skills etcetera. For those who do not believe in financial management, my little hint to you is that there’s a reason why good CFOs are paid so well in large corporations. It is the heartbeat to everything you seek to achieve, with your businesses and ideas.

If Branding is Not of Importance, Why Give Yourself a Name in the First Place?

A common observation is that businesses also ignore the importance of leveraging, growing and protecting their respective brands. By nurturing your brand, it serves as a door opener to other aspects in your business that may have become more challenging across time. Simply put, a brand is everything that represents your business and the growth of your business can be correlated to the growth of your brand. Branding is a strategic option for the consideration of any management team when yearning to understand what constitute a business success. For example, winning clients through aggressive price wars is always a short-term approach but retaining and turning clients into brand champions help sustain the business in the long run.

Understanding Systems to Achieve Business Excellence

We often hear that small changes can produce big results – but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious. Many businesses have grown so big so fast that the very fundamentals that led to their initial success are overlooked. The third discipline of business growth requires a deeper look at the various interrelated systems in an organisation. The core criteria in achieving business excellence lies in the ability of an organisation to align and deploy its resources in its processes, efficiently. Business continuous improvement is now a necessity for growth rather than a strategic edge. From the early days of 5Ss to today’s focus on continuous learning and improvement, businessmen will do well to keep abreast how the resonances and synergies of the internal business systems are effecting the performances.

What You Don’t Know, Won’t Hurt You?

I was honoured to be part of a panellist at a recent business discussion. One of the things that caught my attention during this seminar was that most businessmen in attendance do not know things that may be relevant to their businesses. Businesses lack intuition and subsequently the necessary business intelligence that will assist to bridge the unknown with facts; light the dark with fire. Many successful businesses have sustained themselves over generations simply because they want, need and desire to know what’s out there. No ‘black ops’ is involved in this process, in say, digging out the dirt about your competitors. Business intelligence should serve as a shield to protect and guide businesses in this ever-changing competitive world of value creation. This is especially true for businesses seeking to venture overseas as part of their growth plan.

People – Love ’em, Hate ’em!

The new rulebook of employee engagement is here to stay. Gen Y, Gen X and Baby Boomers are all caught in this emerging web of complex communication, coordination and the need for cohesiveness. Talent identification, development and retention drives many conversations amongst businessmen today. Salaries and compensation can no longer attract talents. Reward strategies must be in-line with the new age employees and it is equally important to strike a comfortable balance in aligning the rewards systems with the overall financial performance of an organisation.

Business owners today must understand the notion that they no longer are the masters of the universe, whereby no employees will revolve around their wishes. Successful business owners simply see themselves as the guardian and steward of the business for current stakeholders and future owners that very well might be the employees themselves.

The five disciplines seek to provide fresh insights as to how businesses can initiate change as well as deal creatively with the challenges that arise against business growth and sustainability. All five disciplines are interrelated and not mutually exclusive of one another. In the long run, the only source of competitive advantage is your business’ ability to learn these five disciplines faster than your competitors.

By Roger Loo