Every CEO and organizational leader must deal with chokepoints as they continually strive to scale and grow their business. A chokepoint is a possible point of congestion or blockage that restricts potential growth. It makes growth difficult because these chokepoints are like traffic jams on highways. These points of throttled growth occur when there is more demand placed on resources than it has the capacity to handle. In other words, the leader has not upgraded this chokepoint to allow the proper flow can happen smoothly. Your growth capacity is limited to the speed, flow or vision applied to the slowest or narrowest chokepoint.
That being said, today I want to share five possible chokepoints that may exist in your business which is restricting your ability to grow in scale. I have seen all of these in one form of business or another in the last several years.
1. Do you have a BHAG? Or have you upgraded your BHAG?
Your Big Hairy Audacious Goal is an important concept which is a component of the vision of your organization. It’s somewhere between a 5 year to 20 year aspirational but reachable goal that will require lots of transformation within your organization. Make sure there is no way you can reach this stretch objective without doing some uncomfortable but necessary adjustments. You set these BHAGS to get everyone in your organization to have a singular focus in the distant future to work together and shoot for in the process. If you reached your last BHAG or if you are close enough to realize you are not going to be able to achieve your current one, you need to set a new one. When everyone knows you are not going to make it on the BHAG you have, it creates a chokepoint of bad and deflated morale. You need a re-set.
2. How do you define your Sandbox?
Your organization’s sandbox is your field of play. The parameters of your sandbox is your sphere of influence and your business landscape. Defining your organization’s geography (local, regional, statewide, national, international?) How you define your geographic reach is important because there are some very significant differences between for instance, regional and national. If you are not prepared for this expansion, it can choke off and kill your company. Your service or product categories play a part in defining your sandbox also as well as distribution and delivery. There are other considerations, but these are the high spots. Your sandbox must be designed for the company that will be not the company that is.
3. What is your customer’s biggest need?
Isn’t it ironic that most of your customer’s needs are assumptions made by people inside your organization rather than from customers themselves? Bill Gates once said, “unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”. Many unhappy customers will simply take their business somewhere else without giving you a second chance. Managing customer dissatisfaction starts on the front end by trying to eliminate anything that may create it in the first place. As your organization continues to grow, are your customers the same? Are they changing? Are you growing with them into new demographics as they mature or are you going to lose them and pick up the new customers who are entering into the demographic your former customers are exiting? You have to keep up with the future developments in your customers’ makes and lives. Knowing the trends that are going to influence your customers helps you anticipate what they are going to need and offer it to them as soon as they need it. Not being able to keep up with these aspects can be a real chokepoint for you as you grow.
4. What is your measurable brand promise?
A brand is your reputation that exists in the minds of your customers and potential customers. No matter how clever your messaging is, chances are you will not alter the brand in their minds. Your messaging can only raise awareness or reinforce existing perceptions. If consumers believe that a brand promise is empty, they will just laugh and make fun of the disconnect between the messaging and the actual consumer experience. The way to battle this is to move heaven and earth to deliver on your brand promise every single time. This is very hard to do, but very worthwhile for the organizations who can commit to making it happen and then execute. Some companies know and understand that success depends on deeply understanding the customer, empowering employees to perform excellently and make sure brand delivery standards are met or exceeded consistently over an extended period of time. For example, when you say 15 minutes or less can save you 15% on car insurance, you better do it consistently if you want to maintain that powerful brand position. If it isn’t clear or if you can’t do it or if you aren’t doing it, this can be a real chokepoint in your growth.
5. What are you doing to utilize technology to accelerate your growth?
The thing that is consistent about technology is that it is always changing. Here’s one thing you need to make sure you keep in mind regarding technology: Being first seldom proves to be a sustainable advantage and usually proves to be a liability. There is a recognizable pattern of the second or third organization to utilize a particular technology to accelerate business prevailing over the first-in trailblazers is very common. You want to be sure, not necessarily first! When making management decisions around improvements in technologies and capacity, make sure to fight off the feeling that you are missing out on the great Gold Rush because it doesn’t really matter who gets there first, so long as YOU figure out a way to produce a better solution to your organization’s needs for technology to provide the proper capacity to capitalize on future opportunities. This will be the concept of successful executives who scale up into the future with advanced technologies. Remember, build the company that will be not the company that is.