The 13 questions that could help your employee-owned business build a strategy for growth

“It’s not about growth for growth’s sake… it’s about sustainable, responsible growth,” says Adam Campbell, Consultant at Telos Partners.

Adam was speaking during a workshop at the 2022 EOA Annual Conference at the ACC in Liverpool in a session titled ‘Building a strategy for growth’, in which he stressed that to achieve growth you need to think about your ‘strategy, process and execution’.

Telos says that leaders “constantly need to balance managing the present, creating the future and nurturing their organisation’s identity” to achieve sustainable success over time.

It was founded in 2000 by a group of individuals who believed that organisations are the product of their relationships, rather than just the sum of their transactions. Their drive led to the employee-owned consultancy that Telos is today – which is united behind this purpose of creating sustainable success for its clients.

“To create long-term success, we believe that both the ‘hard’ and the ‘soft’ aspects of the organisation need to be considered. Based on our experience, this entails seven elements that need constant attention for a business to build and sustain success over time,” Telos says.

These seven elements are:

  • self-determination and ambition
  • leadership formation
  • core ideology
  • vision and strategy
  • engagement and mobilisation
  • alignment
  • renewal

The aim of its EOA Conference workshop was to help businesses take a step back and reflect on what needs to be in place to enable successful delivery of their strategy.

The session started by saying there needs to be a spark for growth, and that there are lots of different reasons and factors for this spark – from having ambition and vision to sensing opportunities or threats.

The strategy

Adam, pictured, states that a strategy will sometimes be deliberate and structured, and sometimes need to be responsive and agile.

He says that to make a strategy, you need to ‘discover, define, design and develop’, which involves among other things: taking stock of where you are; distilling down the strategic problem; facilitating the thinking; and then testing and enhancing this thinking.

“A bad strategy is having a wish list,” Adam says. “A good strategy is having three or four things to help bring about change we want in our business.”

The process

“The process of giving people that opportunity to have a say in the future growth is important for EO businesses, but if you’ve got 350 employees doing that it can create chaos, so you still need a process that can overarch that,” he adds.

From the perspective of being employee owned and ‘giving people a stake and a say’, Adam has these six practical recommendations:

  • avoid design by committee or simple proclamation of the answer
  • leadership needs to retain overall distillation, decision-making and process
  • give people oversight of the process and indicate how they can contribute
  • create touch points in overall process to engage people in the approach
  • involve the right people in the design and develop stage
  • engage everyone in final thinking – ask how their role contributes to the plan

The execution

Delegates were told you need to “get the right people, in the right jobs, doing the right things” in a cyclical process where you do, then monitor, review and celebrate progress, then re-validate and renew before being back to the start again.

“If you get this process right, and have a ‘strategy as usual’ that’s baked in each year, then you never have to do a 3-5 year plan again,” says Adam.

Questions to ask yourself

“With inflation, if you don’t get some sort of growth you’re going to go backwards,” says Adam.

So, here are 13 questions to ask yourself as you look to build a strategy for growth for your business that are based on these points around strategy, process and execution:

  • How has your business grown to date?
  • What does growth mean to you now?
  • What is the underlying ambition (spark) for your business?
  • To what extent does your business need a deliberate or emergent strategy?
  • How well does your strategy co-ordinate actions towards a desired result?
  • To what extent is it clear and understood?
  • What core strengths does your business have?
  • What do you see as the key addressable strategic issues?
  • What needs to happen to address these successfully?
  • Where will giving people a say and a stake in the process strengthen thinking?
  • To what extent are the right people, in the right jobs, doing the right things?
  • How well do you monitor, review and celebrate progress?
  • How could you further embed strategy/transformation as usual?

He concludes: “If your strategy is not bringing about change, then it’s not a strategy. To simplify, it’s about making choices to bring about desired results.”

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