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Thu, Nov

Positioning for business growth

Growth is not optional; it is a prerequisite for survival in business. The Ghanaian corporate guru, Mr Ishmael Yamson, once said that every entrepreneur must be obsessed or paranoid about growing a success-driven corporate establishment. Why do we strive for excellence when mediocrity is the norm? There is a much bigger demand for mediocrity than there is for excellence.  

However, that is good because all visionaries and creative people need something to rebel against and derive excitement from. The general tendency towards mediocrity becomes a catalyst for entrepreneurs to provide creative solutions and, thus, bring excitement into the lives of their clients.

So how good do you really want to be: quite good; very good; the best in your industry or the best in the world? What sacrifices are you willing to make to become what you really want to be?

Most people are looking for a way to become good. There is no instant solution. The only way to learn is through diligence, experience and mistakes. Then you become whatever you want to be.


“Your vision of who you want to become is the greatest asset you have. Without a goal, it is difficult to score.” - Paul Arden

You can achieve the seemingly unachievable. Aim beyond what you are capable of. Have a complete disregard for where your abilities end. If you think you are incapable of running a successful company, make that your aim. Do not dream lineally, dream laterally. Think Globally, But Act Locally.

Almost every successful CEO admits the significance of a clear vision to the success of their businesses. Entrepreneurs are visionaries. They are often committed to painting pictures of a better tomorrow. They then drive themselves and everyone around them towards it.

It is these visions that often lead them to explore uncharted territories. Businesses that succeed on a sustainable basis are those with long-term perspectives and who have inculcated a culture of continuous improvement in their organisations. Such organisations also tend to emphasise the importance of strategic planning, teamwork and quality leadership. 

Managing strategically is an essential prerequisite for survival and growth in today’s competitive market. Increased competition, global integration and customer sophistication make it imperative for businesses to position themselves advantageously.

The McKinsey 7S framework

Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, in their bestselling book, In Search of Excellence, capture seven interrelated choices a business must pay attention to in order to achieve long-term growth.

According to them, growth is achieved when all seven are in balance. A change in any of them is bound to have repercussions on the remaining six and on the overall position of the company. The seven, namely Strategy, Staffing, Style, Skills, Systems, Structure and Shared Values, are known as McKinsey’s 7S framework.

1.            Strategy (The Big Picture). A business’ approach to growth is determined by its strategic direction. One business may decide to grow by focusing on one core business while another may opt for diversifying into related businesses or into any other industry that looks promising. The foundation of all strategy is a clear vision, corporate mission and a set of goals and objectives. An organisation’s strategy determines or influences all other decisions regarding personnel, investment, location etc.

2.            Staffing (The Right Personnel). Staffing involves finding and placing employees in jobs for which they have the appropriate skills. While this may sound easy, in practice it can be quite difficult.  Many businesses have a wide variety of jobs with diverse knowledge and skill requirements. Staffing begins with recruiting people in the proper way instead of by favouritism. For existing employees, it calls for a planned system of career development and appropriate training programmes.

3.            Style (The Approach). The leadership style of a firm's managers is an essential element in effectively creating the right corporate environment. Every organisation has a culture or a certain way of doing things. Informal meetings, calling by first names, dress codes, fun games, corporate retreats etc. are all manifestations of a company’s style.

4.            Skills (The Right Capabilities). The skills of the organisation's members primarily consist of their knowledge of the technical aspects of the business and its services. It also includes the ability to apply this knowledge in work areas such as communication, planning, decision making and problem solving. Employee skills often have to change in response to changes in business strategy. The firm may often have to retrain, or in extreme cases, lay off some workers and bring on new employees with more relevant skills. As the gradient of your ascent gets steeper, the minimum requirement for team membership gets higher and higher.  Some businesses now use first degree holders for even the most routine clerical assignments.

5.            Systems (The Procedures). In this context, systems are the guidelines that firms use in the course of doing business. Every business has a system it uses to deliver service to its clients. Growth in business is often enhanced when a firm’s service delivery system is perceived by the client as being superior to the competition. Some companies capture these systems in operating manuals such as the procurement, accounts and client service policies. However, as companies grow, it is important to continually review existing procedures to see if they are still suitable or if they must be upgraded. Reducing cycle time, cost and customer complaints as well as improving call response times and order delivery times are examples of systemic improvements that will enhance a business’ image in the eyes of its clients.

6.            Structure (The Pattern). Structure refers to a firm's hierarchy or the pattern of an organisation. A change in strategy will often require an adjustment of the firm's hierarchy. For instance, to become more competitive by getting closer to the customer, a diversifying organisation could give each of its divisions much greater control over its destiny. Reducing corporate control and decentralising authority will help the newly restructured business units to react more quickly to changing customer needs and competition. These changes may also mean that some positions will be abolished and new ones created.

7.            Shared Values (The Organisational Culture). A major part of implementing any strategy is to motivate managers and workers to "buy into'’ a set of shared values and beliefs. Organisational harmony is achieved when the goals or values of the individuals in the business are consistent with those of the organisation. Rules are made and standards are set, but the values of the organisation are the magnet that attracts the right people to the team and focuses them on its vision. A team with a strong sense of value then becomes a network of like-minded people.