Businesses can scale up and thrive, or they can stagnate and fail: Which way things go largely comes down to leadership. Startups and large enterprises alike need to take a conscious approach to growing their business through hiring the right people, empowering them to do their jobs, and encouraging innovation.
Few people know more about successfully scaling a business than Allison Maslan, best-selling author of Blast Off. She’s built 10 successful businesses and founded The Pinnacle Global Network to help business owners scale their companies. Among her clients have been Ben & Jerry’s, Supercuts, Merrill Lynch, and Charlotte Russe.
I invited Allison to Marketing Smarts to share tips from her latest book, Scale or Fail: How to Build Your Dream Team, Explode Your Growth, and Let Your Business Soar.
Here are some highlights from our conversation.
To grow your business, get out of the “survival” mindset (03:22): “A lot of times, it’s a mindset. We get stuck in the habits of the way our mindset was when we started the business. Maybe we were in survival mode when we started, and we are creatures of habit, using the same marketing strategies, using the same operational strategies. And those things keep us stuck, they keep us playing small. It really is about recalibrating your mindset and restructuring your business once you get to a higher level.
“It’s kind of like Alice in Wonderland, when she was little and then grew really big and she was still in the little house. You have to rebuild that foundation at the higher level so that you can scale. Growing is great, but if the foundation of the house is not growing at the same rate or faster, then the top part of the house is going to topple over. It won’t be able to sustain it.”
Step 1 for growth is defining—and sharing—your strategic vision (04:56): “My ‘Scale It’ method is what I lay out in the book. The ‘S’ in ‘Scale’ is ‘Strategic Vision,’ and that’s the first place to start. But this is the place where business owners usually say, ‘Yeah, I know I need to create that vision thing,’ and it’s like this pile on their desk, underneath 20 other things. ‘I’ll get to it after I fix this marketing problem,’ ‘I’ll get to it after I fix my team issue.’ But the truth is that the strategic vision of where you’re going—you don’t need to know how, but you need to have a clear vision of what it is you’re creating, why you’re creating it, and where you want to be.
“What does that look like in your mind’s eye? As if you were creating a movie three years from now. The reason that’s important is that everything you do, whether it’s your marketing strategy or if you’re frustrated that your team is not passionate, it’s because they are not truly understanding the vision or how they are part of that vision so that they can get behind it. That’s the first place to start.”
To grow, use the “Scale It” method (13:02): “‘Strategic Vision’ is the ‘S.’ Then the ‘C’ is ‘cash flow.’ The ‘A’ is ‘alliance’ of the team. The ‘L’ is ‘Leadership,’ and the ‘E’ is ‘execution,’ where the rubber meets the road, where you make it happen. All of those components are crucial in scaling.
“The cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. That’s sales, those are all the strategies that you put in place so that you’re not desperate when you’re having a difficult month or two. And the alliance of the team, getting your team on board, building a strong company culture so that people love the work that they do with you. Being a great leader, making that shift from being a boss to a leader… that’s your life’s work. That’s constant.
“Then the execution, that’s what I call ‘building the plane while you fly it.’ You are not just planning, planning, planning. The planning comes also through action, because you need to see how people respond and then you can tweak and perfect it along the way.”
Visit ScaleOrFail.com/kerrybook to pick up your copy of the book, along with some fun extras, including a quick start guide and some special training from Allison. And be sure to collect your free gift, 17 Scale Strategies, with video training and a download, as well. You can learn more about Allison at AllisonMaslan.com and follow her on Twitter: @AllisonMaslan.
Allison and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.