3. Make Data-Driven Decisions
In the past, business leaders relied as much on intuition as they did on market research when making consequential business decisions. That was especially the case when evaluating new product ideas or market expansion opportunities. And those are the kinds of decisions that connect directly with a business’s growth prospects.
The trouble is, that making the wrong decisions in those areas can lead to significant financial losses, which in itself can sabotage growth. And when those missteps are exceedingly costly, it can even lead to the business needing to pull back its operations to survive. That means business leaders looking to create continuous growth can’t afford to be wrong very often, if at all.
The thing is though, business leaders don’t need to keep relying on instinct to inform their decision-making. These days, they can turn to vast troves of operational, sales, and third-party data to gain the insight they need to make the right calls. But to do it, businesses have to make some strategic investments into a data and analytics operation.
The first thing they need to explore is the creation of an in-house analytics team. That will ensure that the business has the right talent in place to put its data to work.
But that’s not all. It’s also necessary to invest in the training needed to make sure that key decision-makers have the analytical skills to put data-derived insights to use in their deliberative processes. In time, it’s an effort that should spread to all levels of the business’s operations.
Eventually, the goal should be to create and maintain a data-driven culture that informs everything the company does. That’s the best way to improve the odds that each expansionary step the business takes will be a successful one—creating the kind of stability that feeds a period of continuous expansion.
4. Create a Diversification Plan
No matter the industry, there are only two paths to continuous growth. The first is market dominance. In that scenario, the growth opportunity comes from out-competing every other business in the market and swallowing up their market share. But the truth is, there are natural limits to the growth that market dominance can generate.
For proof, look no further than the story of eCommerce giant Amazon. Back in 1994, it set out to corner the market for online book sales. And it eventually did that and then some, driving physical book stores to near-extinction. But by 1998, it was becoming obvious that book sales would only carry the company so far.
That’s what led Amazon to pursue the second potential path to continuous growth: diversification. They added music and computer games to their product catalog—and the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Amazon sells almost everything imaginable. They’ve also become the world’s biggest cloud services provider and built a logistics and shipping network that’s second to none.
Amazon’s story offers a powerful lesson about what it takes to create continuous growth. And that’s why any business looking for a long-term growth strategy should create a diversification plan as early in its life as possible. The point is to keep an eye on possible future areas of expansion that will provide the business with the room it will need to grow.
It’s not necessary, of course, to aim for diversification right out of the gate. In fact, experienced entrepreneurs often advise against that—instead advising that young firms focus on an incremental approach to diversification rather than drafting complex long-term plans.
But being always on the move into new products and new markets (when feasible) is an excellent way to continuously grow your company.