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The Boomer Bulletin - 2013
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3 Tactics to Grow Your Firm

Posted By Scott Morrill, Thursday, January 10, 2013

"Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning,”

 Attributed to Ben Franklin

Most of us are normally supporters of growth.  We may differ on the desired amount, type, timetable or direction, but we have all experienced and embraced growth at some point in our lives.  Some of us, whom we call greedy, may at times have too much desire for growth.  Some of us, whom we call lazy, may at times have too little.  Most of us strike a balance fluctuating somewhere between hunger and contentment.

When the economy is good, most of us thrive – sometimes even in spite of our own actions.  We may lose some of our opportunities to the natural ebb and flow of things like death and other demographically identified factors.  We may also lose opportunities because we can’t always deliver perfect solutions. But when times are good, new opportunities always seem to be available to more than replace the losses.

That’s not the case when times get tough and "survival of the fittest” becomes the norm.  When opportunities become scarce, some businesses start cutting in the hopes of outlasting the weaker competition.  Others become aggressive and use the opportunity to pounce on and devour the competition.  A large number continue doing what they’ve always done and hope that the results remain the same in spite of the changes taking place in their environment.

It is in these difficult times that the strategy of growth can become the primary factor for survival or extinction.  Here are three tactics to improve your odds of survival – build on your strengths, exceed expectations, and mutate.

Build On Your Strengths

You’d think this would be obvious. 

Unfortunately, we spend a lot of our life learning from people who aren’t great teachers.  As a parent, as a coach, as a peer and as a manager, I can personally vouch for contributing to the accuracy of this observation!

Put into a teacher’s position, most of us find that it’s easiest to point out the things our student is doing wrong and therefore we spend the majority of our time trying to make corrections.  Most of the time this tactic yields the results we hope for – the student starts performing in the standard way.  But there are a couple of potential problems with performing in the standard way if your environment is changing.

Problem one is that doing things the standard way inherently discourages creativity and innovation.  Imagine a world in which Bing, Frank, Chuck, JB (either one), Elvis, Michael, Freddie, and Skrillex were trained to always perform in the same fashion.  Would they even want to excel if their performances were indistinguishable?  (Sorry ladies, in making this list I assumed that in these conditions, Gregorian chants performed exclusively by males would be the only available music genre).

A second problem with performing in a standard way is that humans have unique abilities and limitations.  I always wanted to play basketball like Michael Jordan but I never found a coach who could teach me how to grow five additional inches to match his height.  No amount of training available at that point in my life was going to correct my height limitation.

What happens when you build on strengths?

We had the honor of hosting Gregory Gadson, Colonel, US Army, as a motivational speaker at our Boomer Technology Circle Summit meeting in August 2011.  Col Gadson was recently appointed as the Commander of the U.S. Army Fort Belvoir Garrison in Fairfax County, Virginia.  In addition to his work as an active duty soldier, Col Gadson earned a Super Bowl XLII ring for his inspirational work with the New York Giants and had a starring role as LTC Canales in the 2012 movie Battleship.  You may notice him in a current national VFW television commercial. Look for someone using two prosthetic legs – he lost his in 2007 while serving in Iraq.

Fortunately, the Army allowed him to build on his strengths instead of insisting that he perfectly fill a standard issue uniform.  If you need a warrior, an inspirational speaker or someone to star in a movie, he’s a better choice than I am by about a million times.

Performance standards are obviously important – and in some situations even critical.  But in a competitive economy, don’t overlook the possibility of a gold vein already present in your firm.  It’s sometimes better to be the fittest at something rather than the average at everything.

Exceed Expectations

Not everyone survives an economic downturn.  But on the other hand, economic downturns have not yet caused an extinction of our species – someone has always managed to survive.  When times are tough people may eat less steak and more potatoes but they’re still eating steak and potatoes.  The buying and selling doesn’t stop, it changes.  To survive you just need to make sure you’re the one selling.

If you're not the best at what you do then you're starting every job at a competitive disadvantage.  Fortunately, there are a number of effective strategies you can employ to swing things in your favor.

The most common strategy is to cut price.  You hope that as price goes down it will spur an increase in demand which might lead to a reduction in supply which should lead back to an eventual increase in price.

Does that make anyone happy?  Well, your client will be happy in the short term but if it comes at your expense then it’s not a sustainable feeling.  A savvy client will discern that any price adjustment will eventually be recouped unless it was fictional to begin with.  A client who is primarily motivated by price will simply jump from supplier to supplier to take advantage of whichever is weakest.  That client should eventually "get what they paid for” and be unhappy because they aren’t having their expectations met.

Now consider the strategy of exceeding expectations.

Meeting expectations is the equivalent of getting a D-minus letter grade in a class at school.  You passed, but if you had done one less requirement you would have failed.  And yet that is the primary goal of most businesses.

Exceeding expectations is a strategy that cultivates long term relationships by doing the "extra credit questions” that others ignore.  Random acts of kindness, outstanding customer service, completing an unanticipated task without imposing a change order – there are many ways to exceed expectations and most of them can be done without additional expense.  But this tactic should also be considered as one of your most effective marketing strategies and if you do incur an expense, consider it an investment in marketing.

One caution: the strategy of exceeding expectations must become part of your culture to remain effective because once you’ve exceeded an expectation in the same way for a few times, your action becomes an expectation.


There are many excellent individuals and firms who have suffered the past few years because of conditions that have nothing to do with their excellence at a particular skill.  Global recession, hurricanes and droughts are creating impacts that are relevant to most of us because of our location, as opposed to our ability.  Technological advances have eliminated some types of jobs while creating others.  Growing populations, scarcity of resources, and changes in social/political conditions have triggered upheavals in governments and disrupted entire industries.

It was Darwin’s observation that "natural selection” occasionally favors species that are not necessarily the strongest, smartest and fittest, but rather the ones that produce differences.  Mutations, variations, innovations – growth – is what lessens the risk of extinction.

How do you mutate?  Invest in education, training and technology.  Set aside time for creative and artistic endeavors.  Cultivate your interests and loves.  Determine to embrace change.  It might someday make the difference between survival and extinction.


Building on strengths, exceeding expectations and finding opportunities to mutate are tactics to improve your odds for survival in any economic conditions.  But even being "the fittest” is not a guarantee of survival.  Always Think, Plan & Grow™.

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