Tony Arnold: How to turn the corner and start growing again Featured

8:01pm EDT May 31, 2011
Tony Arnold: How to turn the corner and start growing again

As we make our way out of the worst economic downturn in our professional lifetimes, we are challenged to engage our organizations in the effort to turn the corner and achieve growth. Leaders have historically relied upon innovation, discipline and consistency to do so. In battling through the recession, many companies were forced to cut jobs, reduce spending and make significant changes to their organizational structure.

Conscious decisions were made to focus more on internal matters and spend less to service markets and customers.

But word travels fast in the world of Twitter and customers have immediate access to information about products and companies. This enables both customers and prospects to make better choices, often without sacrificing quality or service. To keep pace, you must adapt accordingly.

Engage your people

Leadership is vital for positioning the company, developing strategies that create value and engaging people to execute those plans. You must make appropriate investments in capacity and capability, innovation and talent. Communicate your vision and goals and be certain you have alignment throughout the organization.

Many organizations are trying to reinvigorate their employees after downsizing and focus them on growth. Be certain you have the right people with the right experiences to not only perform these duties but to enable you to compete effectively. Provide an environment and resources to motivate people to manage the complexities while strengthening the business. Engage them in the process while maintaining an effective dialogue to bolster their confidence. Not only will they succeed at their jobs, but they will also creatively seek out solutions to issues and find new opportunities for the organization.

Achieving growth is highly dependent on how you lead and what you focus on. You must lead the growth initiative. Be visible, engaging and in touch but avoid becoming too hands-on.

Open your eyes

One key point that seems to have been forgotten recently is competitive intelligence. You should never lose sight of where the market and competitors are going. The competition will always seek out new opportunities and innovation, especially if you remain idle. Comparing your capabilities with your competitor’s is very worthwhile.

You also need to stay in touch with your customers and have a good knowledge of how they operate and what is important to them. Find ways to engage your customers. Listen to them and gain an understanding of their views, challenges and opportunities. This will enable you to be more effective as a leader and will show the organization what you value. Determine firsthand how your products, programs and service affect overall customer satisfaction. Confirm that you are producing and providing these at a level that meets or exceeds their expectations.

Track your efforts

Growth takes determination and foresight. Seek out growth and consider new opportunities where your company can deliver value not only in traditional markets but also in adjacent markets and new verticals.

When you know where your company can deliver value, push to drive innovation and collaboration. Effective new product development capabilities are necessary to ensure the continued success and growth of the company. Without new products, the company cannot have continued revenue growth or stay current with the technological advances of its competitors. Building effective collaborations can facilitate speed to market, investment and creative thinking. You also must know where and how to collaborate to bolster your innovation capabilities. Evaluate your overall supply chain and determine what aspects you must own and control as opposed to being able to influence these areas to achieve your goals. Flexibility could be key to allowing you to react quickly to changing markets and dynamics.

Just as leaders and management initiated the cost management actions to survive the recession, they too must monitor leading indicators and lead the organization on its growth mission. Knowing where and how to compete, selecting the best talent, and driving innovation will ensure sustainable growth. Success requires fresh thinking, creativity, collaboration and continuous innovation at all levels of the organization. Once you find the necessary tools, you’ll find it a lot easier to achieve your desired growth.

Tony Arnold is founder and principal of Upfront Management, a St. Louis-based management and executive consulting firm. Utilizing C-suite experience as a CEO and executive experience in early-stage startup and Fortune 100 companies, he brings unique skills, insights and perspective to enable clients to improve business performance. Tony can be reached at (314) 825-9525 or