I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts just the other day, "How I Built This" hosted by Guy Raz. It was a live recording of an interview with Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks.
Now, I've logged nearly a decade working in the Specialty Coffee industry, so it may come as a surprise to know that I have always had a great respect for Howard Schultz. His ethic, humility, and commitment to his employees is admirable and I would be lucky to be able to emulate it.
The interview saw Schultz taking listeners through his childhood, home life, early career and forward. The whole interview was fantastic, but one line struck me more than the rest.
While Schultz was talking about a difficult time in the company's history, he described a loss of focus on the elements of his business that mattered and that was replaced with a focus on growth.
"Growth is not a business strategy," he said. The rest was left to interpretation.
And here's my interpretation.
Growth is not a strategy, but rather the result of your strategy.
Businesses are living organisms. They take on a life of their own. There are employees, customers, suppliers, contractors, and many more human beings involved in the operation of a business. All of these people bring life, vitality, hang-ups, and idiosyncrasies to the life of your business.
And to get it right in business, especially small business, you have to nurture these moving parts. You have to spend time getting to know the people and things that depend on you and that you depend on. You have to commit to making sure that you've cared for the parts of your business, both human and material, so that you can depend on them to take care of you.
This is an essential element of a good business plan. One that will, hopefully, lead to growth.
Of course, there are many other parts to a good business plan, but one thing is clear; if you want to grow, you have to nurture the people and the community that your business creates through its very existence.
Spend time talking to your people, employees and customers, and spend time thinking about how you can make life better for them through your business. Consider how your community sees your business. Are you a partner? Do you support your community? Or are you aloof, just here to make some money and open another location?
The answer to this will determine the true potential of your business to not only grow, but to thrive.
Be a good steward of your resources. Look after your people and your community. With this, an excellent product, financial responsibility, and some luck, your business will thrive.