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Stimulating Top-Line Growth

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One of the most pressing issues today — especially among companies with $5 to $75 million in revenue — is how to stimulate top line growth. Sales generation, marketplace exposure and increased profitability are the next generation of initiatives — after cost cutting — for companies growing either organically or by recently completed mergers.

Companies can no longer attain growth by making more business improvements. In other words, companies can’t cut or trim their way to growth. It’s how the top line is built and shaped that can make all the difference in revenue growth. Yet many owners think of revenue-generating activities as soft, risky and unpredictable.

Every successful growth initiative has three things in common:

  • A learning culture
  • Forward-thinking leadership
  • Innovation

The first two provide the foundation for innovation — essential for successful growth initiatives. If top line growth is not occurring, consider which area is the weakest link: culture or leadership?

Failure Encouraged

A company with a learning culture is best evidenced by walking in the door and watching: people gathering in the hallway, white boards and paper everywhere, ringing telephones, and food and conversations all around the office. This is an informal, high-energy environment with a certain degree of chaos. The result? People are tossing ideas around, trying different approaches — and failure is considered a good thing.

Collaboration is an outgrowth of a learning culture, which leads to innovation. In the spirit of collaboration, employees call in customers, prospects and suppliers to review ideas that bubble to the surface. This larger testing ground leads to new products or services, based on current or future market needs, which eventually produce new top-line revenue.

A sure-fire sign of a company that cannot grow has leaders saying, “Well, we don’t want to share our ideas with our customers at this time.” Most likely, that culture will be filled with “silos” of people with an “it’s mine” mentality — a barrier to growth. Only a culture shift will inspire innovation.

Forward-thinking decisions

The learning culture and collaborative environment requires leadership that is open to greater diversity and multiple thinking styles. This includes building a community base where employees have shared vision and values, as well as embracing failures to stimulate innovation. Marketing the vision internally through systems and cross-functional teams provides a platform for leaders to capitalize on feedback from multiple points of view.

What’s more, decision making also needs to shift from relying on previous experience (which will only result in more of the same — plateaued growth) to applying new tools to examine possible growth initiatives. Backward viewpoints will either squash or smother possible innovation for growing top-line sales because what did or did not work in the past may be either meaningless or inappropriate for a future initiative. Leadership must be able to “see the new” in any possibility and align those opportunities with strategic.

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