If only 50% of new businesses survive more than five years and only one-third make it to 10 years, what’s the one thing you could do to ensure your company is sustainable?

The answer is to create a growth strategy for your business.

But a growth strategy involves more than simply envisioning long-term success. If you don’t have a tangible plan, you may be actually losing business — or you’re increasing the chance of losing business to competitors.

According to an article by Rob Beiderman in “Entrepreneur” Magazine, there’s a 7-step process to follow to ensure your growth strategy is well formulated, robust, and stands a good chance of success. Here’s a few extracts, and some of my own thoughts based on Rob’s article…

1. Establish a value proposition.
For your business to sustain long-term growth, you must understand what sets it apart from the competition. Identify why customers come to you for a product or service. What makes you different – what makes you better? Ask yourself, why should customers come to me? Figure out what special benefit only you can provide, and forget everything else. If you stray from this proposition, you’ll only run the risk of devaluing your business.

2. Identify your ideal customer.
You got into business to solve a problem for a certain audience. What is that solution? Who is that audience? Are they your ideal customer? If not, why not? Nail down your ideal customer, and focus on them as you look to stimulate growth.

3. Define your key indicators.
Changes must be measurable. If you’re unable to measure a change, you have no way of knowing whether it’s effective. Identify which key indicators affect the growth of your business, then dedicate time and money to those areas. (Of course, monitoring the main KPIs is essential to your business in all respects, not just measuring the effectiveness of a growth strategy).

4. Verify your revenue streams.
What are your current revenue streams? How can you enhance these, and make them even more productive and profitable? What revenue streams could you add to make your business more profitable? 

5. Look to your competition.
No matter your industry, your competition is possibly excelling at something that your company is not. Look at similar businesses that are growing and see if there’s anything that they do which you could adopt. Ask yourself why they have made alternate choices. Are they wrong? Or are your businesses positioned differently? The assumption that you’re smarter is not always correct!

6. Focus on your strengths.
Sometimes, focusing on your strengths — rather than trying to improve your weaknesses — can help you establish growth strategies. Reorient the playing field to suit your strengths, and build upon them to grow your business.

7. Invest in talent.
Your employees have direct contact with your customers, so you need to hire people who are motivated and inspired by your company’s value proposition. Be cheap with things like office furniture, advertising budgets and Christmas parties but don’t hold back on hiring the right team members. The best ones will usually stick around, and will be your dedicated advocates in the years ahead.

What I find interesting about this is that 90% of the thought’s in the article reflect the common threads of discussions I have with clients all the time! So we must be on the right track – it is just good to get positive reinforcement of this sort of approach every now and then.

But developing a growth strategy isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. In fact, due to changing market conditions, making strategic decisions based on someone else’s approach would be wrong. That’s not to say that you can’t learn from another company, but blindly implementing an off the shelf plan probably won’t create sustainable growth.

A specific plan formulated for a specific business is a successful plan. When you tailor your growth strategy to your business and customers, you’ll keep your existing customers happy, which will keep them coming back, and you’ll attract new customers at the same time.