Why Aren't You Growing?

First off, let me say that I’m not a huge fan of growth for growth’s sake. Your firm is a not a publicly traded entity where investors see increasing performance…or certain death. No, you can have a great firm and be that same great firm at the same size for as long as you want. But there are some advantages to being a bigger firm (as well as a smaller one), and growth might be on your radar. So if it is, but it’s not happening, why is that? I’m going to give you the five most common reasons I see.

  1. You’re trying to grow too fast, closing the gap between opportunity and capacity and losing your leverage in the process. Here’s what I mean: when you match your capacity to your opportunity, you are taking everything you can and margins suffer. If you’re still being picky like you should be, you’ll grow slower, and that’s good. Don’t get too far ahead of your supply lines.
  2. You have project managers in charge of client relationships. Some firms have always run this way, devaluing the role that great relationship managers play. Others only put project managers in place to rescue a given account, listening to a frustrated client who gives up on the dream of a good relationship manager in exchange for someone finally getting it right. Regardless, one of the two critical things that project managers don’t do well is grow accounts. Their perspective is to not lose it, which is different than growing it. There’s more about managing client relationships here.
  3. Your own personal role as the principal isn’t appropriate. There are certain things the firm needs from you that they can’t get from anyone else, and those realities should translate to the right priorities.
  4. You’re chasing cash instead of profit, which leads to financial pressure, which leads to further compromise as you ramp up to serve clients that won’t take you anywhere.
  5. You’re spending the right amount of time on business development, but you’re responding to RFPs instead of disseminating insight in places where prospects will notice.

There are some great tools for growing existing accounts (like this webinar, $160). Decide how big you want to be and make it happen. You might be the only significant obstacle.

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