Of Rubber Bands and Catapults: Strategies for Business Growth

A growing small business bears a great deal of resemblance to a rubber band. Left to its own devices a rubber band holds one shape. With the right type of pressure, a rubber band can expand to great lengths as long as the pressure is held steady or carefully stretched more and more. If too much pressure is applied or you lose your grip, the rubber band sails off across the room and someone loses an eye.

 

Apply this analogy to a small business. Sometimes businesses fade away because the owner doesn’t apply the right pressure (or any pressure) to move the business forward. Sometimes pressure to move the business forward is only applied sporadically, leading to inconsistent results. Pressure is applied and the business moves forward. Pressure is slacked off and the business moves back three spaces. Sometimes too many people are applying pressure in different directions, pulling the business in different directions, too. This creates infighting and factions that prevent the business from thriving. And often, small business are “stretched too thin” and find operating day to day outweighs business growth. And cash flow? Suffers every time. Every. Time.

 

Now consider the catapult. When someone refers to “going ballistic,” the catapult fits the bill very well. Using concentrated force, the catapult can hurl fire, take down walls, and make a big splash. Catapults are all about “go big or go home.”

 

If a small business uses a catapult approach to business growth, growth happens forcefully and fast. It’s a tried and true way of getting bigger, faster results. But, this method has its own challenges. First of all, if the catapult is not well-built, it will not sustain the force exerted and will fall apart. Building a strong business before attempting fast growth is necessary. That means having critical skills and competencies in place to build that solid infrastructure. The second big challenge with a catapult approach is to have a plan in place for once the walls are breached. Catapults open the doors to opportunities, but a business has to be poised to capitalize on those opportunities. All those expenses of catapulting and capitalizing can cause cash flow problems, too.

 

So, which business growth plan is better? The rubber band plan or the catapult plan. The answer is that it’s really just having a plan that is the important point. The plan determines the tools and skills needed. Executing that plan often requires the use of both steady pressure and the use of massive force. There is no “one size fits all” plan for business success. If there was, we’d all buy that book. The truth is small business ownership takes constant thought, planning, action, tweaking, and re-engineering. We work in an ever-changing field of endeavor where we must always be on the edge of our chairs, ready to adjust to circumstances as they come. And most of us wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

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