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In this Family Business Leadership Series, we discover the four Leadership Natures and explains how to unleash their highest potential. This article is dedicated to the third Leadership Nature, The Grower.
Jeremy had just taken control of the family’s small but successful heating and cooling service company from his father who knew it was time to hand over the reigns. For the life of the company, all administration and operation tasks had literally resided in the family home. The service trucks parked at the back of the house, and a TV room transformed years ago into the office. Though the company had a loyal customer base, Jeremy, unlike his father who saw the business as a way of providing income for the family, knew there were untapped opportunities for growth and was prepared to go after them. These included implementing products and services that addressed customers’ concerns about rising heating costs and environmental issues. He predicted this rising market years before his competition. Within three years of being in control of the business, Jeremy had grown the company by multiple millions in sales.
Very good at stepping in when the Starter has done his or her job, a Grower excels at taking companies to new heights of success. He will put in place new systems, processes, and structures. With sharp focus and the needed energy level, he knows when to expand franchise opportunities, “go public”, introduce new products and/or services, and basically take the company to the next level.
Passion translated properly is infectious, passion in the wrong hands, destructive, and Growers can have lots of passion. If this passion is found in the succeeding generations it will need to be harnessed and focused without being stifled to be effective.
This energy and desire to move the business forward however can be counterproductive, as he might try to tackle all the growth on his own if his team does have the same aspirations. This resulting pressure may cause him to begin to micro-manage and become too controlling. Patience can be an issue if his people skills or implementation strategies are weak, and if his credibility has yet to be formed.
Over the course of our work with a wide range of family companies, we have uncovered two sub-categories of Growers: The Accidental Grower, and The Illuminary Grower.
The Accidental Grower
The Accidental Grower has traits of Visionaries and Starters, and through circumstances of good fortune find themselves in a period of progress, and in favourable financial situations. Critical decisions can made easily and risks taken, with somehow everything works out – for a while anyway. If one were to ask them how they became successful, they might even wonder how it all happened. A smart owner will recognize his area of business weakness and bring in a true Grower during these periods. However more often than not, his ego will not let him see the truth, and the test for these Accidental Growers comes when unpredictable circumstance prevail or banks step in.
The Illuminary Grower
The Illuminary Grower is defined as being able to see the future. They can recognize patterns and trends, and take advantage of them. Partner this with a good business sense, guts, natural ability, and a high level of debt tolerance, many are able to grow their companies to global size. It is important to distinguish between a Visionary and an Illuminary Grower, and it has to do with the ability to see patterns into the future. The Visionary may see an answer to a problem, but the Illuminary Grower will see how that answer fits in the marketplace and how to get it there.
Was Steve Jobs a Visionary or an Illuminary Grower?
Growers can be challenged by staff and management who do not share their passion for growth or understand the nuisance of timing for risk. A Visionary may bring in a Grower, but want to limit the Growers abilities in order to maintain the consistency of the original vision. This can be a problem for both parties and lead to a breakdown in the relationship if not dealt with.
When discussing a Grower it is important to recognize their qualities:
- Have an excellent sense of timing
- Trust their intuition
- Focused and goal oriented
- Willing to take risks
- Can often see the outcome in their head – strong visual capacities
- Comfortable with increased complexity
- Can bring together groups to achieve goals and vision
- High expectation of excellence
- Impatient if growth or change is not meeting expectation
- Strong egos
- Low tolerance for people who have low sense of urgency
- Have difficulty with people who don’t like change
- May have difficulty communicating their ideas to others
It goes without saying that for a company to move to new level, it needs a Grower at the helm. The challenge for a Grower is when the company is mature and so well run that the Grower loses his sense of purpose. He may be bored, feeling that it may be time to exit the company just to find a new challenge. The maximum impact for a Grower is the New Growth or Turn around phases, where their energy and skills can be fully used.
A Grower in a family business is powerful as he may be able to ramp up the speed during the growth phase. However, also look to them during the New Growth phase (after a product or service has been introduced), or during Turn Around situations. In all cases it is about this person’s ability to generate new energy within the company to take it forward.
The challenge to look out for among Growers within family companies is the amount of respect they have for others, and gather from others. The degree that there is respect is the degree that they are heard, followed and can implement their ideas. For Growers, as for Visionaries, the issue can be a feeling of entitlement, which if not checked can play havoc within the company.
Strategies for Growers in the next generation:
- Provide a mentor or business coach to guide them and harness their creativity and energy
- Give them new responsibilities and stretching goals to achieve
- Keep the path open when managers are blocking their way due to fear or ego
- Deal with ego and entitlement issues early
- Listen to their ideas and request a business plan presentation to the management group to challenge and make suggestions.
It is important to direct the Growers’ energy in a strategic direction. Allow them to take risks and explore ideas, while challenging them to translate those ideas into business potential.
With the proper focus and development, a Grower in the next generation is obviously a great asset. Just ensure to provide the structure and room to focus their energy.