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Tag: Economy Strategies for Achieving Business Growth in a Stagnant Economy

Strategies for Achieving Business Growth in a Stagnant Economy

In a recent episode of The Money Show with Pavlo, the focus was on achieving growth for businesses, particularly in the challenging economic landscape of South Africa. Despite the stagnant growth of the economy, Pavlo shared invaluable insights and strategies for business owners to navigate and thrive. Let’s delve into some of the key takeaways:

Embrace a Growth Mindset

Pavlo emphasised the importance of adopting a growth mindset. In a stagnant economy, it’s crucial for business owners to shift their thinking towards growth opportunities. Being open to new ideas and continuous learning is essential for identifying and seizing growth prospects.

Understand the Economic Climate

While the overall economy might be stagnant, not all industries experience the same growth rates. Pavlo highlighted the significance of understanding industry dynamics and identifying sectors with higher growth potential. By focusing efforts on growth-oriented industries, business owners can capitalise on emerging opportunities.

Invest in Scalability

Scaling a business can be daunting, especially in uncertain economic times. However, Pavlo stressed the importance of building scalable systems and processes. By investing in infrastructure that can support growth, businesses can expand without compromising efficiency or profitability.

Differentiate from Competitors

In a market where many businesses are complacent or resistant to change, those with a growth mindset have a competitive advantage. Pavlo urged business owners to innovate and differentiate themselves from competitors. By offering unique value propositions and constantly evolving, businesses can attract customers and gain market share.

Focus on Profitability

Growth shouldn’t come at the expense of profitability. Pavlo cautioned against pursuing revenue growth without considering profitability. Instead, he encouraged businesses to focus on increasing profitability alongside expansion. Smart growth strategies should aim to enhance both revenue and profitability, ensuring sustainable, long-term success.

Measure Success Holistically

When evaluating growth, it’s essential to look beyond revenue figures. Pavlo advised business owners to consider factors such as increased customer base, market share expansion, and improved profitability. By taking a holistic approach to measuring success, businesses can assess their growth trajectory accurately.

Achieving business growth in a stagnant economy requires a proactive approach, strategic thinking, and a willingness to adapt. By embracing a growth mindset, understanding industry dynamics, investing in scalability, differentiating from competitors, prioritising profitability, and measuring success comprehensively, business owners can navigate challenges and unlock opportunities for sustainable growth.

Elite Business: Crack the skills crisis

Elite Business: Crack the skills crisis

In this article, originally featured in Elite Business, Pavlo explores the topic of the UK’s GBP6.6 billion skills gap, exacerbated by inflation and tech advances, demanding attention. To succeed, prioritise growth and talent. Build a resilient business model and hire system operators to navigate the skills crisis and pursue higher growth.

Skills are short globally. In the UK, the skills gap cost businesses an estimated GBP6.6 billion. The subsequent challenges of inflation, war in Europe, and the accelerated adoption of AI and other technologies can only have increased this.  

This shortage of skills is not a problem if you don’t want to grow. There are two parts to this comment.

First, growth 

If you’re not growing, you’re dying because your competitors intend to, and in a low-growth environment, their growth will come from eating your lunch. Add inflation, and you are eroding the value you have built thus far. If you opt not to grow, look to exit and realise your value before it whittles away.

If you want to grow, there are two options. First, grow to maintain what you have. This pegs your annual growth rate at inflation, the tepid country growth rate, and your industry growth rate. It approximates 8% per annum. At this level, you are maintaining what you have. To grow beyond what you have, your growth rate should add another 5-10%, depending on your ambition.

Next, talent

In the instance of growth, you need a plan, and that plan needs two things. First, and most importantly, your time and attention to focus on growth. Next, a business model and team that allows your time and attention to focus on growth. Both mean you need to have a good team on board of the right people doing the right thing at the right time.

Across businesses I visit the following constraints regarding human talent become apparent.

  1. I need help finding the right people.
  2. I have people in senior roles who don’t have the skills or mindset to get the job done without my regular support and guidance.
  3. It takes ages for new employees to get up to speed and wash their faces.
  4. My “rock-star” employee is constantly toying with other opportunities.

The employment challenge is here to stay. Demographically, each year sees fewer people entering the workforce. Over 2.8m working people are sick, waiting for operations. About 500 000 able, capable 50 years and older, experienced people opted for early retirement. 

If structure determines behaviour, build your business to accommodate the skills challenge.

A business does not just emerge. It is built against an operating model. Your operating model must sympathise with the challenges of growth, size, and shifts in the economy.

However, the bones of the operating model that will resolve many of your human capital challenges remain the same. 

It begins with defining your business in terms of the customer segments you serve rather than the features and criteria of your products and services. 

Understanding these segments, what problem you solve for them, and what experience they want in the process forms the blueprint of your operating model.

Using the blueprint, build the operating processes and systems to deliver that outcome reliably. Systems are sequential activities that bring the experience of the blueprint to life, and that can be taught and measured. Do this across all your commercial functions that comprise that customer experience blueprint. In each function, these activities make up a job description. 

You can now hire people, not because they bring some of their superstar ability to the role, but because they can be evaluated and trained against the activities in their employed function. 

Hiring system operators, rather than mavericks and gurus, has several benefits:

Recruitment is simplified as you can assess through simple questions whether someone has the experience or capability to perform the tasks that make up the system.

Your employees are motivated and have a purpose as they know what to do and when to do it, to achieve a specific outcome. Their performance can be measured and managed.

Your business becomes less reliant on you, as the systems that underpin it are documented, trainable, and don’t depend on a few superstars to get things done.

This unlocks your time to focus on next-level growth despite the skills crisis. 

There is more foam in the AI coffee than actual coffee right now

Elite Business: There is more foam in the AI coffee than actual coffee right now

In this article, originally featured in Elite Business, Pavlo Phitidis explores the notion that while AI may not propel your business growth in the immediate future, grasping its potential value and applications is crucial for maintaining a competitive edge.

Recently, I grabbed a to-go coffee between meetings. As the coffee arrived, I tapped and left. It felt light, given the size of the cup. I lifted the lid and stared into the foamy abyss. Using the wooden stirring stick as a dipstick, I realised my large coffee was 70% foam!

It’s much like the current hype about AI.

If the job of a coffee is to have the caffeine keep you racy, pacy and alert, why the big cup if it is 70% foam? We buy with our eyes, and the psychological economics of different cup sizes and price points makes for smart retailing. 

The same triggers in our brain that let us buy with our eyes activate around the AI hype feeding hope and fear. And the world of AI did a great job of it with the introduction of ChatGPT earlier this year. And that is where it feels like it has stayed.

In response to the impact of ChatGPT, we sprang into action and spoke to our teams. The message was clear. You’re fired if you ever approach me with a question that ChatGPT could answer. However, if you ever come forward with an answer that ChatGPT provided and that you could not explain or argue, you’re equally fired. Two juxtaposed positions are dramatised for impact but point to a simple, clear message. Get with it on tech, or you are no longer relevant in the world of future commerce, and that future is now.

Mindset matters, and adopting the right one to technology is essential to stay relevant and solvent. But mindset on tech is not enough to use it effectively and profitably.

Over the last 6 months since ChatGPT sprung into the market, we’ve reviewed multiple AI solutions or strategies proposed by clients across most industries. By far, most have been theoretical in value or moribund in reality. I write from the position of established mid-sized businesses with annual revenues between £5m-£75m.

Theoretical in value

Be it the hype, noise and thousands of AI hack infographics on LinkedIn; videos on YouTube and articles in the digisphere, the world of possibility is interesting but not practical. From taking jobs, doing jobs, and creating new jobs, what started fast has slowed as quickly. Bringing real productivity gains into your business without losing a distinctive personality remains a hope and dream rather than an accessible, practical reality. Building AI is hard and expensive, monetising it across a broad landscape through SaaS offerings and overcrowded app stores is harder. 

Moribund in reality

Already, ChatGPT feels like it’s entering this categorisation. Has it become dumber? The quality of answers it offers on mostly similar questions I asked over the last 6 months has waned. It has left me wondering if a suite of privacy interventions has compromised its ability to generate more meaningful and robust answers. Even prompt engineering hardly distinguishes one answer from the next. Across marketing, content generation seems to have peaked already, with little or no impact on the cost and investment in time and money to use the ocean of AI options.

A profitable reality

Across more than 3,000 companies, we see an approach, rather than a neat AI app, win the day on digitisation and AI solutions. However, it’s not about a hack or infographic on bringing AI into your business profitably. Like most successful acts in business, it goes down to the basic principles of what informs your action in building your business and step-by-step patient work.

First, know what business you are in. It has nothing to do with your product or service whose sole job is to solve a problem for your customer. It is all about who that customer is. Broad definitions of customers harm your ability to get this crisp and clear. Narrow definitions of customer are notoriously hard to get right. Yet, they are the blueprint against which your business should be defined, built and shaped.

Second, articulate your commercial activities, processes and procedures using this blueprint. How they are designed and implemented must be determined by that blueprint. The smart way to do this is with your team. Their involvement will create ownership and accountability as well as measured outcomes.

Finally, these activities hold the key to digitisation and AI adoption. Whether across marketing, sales, fulfilment, administration or procurement, inefficiencies and dull processing requirements are the first areas that lend to digitisation. Try it with your functional teams. Ask what is the most tedious part of their job and start there. Take that activity and see how it can be digitised using off-the-shelf or native software. 

Don’t put the horse before the cart.

What is critical in this process is that you start at the beginning and define your business. For example, adopting software to digitise a marketing or sales process not designed and characterised by your customer segment’s behaviour creates a generic experience. Perhaps we no longer respond to canned marketing emails or automated sales engagements. If you start with the software, you will build what everyone else already has because they use software to create structure and systems, not the lived experience of the people in the organisations that engage and buy answers to problems. 

AI is exciting. We have baked it into our platform across 3 areas. It’s working okay. Each week, it gets better as we learn its limitations and potential. Adopting technology is a vital act of leadership. Leading it, adapting it and recognising that it does not hold all the answers but will hold many opportunities is a critical mindset.

Be wary of false prophets and white knights as you scale and grow your business

Elite Business: Be wary of false prophets and white knights as you scale and grow your business

In this article, first published in Elite Business, Pavlo Explores: Being wary of false prophets and white knights as you scale and grow your business

Exhausted, frustrated, driven business owners are vulnerable to false promises. We encounter various individuals claiming to have the solutions we seek, often leading us down costly paths. Let’s explore some of the most common pitfalls, look at how to avoid them, and design your business to scale and thrive.

Software salespeople

One group to watch out for is software salespeople. We all have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to managing our businesses. Software solutions, like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, promise to address our management shortcomings. However, it is crucial to approach them with caution. Many providers offer comprehensive solutions, but purchase, customisation, and training costs can be significant. 

Before investing, we must map out our commercial system that marries and matches how you have positioned your company to provide an exceptional customer experience. That blueprint should guide your ERP decision, not the limitations and capabilities of the software itself.

Job seekers

Another common pitfall is hiring team members based on their charisma and passion. We are all vulnerable to slick promises that we can see could fill gaps in our capabilities or business activities when hiring new employees. 

To make informed decisions, precede your hire with a clearly defined job function. Beyond asking ChatGPT to spit one out for you, design it yourself, aligning it to your positioning. Any and every job should shape up into a system of activities, and all should integrate to create a single customer experience across and through your commercial system.

It enables you to recruit more effectively, capacitate faster and turn this significant investment into a return more deliberately.


Collaborations and deals with external parties can hold great promise but also carry risks. Many businesses have fallen victim to partnerships that did not deliver the expected results. 

Be clear why you are doing it. 

A recent study indicated that around 84% of mergers and acquisitions failed to yield the value that seemed to justify them in the first place. And when partnering with someone or an organisation, besides first assuring alignment and non-compete parameters, dig into the detail of who does what, why, when and how. Then, dig further before inking an agreement.


Selling a business is a significant milestone but often fails. Flattering statements and attractive numbers from potential acquirers may grab our attention. However, conducting thorough due diligence ensures buyers’ credibility and protects our years of hard work. It’s an obvious, bland statement, but do it! Arm yourself by mathematically understanding your business’s value and securing a body of evidence to back that up. To secure a clean exit, negotiation must be pragmatically informed, not emotively driven.

Family and friends

While well-intentioned, relying on family or friends to solve business challenges can lead to difficult situations. It becomes particularly challenging to part ways with underperforming relatives or friends. 

It is crucial to separate personal relationships from business decisions. By maintaining a clear delineation between personal and professional spheres, we can make strategic choices based on merit and the best interests of our businesses.

Building and growing a business takes time and effort. By being aware of your vulnerabilities and these common pitfalls, you can save valuable resources and maximise your chances of success. Trust your instincts and stay resilient on your path to business growth. With a proactive growth mindset and a systems-based approach to building out your business, you can build your business into your greatest wealth-generating asset.


Elite Business: Choose the right type of growth at the right time or face the perils of chaos

In this article, first published in Elite Business, Pavlo Phitidis digs into strategies to achieve accelerated growth – how to get it right (and avoid getting it wrong).

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet a business employing 58 people, growing at a steady 18% annual compound growth rate. Given the smooth ride they enjoyed in achieving it, I asked why only 18%? Why not double it?

They confessed that they sought to accelerate this growth rate through an acquisition they were mulling over. The target was a smaller business in the same industry. 

Whilst growth through acquisition has its place, it’s equally fraught. Globally, the stats suggest that around 86% of acquisitions fail to deliver the promised value. There are a host of reasons. I’ll share the few that changed their minds.

Paying too much

Once the acquiring leadership team gets excited about its potential, they will overvalue it. If the company being acquired can successfully feed the buyer’s imagination, they tend to become increasingly convinced that the acquisition will be a silver bullet that would double up their company value in a couple of years. Great for the company being acquired, but a few months into the acquisition, the buyers are usually less thrilled.

Mismatched customer base

Defining the business you are in should be about defining who your customer segments are, what problems your product or services solves for them, understanding how that problem comes about and the cost of that problem not being solved, and finally, understanding how that customer segment goes about solving that problem. It’s not uncomplicated! 

For example, the company I met with recently refers to their customer segment as “SMEs”. The last time I looked,  the companies that make up SMEs are widely, profoundly and deeply complex. Be it industry, size, age and capability of the owners, location, business model, sector trends and many other variables. A lazy or superficial definition of the customer segments you serve will create a torturous marketing and service fulfilment outcome that keeps you tightly knit in the daily-weekly-monthly operational activites of your business and collapse your productivity. Misaligned or misunderstood customer segments in acquisitions compound this trauma tenfold.

Cultural clashes

People are the heart of any business, and most stay at a company because of its culture. It is the glue that holds things together, especially in smaller businesses. How do you come to understand a company’s culture? If you rely on the values presented on the website or stencilled on the reception wall, you might find yourself in hot water. When two bodies of water with widely differing temperatures come together, they catalyse a thermocline, repelling each other. Mismatched cultures infamously poison the wellspring of most acquisitions.

Given the nature of this steadily growing business and its large span of control, which already had leadership too involved in operational activity, we opted to take another approach to double growth.

In 3 months, we created two management roles to release the time of the CEO to become an actual CEO rather than a general manager, the commercial director to become an actual commercial director instead of an operations manager and the head of business development to move out of operational sales into building a team. Today, we have ‘locked and loaded’ the company to eat their competitor’s lunch rather than buying it for them. Let doubling up growth begin!

Elite Business : If your business is not growing, it’s dying!

Elite Business: If your business is not growing, it’s dying!

In this article, first published in Elite Business, Pavlo Explores: Crafting a Strategic Growth Plan for Success in Today’s Economy.

Is your growth plan actually no plan at all? Or is it to sustain your value – neither is enough in this economy.

The Ukraine invasion, global supply chains, chip wars, trade ‘wars’, COVID hangovers, access to skills and grumpiness have heavily impacted our economy. Add inflation to a grumpy mood, and you, not the state of the economy, will kill your business if you allow it.

Let’s prevent that!

Plan to plan, but no plan yet.

If you are stuck here, you will develop an irreversible aversion to risk and a mindset that only sees risk and reasons not to act. A year back, I met the owner of a second-generation family business in the construction sector. He enjoyed a reliable £13m annual revenue, up and down a few percent for the decade preceding covid. Since then he has wanted to regain his revenues and dividend flows. Still, it remains talk, unable to commit to building a growth plan. Perhaps a decade of comfort atrophied the muscles needed to act amid his competitors enjoying record growth over the last 3 years. 

Should this be you, sell your business before its value erodes further or act now. Here are two options.

Act to sustain your value.

In February, I met the owners of a once beautiful £21m revenue business. In response to the strain of their overheads bearing down on them, both partners dove back into operational sales. Spinning rolodexes, bouncing between their digital platforms, CRM and debtors book helped find, win and hold customers. It’s an exhausting and chaotic strategy, and they are reclaiming their £21m. 

It’s not sustainable, and it’s not enough. 

To maintain their 2019 value, they need growth to meet the corrosive elements of business value. They include:

Inflation – at 10,1% in March, robust inflation is likely to overstay its unwelcome visit. As business owners, we should look to open our upside and protect the downside so let’s expect the promised 2% target to arrive only three years from now. 

Currency – our currency’s value is driven by relative inflation and belief. Technically, the gap between our inflation rate and that of our peers drives the relative depreciation of our currency. This gap runs around 4% at the moment. It is then either depreciated or compounded by the belief and trust in Britain’s ability to grow and attract investment. 

Industry Growth Rate – Industry growth rates are, at best relative and as speculative as any revenue forecast a business owner presents to investors. Many factors weigh in on this number. For the benefit of a simple calculation, let’s assume that your industry is expected to grow at 2%.

Adding up the numbers, to maintain the value of their company, they need to grow their £21m by 16,1%.

After running these numbers, the mad flurry of activity undertaken by the founders paused. They boldly and purposefully replaced it with the following plan.

Plan to scale, grow and dominate segments in your industry

While 16.1% feels like a considerable number, scaling, growing, and dominating a few segments in your industry needs more. At least add another 3-5% to boldly set your year-on-year growth at a minimum of 20-23%.

A tough economy rewards companies that respond on the front foot ahead of the changed lived reality that their customers and clients face. 

Start by revisiting which customer segments you wish to dominate and reset your product-market fit to meet the new experiences demanded by these customers. Next, articulate these experiences into your commercial activities, processes and systems. Done with your team, not alone, helps create accountability and enables effective delegation. 

The result will be a simple, relevant, crisp strategy defined against a well-defined market segment. It will be a commercial system honed to service that market, empowered and led by a purposeful team. It will generate organic growth and resuscitate the value and dividend stream you once enjoyed. Valuably, it will release your time to lead the 20-30% that this economy offers.

Yup, I know, I said 20%. However, done this way, 30% year-on-year growth is likely, so why not!