In this article, originally featured in Elite Business: To create wealth as a business owner, you need to change how and what you lead over time.
Wealth creation is a strategy, not luck. As a business owner, embracing change is vital to remain relevant, grow, and win in a noisy and competitive market. It’s essential to wealth creation.
Across your lifespan as a business owner, how you lead your business determines your wealth creation outcome. As your company grows, how you lead and direct it must change to ensure it becomes your greatest wealth-generating asset.
Using a framework against which to know when and how to change the way you lead a business is helpful. I’ve noticed six distinct shifts in leadership attention and direction that enable the likelihood that your business and career generate wealth and a legacy.
Positioning growth leadership
This is about understanding what business you are in defined not by your product or service but by who you serve, what problem your product or service solves for them and what the ideal engagement experience would be to favour your business above competitors. When you start, it’s about serving anyone and everyone in your industry. It ends when you can prioritise less than a handful of segments you want to dominate in the future. This engagement experience includes how to market, sell, fulfill and retain your customers and forms the blueprint of your business model.
Organic growth leadership
Once we know what business we are in and who our customer segments are, the next phase of leadership centres on scaling your customer engagement and fulfilment system using the blueprint. Put differently, it is about building commercial processes and systems, which you can delegate to a team that will create a reliable, consistent customer experience. Getting this right is vital to release your time from daily operations to deliver the next phase of leadership growth.
Accelerated growth leadership
At this point, at least 70% of your attention should focus on accelerating your growth to dominate your segments by deepening your market share of the segments you have chosen to dominate. For example, if a furniture manufacturer decides to dominate the SOHO segment, calculate its approximate value and ensure you develop and enable market access strategies, campaigns and relationships that deepen your market share.
Next-level growth leadership
As you deepen your share of the segment you’ve defined your business against, the next phase of leadership is about de-risking your exposure to that segment and deepening your profitability. In my book, Sweat-Scale-Sell, I highlight the trickiness of this phase of leadership through the story of Jack the Baker.
Having positioned his business to solve the requirement of 365-fresh-baked-goods for continental breakfast to hotels, he created the ideal experience with his team to dominate this segment in the hospitality industry. His next-level growth play saw him translate the same proposition into the supermarket segment across food retail to solve the problem of morning trade.
It brought in a new source of revenue that could be serviced off his scalable fulfilment platform, necessitating only a moderate cost increase. The “yawn” between revenue and costs dropped down to the bottom line and a significant shift in profitability. The key to next-level growth is that leveraging your fulfilment platform solves the same problem. It was and remains the blueprint against which his brand, commercial system and team had become expert at delivering.
Capital growth leadership
This phase ensures you lock in your business value for a successful capital exit. From start to exit, over a 20–30-year period, a business built and led against the above framework should achieve a capital exit above £50m.
Yes, it is possible, and you can do it. I’ve seen this year in and out across the UK, USA and EU companies. Retiring in the sun by the sea is for the birds, bringing us to the final phase of leadership.
Legacy growth leadership
The opportunity to create a Family Office to house the capital gained from an exit is worth considering. Set aside a portion of the funds within your Family Office to invest in a few early-stage companies within the industry in which you have successfully built your now-former business. You will have the network and relationships to spot young winners who benefit from your knowledge, insight, relationships, and mentorship. Investing in them can keep you in the game at a strategic level, not a daily grind, and allow you to remain relevant and enjoy a life of purpose and meaning.
Wealth has three elements: Make money, the first 2 phases; Grow money – the subsequent 2 phases. And Protect money, the last 2 phases. Having a plan to make it happen is as important as enacting it. It will set you apart from the 94.6% of businesses started that ultimately close. It will also let you continue serving humankind, arguably a key to a rich, fulfilling and contended life.