What's Your Business Growth Style?
Introducing a Simple Way to Rid Your Business of the Shoulds, Have Tos, and Analysis Paralysis Once and For All
Growth StylesIntroducing a Simple Way to Rid Your Business of the Shoulds, Have Tos, and Analysis Paralysis Once and For All
Every successful business has found a focus and course of action that propels its growth.
When you’re just starting a business or in one of those inevitable periods of stalled growth, it can seem like that focus and course of action is a mystery, something that can only be discovered by trial and error.
Fortunately, that’s just not true.
I’ve been researching, observing, and analyzing the way small and micro businesses earn money, grow their audiences, and stake their position in the market for over 8 years now. As of this writing, I’ve done in-depth interviews with over 75 successful small business founders, personally coached 250, and trained thousands.
I’ve identified 8 core Growth Styles™ that business founders use to focus their actions, prioritize projects, and set strategy.
Perhaps most importantly, these Growth Styles™ represent a clear way to simplify business operations while accelerating revenue growth.
Choosing a Growth Style™ will give you a new sense of confidence as a business founder. If your indecision and lack of focus have left you with little self-assurance, your Growth Style™ can give you a boost by providing a clear path forward.
Your Growth Style™ is a simple framework for what to focus on.
It’s a framework for what actions to choose, how to take advantage of your natural strengths, how your business will most efficiently generate revenue, and what marketing efforts will prove most fruitful.
Your Growth Style™ is not a formula for success. Once you know your Growth Style™, you’ll still need to practice discernment and creativity so you can find your own way.
As your business expresses its unique style, you’ll continually integrate your vision as an entrepreneur, your unique skill set as a technician, and your most compelling messages as a marketer. While the style you use to grow will fit into one of the 8 core Growth Styles™, your particular style as a business founder will evolve to be uniquely yours.
Your Growth Style™ provides a core piece of information: what point of leverage your business will utilize to make its biggest impact.
Knowing what your business can leverage is the key to fast decision-making and standing out in a crowded market.
Leverage, by definition, is what allows more work to be done with less effort. When you put your business’s unique leverage into play, everything becomes easier. Your Growth Style™ will show you how to get the most impact from every action you take by using your particular leverage point.
Your Growth Style™ is your choice.
If your business was already on the path to your goal, you probably wouldn’t be reading this.
But if it is and you are, keep reading. This applies to you, too.
Whether your business is on track or not, you don’t want to choose your Growth Style™ based on how things are now or the way your business is already designed. Instead, you need to look to your vision for your business.
The choices you make–including the style you choose to make your own–are guided by your vision for your business. Without a clear vision, you’ll never find clarity for decision-making.
It’s okay if you don’t know exactly how you want your business to look in 5 or 10 years. And, it’s okay if you think what it might look like is considerably different from what you have now.
Take 2 or 3 minutes and imagine your business just 2 years from now. Everything about your business thrills you: how much money you make, what you’re responsible for on a daily basis, the people you have on your team, the clients or customers you sell to, what your office looks like, how you communicate with your audience, the conversations you have, and so on.
Got it? If not, spend a little more time there. Get curious about what you’re up to in this vision of your business. Consider who is around you and what they’re doing. Think about the role of your business in both your personal and professional situation.
Then, you can continue.
Choose your Growth Style.
Use the flow chart above to help you make your choice. Remember that your goal is to consider the business you want to grow into, not the business you have right now.
There is no right or wrong style for your industry, field, or profession. In fact, choosing a style that is unusual in your field or industry can be a key to differentiating your business.
Above all, remember that your Growth Style™ is a personal choice that you make as the executive of your business. You don’t need to figure out what style you already have or guess which would be the best for growing your business. You can make any style work if you’re intentional about how you implement it in your business.
CAN YOU HAVE MORE THAN ONE GROWTH STYLE™?
No, not at the same time. When you try to combine elements from more than 1 Growth Style™, you split your focus, dilute your market positioning, and confuse your team.
If more than one Growth Style™ is calling your name, it may be for a few different reasons:
- Your vision conflicts with a pressing priority. Most often, this occurs when a business needs revenue now but their vision requires a lot of upfront work and investment (i.e., you want to build a massive audience but you need cash now). In this case, it’s best to develop a plan that has you following 1 Growth Style™ at first, hitting an agreed upon milestone, and then following a second Growth Style™ later on.
- You’re falling into industry expectations instead of blazing your own trail. Many industries or types of businesses lend themselves to a particular Growth Style™ (i.e., coaching falls into Prestige or web design falls into Bespoke). You might assume you have to use elements of that Growth Style™ to succeed, but what you really want is to work a different Growth Style™ and create an innovative kind of business model. You’ll be much better served focusing on the latter, so go for it: do things differently, go all in on what makes you unique, and you’ll reap the rewards quickly.
- You’re more focused on your tactic mix than on your point of leverage. Different tactics tend to lend themselves better to different points of leverage or Growth Styles™ (i.e. you might have put a lot of energy into building a free Facebook group and lean toward Relationship or you might love hosting retreats and lean toward Prestige). If you favor a particular tactic right now or you’re opposed to another tactic, it can throw off your ability to focus on the point of leverage as what’s most important. You can really utilize just about any tactic in a new and fresh way if you focus on leverage first.
Once you know your Growth Style™…
Once you know your Growth Style™, your next step is to audit your business to see where you have alignment with your style and where you’re trying to force things that just don’t fit.
Look first at your business model (your offers, the customers they are sold to, and how your business creates value).
Does your business model support the unique way your style creates leverage? Are there offers you make that detract from your style? Could you reposition any of your offers to take advantage of the natural leverage you already have?
Then, look at your marketing and sales systems.
Are you using tactics that don’t align with your style? Are there 1 or 2 key tactics that you could utilize to take full advantage of your style and require less effort on your part? Is there wasted energy or time in your current marketing plan?
Finally, look at your brand.
Does the story your brand tells take advantage of your Growth Style™? Does the messaging you use conflict with or amplify how you naturally create value for customers?
Scroll down to see an in-depth description of each Growth Style™.
8 Business Growth Styles™
“I deliver the absolute best and make my clients feel like a million bucks.”
Prestige businesses leverage the power of experience.
They’re focused on quality over quantity, uniqueness over ubiquity. A Prestige business is focused on the details of a truly exceptional experience. Because it values both the experience and the details, it gracefully balances the big picture with the small picture.
The Prestige business founder sees herself as the orchestrator of a fine performance. Every aspect of the performance is a chance to create something remarkable. They might not love executing the details, but they love designing them.
Prestige businesses use a small team of people who are 100% committed to the experience of the customer. These businesses don’t require many people to create something wonderful, but they do require dedication and foundership from everyone on the team.
Thanks to their relatively low overhead, Prestige businesses tend to be highly profitable. So while their revenues might not scale as high as some other Growth Styles™, their founders can generate wealth quite efficiently.
In a small Prestige business, the role of the founder is often as “the talent.” Their team, the structure of the business, and even the way offers are presented allow the founder to show up for only the activities where they’re contributing the highest value. This is essential for the health of the business. Team members should coordinate logistics and be given authority over taking care of clients.
In a larger Prestige business, the role of “the talent” is given to front-facing team members. They’ll individualize experiences for customers as they see opportunities—and they’re trained to see those opportunities often.
Because Prestige businesses are focused on high-touch, fully featured experiences, these businesses grow by finding new ways to deliver their services as opposed to creating solutions that scale. That might mean putting on events, gathering existing clients into groups or communities, or offering retainer or follow-up offers to clients as they complete.
Prestige businesses often capitalize on sensory appeal, design, motivation, or self-transcendence.
Founders of Prestige businesses are focused on changing individual lives, one at a time, and measure their impact client by client.
Prestige businesses sell high-ticket, high-touch, fully featured experiences to a small number of clients.
Prestige businesses bank on word-of-mouth marketing. They’ll use social media and advertising to accelerate and reinforce their referrals. They’ll also use social media to give potential clients a taste of the experience they’re offering.
Any tactic or offer that attempts to dilute the experience to make it more affordable or accessible will likely fail. To avoid this, Prestige businesses can make strategic partnerships to increase the volume of their business or level up the size of their audience. They can also design new experiences that are designed to be fully featured on a much smaller scale, as opposed to trying to pare down the core offer.
Sue Bryce Photography, Kimpton Hotels
“We create a strong process that allows us to create highly specialized results.”
Bespoke businesses leverage the power of process.
They’re focused on creating individualized results through a predictable system. They believe that creativity comes from constraints and repetition, not blindly following inspiration.
Because of this, businesses that have chosen the Bespoke Growth Style™ carefully manage projects from start to finish. In fact, they live and die by project and process management.
Bespoke founders choose to focus on the inner workings of the business and the provider-client relationship and eschew the spotlight. They relish the opportunity to improve their processes and their businesses. Their reward is a project well done and an extremely happy client.
Bespoke businesses are most often—but not exclusively—team affairs where each member brings their own zone of genius to the table. No one needs to play outside their area of expertise.
Bespoke businesses use a proven process to deliver fully featured, done-for-you services to their clients. They grow by increasing capacity—adding additional team members, project managers, and client success specialists to support more clients. They also manage for efficiency so that capacity can grow incrementally.
Bespoke businesses often capitalize on quality, avoided hassles, reduced effort, or reduced anxiety. They make things easy for their customers while maximizing the return on investment in terms of results.
Bespoke businesses use technology to facilitate team communication and enhance capacity. Their clients see technology as helpful but not essential to the experience.
Bespoke founders aim to impact their clients one by one, and to extend their own impact through the work their clients do in the world.
Bespoke businesses work with a limited number of clients per year. Their services are priced to reflect the value of the done-for-you service they’re offering. They know exactly who their customer is so they don’t waste time trying to court customers that don’t fit their target.
Bespoke businesses utilize word-of-mouth and referral marketing. They’ll also nurture potential clients through content marketing.
If Bespoke businesses don’t maintain a close eye on the execution of their process, they could jeopardize their relationship with clients. Since existing clients are their biggest channel for new clients, this is potentially catastrophic. A Bespoke business should always prioritize maintaining and refining the process over other business development activities when push comes to shove.
Aeolidia, Natasha Vorompiova, Braid Creative
“We are focused on creating the infrastructure for people to learn new things and become new people.”
Institution businesses leverage the power of infrastructure.
They’re focused on building the systems, capacity, and engine that allow them to create broad offers in service of a core mission. They divide their effort between recruiting new customers to the mission, nurturing the talent (their own or others’) that delivers on that mission, and creating the structure that will hold it all.
Institution founders are concerned more with the mission than on the delivery of the product itself. They are fascinated by how an organization works because they see it as the means to their ends. They are highly organized, process-oriented visionaries—almost a contradiction in terms. Or, there’s a founding team that balances the organization and process orientation with a driving vision.
Institution founders are often hands-off when it comes to execution, preferring management and planning roles. They love playing a backstage role so that the light can shine on others. In fact, they don’t work best on their own and rely on helpful teams or collaborators to spark their creativity and re-inspire them in their mission.
Institution businesses focus on systems and reproducible results so that they can automate things that are already working. They grow by adding capacity to existing systems (more customers and/or more offers) or by developing new systems. For this reason, they often sacrifice some profit margin to expand the reach of their mission.
Institution businesses create offers that put the customer in the driver’s seat. They create tools and opportunities that help as many people as possible achieve their goals. Often, this means training, entertainment, or other forms of content. But it can also mean experiences, physical goods, and digital media.
Institution businesses often capitalize on access, belonging and affiliation, or self-actualization.
Institution businesses are building communities and infrastructure that will help to change the course of their field or industry.
Institution businesses create an infrastructure that allows them to offer a diverse range of products organized around their core value proposition. Once a customer has entered the infrastructure, they’ll become a longtime, repeat customer.
Institution businesses often employ very systematic, automated marketing. They often use pay-per-click advertising, like Google AdWords or Facebook ads. They know exactly what messages and in what order prospects need to see to become customers.
Institution businesses are in jeopardy of expanding faster than their infrastructure will allow. They see new opportunities easily, especially when they’re highly engaged with their customer base. Institution businesses should proceed cautiously and ensure that capacity, systems, and team members are in place before pursuing expansion or a new opportunity.
“We create dependable systems that get great results based on our experience.”
Systematic businesses leverage the power of efficiency and optimization.
Systematic businesses focus on a core product that emphasizes ease and saved time over the customers’ existing workflows. While software is a natural fit for Systematic businesses, media businesses, productized service businesses, and even some training businesses can also use the Systematic Growth Style™.
Systematic businesses are highly detail oriented. They examine and reexamine their work to improve and optimize it. Their goal is for customers to use their products seamlessly from start to finish. They make decisions that engender trust from their customers and strategic partners.
Systematic founders see things differently from others. They naturally make connections, sniff out inefficiencies, and discover innovative ways to solve very old problems.
Systematic businesses are often low key or unsung leaders in their fields. They produce the solutions that make businesses, families, or communities work. They become a part of everyday life so completely that their influence goes under the radar.
Systematic businesses rely on a strong team in which everyone is working toward a common purpose and a standardized set of metrics. Teams are often quite independent because the metrics they own and are optimizing for are so well defined. Everyone knows how they contribute to the organization and they focus on that.
For Systematic businesses, the goal is to create a tool or solution that helps as many people as possible do wh
at they want to do. Scale is the answer. They will reevaluate or eliminate any part of their business that is not allowing them to reach more of their perfect customers or users.
Technology is the solution for Systematic businesses. Whether it’s an app, a site, or software as a service, the best way to solve their customers’ problems is with technology.
Systematic businesses strive to be the leaders in their fields—even if that doesn’t come with mainstream accolades. Other companies look to them to set a standard and pioneer new territory.
Systematic businesses build and optimize tools that can be used by as many people as possible, often on a subscription basis.
Systematic businesses utilize affiliate marketing, word of mouth, and pay-per-click advertising. They also often have dedicated sales teams.
Systematic businesses face two contradictory challenges. First, they can leap too soon by putting out a prototype that turns off even early adopters or investing heavily in user acquisition before their minimum viable product is truly viable. Second, they can fail to update quickly enough for fear of bugs. Customers expect their tools to keep up with their lives and will find something new if they don’t. Systematic businesses should be regularly checking in with their customers to evaluate opportunities and measure truth against assumptions.
MeetEdgar, ConvertKit, SamCart, Huffington Post
“I am a personal guide to fellow explorers as I investigate new ideas and experiences.”
Exploration businesses leverage the power of curiosity.
Exploration businesses are a bit obsessive. They identify projects or missions and look to turn over every stone on the way to the finish line. Of course, the finish line never really comes; Exploration businesses evolve as the world changes and new challenges arise.
Exploration founders are comfortable in the spotlight because they see themselves as a surrogate for their audience—but they don’t crave attention or need it to feel fulfilled.
Exploration audiences and customers are loyal to the curiosity that drives the business rather than a particular product, service, or campaign. They feel like kindred spirits and will stick around through multiple pivots because the willingness to grow and change is what attracted them to the business in the first place.
The founder is likely leading a small team or regularly connecting with a few trusted advisors or collaborators. However, Exploration founders are very happy to work independently and are quite self-sufficient. Team members are given quite a bit of freedom, flexibility, and personal responsibility, in keeping with that strong value for curiosity. Team members come to embody the spirit of exploration too, and customers recognize that.
An Exploration business creates experiences where customers can dip in, get what they need, and get moving. Its offers promote action as well as reflection. The founder would be disappointed if their customers weren’t exploring alongside them.
Exploration businesses often capitalize on connection, variety, access, and self-actualization. Their offers make it easier for their customers to explore on their own and often create a sense of belonging that makes it easier to identify others on the same path.
An Exploration business employs technology to reach more people and impact larger audiences. It seeks to build a thriving community and become well-known and trusted in its field or niche.
Most often, Exploration businesses create easily accessible offers that are aligned with their current pursuits. They leverage relatively large audiences to generate volume sales.
Exploration businesses generally depend on large audiences, so ideal marketing tactics are those that will scale: webinars, live video streaming, podcasting, email marketing, writing books, holding events, etc.
Exploration businesses often fall prey to their natural curiosity (i.e., curiosity kills the cat). Exploration businesses need to dream big enough with their curiosity that each project or mission gives customers enough time to come along for the journey—instead of feeling like they have a bad case of whiplash.
Chris Guillebeau, Jonathan Fields, Amy Porterfield, Marie Forleo, Unmistakable Creative Media
“I am driven by cutting-edge ideas. I’m always a few steps ahead of the market and I’m a go-to resource for what I discover.”
Leadership businesses leverage the power of influence.
A business with the Leadership Growth Style™ is future focused and always a few steps ahead of the game. They generate influence by seeing things before others do, investigating how things work and taking their information mainstream, or upending conventions. Their influence creates movements worth following.
Leadership brands position the founders as thought leaders, experts, and change-makers. Leadership founders write the books, publish the reports, craft the workshops, and develop the stories that move industries and communities forward. They project confidence, authority, and focus.
A Leadership business—and its founder—are primed for the spotlight. They do their best work when all eyes are on them because they feel pushed to the edge of their mastery and beyond.
Leadership founders are self-starters and hustle in the conception phase of a project, while the team sees it to completion. Their team members love to learn, challenge themselves, and grow along with the founder. They’re flexible and adaptable, yet also often tasked with reining in the founder to ensure projects can be seen through to completion before another starts.
A Leadership business relies on its team to create the future-focused work its founder envisions. While the founder could be either a people person or a loner, the business itself requires a diverse team to reach its goals.
Leadership businesses capitalize on access, affiliation, hope, and simplification. They create offers that make it easy for people to follow and become a part of—and contribute to—the momentum. They use technology to facilitate growth and forward progress.
A Leadership business aims to have a global impact. Its brand will be a household name in multiple fields.
Leadership businesses make offers of all kinds that establish their authority and influence.
Leadership businesses need a following, so their marketing needs to reinforce their authority and influence while further defining their value proposition. Often, they’ll use public speaking, books, and video marketing to accomplish this. But almost any tactic can be approached with authority and leadership in mind.
Leadership businesses fail when they equivocate or fall behind the market. It can be exhausting to stay out in front and always be ready with a solid position or opinion, but it’s a necessity for Leadership businesses. Founders should indulge in self-care, education, and other well-filling activities to stay fresh.
Vanessa Van Edwards, Sue B.
“I create for every arena of a person’s life and my offers reflect that diversity.”
Identity businesses leverage the power of meaning.
Their goal is to create opportunities to bring depth and greater understanding to seemingly mundane products.
Identity businesses rely heavily on the vision and inspiration of their founder.
The Identity founder is often quite hands-off when it comes to execution. They have an idea and are quite happy to hand it off to their team—with a clear set of (high) expectations, of course. They love to be center stage. They’re at home in the spotlight and create spontaneously while they perform.
Because of the creativity of their founders, Identity businesses tend to create for every aspect of their customers’ lives. To support this diversity of offers, they require committed teams who also supply creativity and inspiration. The founder might not be the greatest collaborator, but they know their team can deliver.
Identity teams are often given great autonomy within the vision of the business. They’re organized to maximize productivity while allowing the founder the greatest flexibility and creative freedom. They excel at finding innovative ways to imbue ordinary goods or services with fresh meaning.
Identity businesses are big on the details that are important to their customers or clients. They’re not so concerned with every detail, but for the ones that match their mission, values, or vision, they’re hyper-vigilant!
Identity businesses capitalize on variety, sensory appeal, connection, design, and self-actualization. Their products are symbols of something bigger, a new identity, a belonging to a tribe.
Identity businesses make use of technology in creative and often unexpected ways, but always with the customer and creative vision in mind first.
Identity businesses and their founders are aiming for global impact. They aspire to become a household name.
Identity businesses start with a core product that establishes their unique perspective in the market and creates meaning for their customers. From there, they often build diverse product lines that allow that unique perspective to branch out into other areas of life. Their goal is loyal lifetime customers.
Identity businesses use ubiquity to spread their message and enhance the meaning of their products. They regularly harness mainstream and new media to get in front of as many people as possible. They also use public speaking, books, and many different forms of content marketing.
Identity businesses often suffer from overreach. Because of the inherent creativity and passion of the founder, their brands can become diluted or rhetorical instead of meaningful and legitimately impactful. Careful consideration should be given to each new idea and piece of content as it’s conceived and developed.
Danielle LaPorte, Lululemon, Apple, Oprah
“We are devoted to the incredible community that shows up and creates with us.”
Relationship businesses leverage the power of people.
They have strong values for connection, community, inclusivity, and empathy. They see inherent economic value in the serendipity of relationship.
Relationship businesses are founded by hosts and architects who create the spaces where magic happens. They’re less interested in the furniture or menu and more interested in the guest list.
Relationship founders shine as the conversation starter or the emcee, if not the main act. They’re most compelling when they bring together unexpected people or ideas. They will elevate others, connect outside ideas, and specially curate content to create an immersive community.
Relationship businesses know that their growth requires a team. Relationship founders are always surrounding themselves with people who can add value to their communities and extend the business’s existing relationships. They also have a personal need for team support.
Their teams are tasked with keeping the logistical and structural parameters of events and communities constant and predictable so that the people at the center (both the hosts and the guests) can relax and enjoy themselves. Team members are trained to see customer service as hospitality.
Relationship businesses view their customers as partners and co-creators. They create experiences, events, and offers that allow them to work closely with their customers, even if it’s in large groups.
Relationship businesses capitalize on belonging, access, connection, and integration. Value often occurs spontaneously and their goal is to have the right container to catch it—that container, then, is what they sell.
Technology is a key tool for Relationship businesses, but it’s not something they build their offers or experiences around.
Relationship businesses endeavor to create rich, diverse communities that become trusted brands in their field or niche.
Relationship businesses are most often subscription-based or event-based.
Relationship businesses look for marketing channels and tactics that give them the best chance of establishing community and either an explicit or implicit relationship with members of their community. Events like webinars or in-person workshops work well. They also loop their community members into spreading the word about the business and give them tools to make it easier.
People can be hard to manage. Relationship businesses run into trouble when they lose control over the culture they create through communities or events. Another pitfall of Relationship businesses is clearly communicating value. Their offers often have a “you know it when you experience it” value, and that’s hard to sell. Either way, Relationship businesses need to be proactive about managing culture, value, and interpersonal relationships instead of waiting for something to happen.
Being Boss, AARP, Female Entrepreneur Association, Screw the Nine to Five