How do I grow my business?

Dear Ken Keller,

Some of people writing into you describe their companies as growing. I have the opposite problem; I can’t seem to get traction to grow, even though I want to. What do you recommend I do? — Pete F.

Dear Pete,

Recently I had the chance to read through Michael Treacy’s book “Double Digit Growth.” I recommend you purchase it. It’s several years old but the information is timeless and it might be priceless to you.

You don’t have to study the book but if you like to learn from other company’s mistakes and successes, you will enjoy it. The case studies are interesting and relatable.

Growing a business requires discipline and focus and Treacy says that successful companies generally follow this sequence:

The first is to improve current client retention, because adding new clients is much more expensive than keeping the ones you already have.

The second is to increase market share, which means taking away business from direct competitors. This can be expensive and challenging but it a natural second step.

The third is making sure you show up where you know growth is going to happen. This was requires common sense and strategic thinking.

The fourth is penetrating adjacent markets but only if your core business is strong enough to support the additional effort.

The fifth is by offering new lines of business that are not supported by your core business. This is the most difficult of all and has the most risk.

As an immediate focus to get started, I suggest you analyze what is taking place with your current client base and look at trends as a whole and then dive deep into each client.

Many companies often take existing clients for granted and by changing to being more proactive in your communications and by making an internal mindset change from being a vendor to business partner retention should improve with some clients and certainly additional opportunities for growth will surface.


Dear Ken Keller,

My new sales manager wants to start traveling out of the area for more business and I think that there is plenty of business within driving distance. I am not convinced that he is right and I am concerned about the cost of travel, among other things. —Vic M.

Dear Vic,

You did not say if your new sales manager was hired to take care and to grow the current base of business or to expand into new segments and new markets. Before you turn the sales manager down, I think more clarity is needed on both sides.

You also need to be candid about your concerns and it would be fair to ask for more information, such as a market analysis and a sales plan, including a proposed travel budget before approving any travel requests.