Inward and Outward

Business owners constantly look for ways to accelerate business growth. It is in their DNA. It consumes them, if not hourly, at least daily.

The search for growth, for improvement in performance, is directed inward, to what he or she needs to do differently. And, it is directed outward, to the management team and other employees. Even in times of outstanding levels of financial achievement, an owner’s targeted performance horizon is never quite accomplished. It must be a DNA thing.

Let’s look at how to accelerate business growth in more detail and focus on the employee. That employee might have an executive title or have responsibilities elsewhere in the business. They might be a seasoned veteran in the business and industry, or they might be a new employee with limited experience.

All possess certain qualities and competencies. However, if business goals and objectives are not being met, how can individual performance levels throughout the company be improved?

What are the competencies that drive performance? Let’s consider a new hire scenario.

Human Resources and hiring managers look at a resume for insights when hiring a new employee. They look for prior work experience, educational qualifications, relevant testimonials, and other clues. Sometimes it is clear that someone is qualified … or not. Eventually, decisions are made to hire. You have a new employee.

In most instances, there is some form of onboarding or active training of the new employee. They take on their new responsibilities and begin to contribute to the mission of the company. It might be in management, sales, marketing, on the factory floor, in administration … in a wide variety of roles.

Months or even years go by and you have a star employee … or maybe recognize that someone is falling short of desired performance standards. You ask why. Here is a possible way to frame what to do next.

Oftentimes, it is about restarting communication in a firm but evidence-based discussion of past successes and shortcomings. The dialogue, to be successful, needs to be two-way, with guardrails on how both parties must engage in the review process. There must be a resetting of expectations, with timelines and incremental goals that must be adhered to.

Although GAPWORX has a concept called the Sales Equation (see image below), it is also applicable in situations like a performance review, regardless of the role and responsibilities of that individual. The Sales Equation (substitute other functional descriptions, such as customer service), in its simplest form, breaks out 4 pillars of competencies to reset where there are strengths and where there are weaknesses. The four basic competencies are:

  1. SALES PERSONA (personality, style, behaviors, ambition, etc.)
  2. SALES (or insert other) CAPABILITIES

Whether it is a self-assessment of one’s own competencies, or a supervisor framing a performance review of a direct report, this “equation” can help structure that assessment. We can help.

A Workforce Multiplier

Business owners and other members of a company’s executive leadership team historically focus their attention and resources on improving financial performance … tangible “Hard-Side” results. There is an almost endless list of quantifiable measures captured on various spreadsheets, tracking both individual and team performance. Here are some.

Revenue Profit Margins Client Growth
Market Share Units Sold Cost of Marketing
Cost of Sales Production Costs … and many more


“Soft-Side” components are mostly cultural intangibles, which are harder to quantify. Here are just a few.

Leadership Committed to Innovation and Excellence

Employee Buy-in to Company Vision and Mission

Engaged Employees (Empowered to Adapt)

Organizational Transparency and Accountability

… there are many more

While a company’s culture is sometimes seen as a low priority—as far less than a pressing requirement—it really isn’t. A positive company culture—fully supported by the entire leadership team—can be a powerful force inside a company, empowering its employees to accomplish so much more.

Think of a positive company culture as a workforce multiplier.

There is empirical evidence to support that statement. Harvard Business School a few years ago, in a 11-year study of a variety of businesses with either positive or negative cultural attributes, concluded that:

Positive business cultures averaged 682% growth.

Negative business cultures averaged 166% growth.

The difference is striking. Investing in and supporting the development of a positive company culture … literally drives more growth.

Even if organizational performance measures are consistently meeting established business goals and objectives, strengthening company culture can dramatically improve those measures even more. Big change doesn’t happen overnight, but small changes can quickly establish new directions.

What cultural changes are most needed in your business?

Corporate Growth

Prioritize Understanding and Awareness … Rather than Winging it

While Organic and Merger/Acquisition are two common growth strategies, there are others. However, optimizing growth is usually not about the selection of one strategy. Every company makes strategic choices based upon their goals and objectives, their resources and capabilities, and there are always ever-changing market conditions to add more complexity. Selecting the right growth strategy or strategies can be challenging.

Start with finding answers to 5 questions:

  1. Where do growth opportunities exist,
  2. What challenges or gaps must be overcome,
  3. What are the priorities and timing to be implemented,
  4. What are the available internal resources and capabilities, and
  5. What external resources and capabilities are potentially needed?

Smaller companies tend to focus on organic growth strategies, and by improving capabilities with existing employees and hiring talent to expand the pool of prospects and clients. Larger organizations have more options, and more resources to execute multiple strategic initiatives effectively.

The common denominators of successful strategic initiatives – for smaller AND larger companies – require that you first find answers to the five questions above.

At GAPWORX, we believe that Awareness (understanding your Present State) is required to make sound strategic choices, which leads to an Actionable Roadmap and eventually to successful tactical initiatives and Achievement (in your Future State).

As external resources, we refuse to quickly guess or rashly diagnose problems or the possible solutions to them … without facts and without a collaborative discovery process. While we have developed proven methods and processes to help clients solve specific problems, successful projects require a solid foundation achieved through collaboration with each client.

There is a very old saying about making assumptions … we subscribe to it.

Sometimes, what appears to be a huge project, really isn’t. The scope and scale of a project can be deceiving at first. Our commitment is to always define the scope of the project carefully … instead of rushing off to solve it without understanding.

While there are times for “winging it,” we don’t think that is appropriate when we are working for a client.

SPECIAL NOTE: The above comments should not be misconstrued to negate the value of innovation and creativity. Both are extremely important, especially given today’s marketplace and the tsunami of technological innovations that impact every aspect of our personal and professional lives.

Embrace suggestions and ideas from every quarter, from employees and from your customers and vendors. Small changes in process, practices, and products – carefully assessed and implemented – can reap great rewards.

Storytelling [… Editing and Ghostwriting]

Listening to a radio interview of a celebrity promoting his new book, I recalled the efforts that I and other colleagues had in 2015 when we collaboratively wrote “How to Hire the Right Consultant.” Excluding years of writing blog posts, that book was my first effort to publish and reach a broader audience. Although my contribution was only a single chapter on Customer Development, I learned about editing and publishing.

Reflecting on that publishing effort, it occurred to me that the process of writing and editing a book parallels GAPWORX work processes as we deliver services to our clients. While the specifics of a project’s scope of work vary with each client, in many ways what we do is … help clients to tell their stories in a more compelling way.

As all businesses engage and promote their business in the marketplace, they are … storytelling. Some are service companies. Others manufacturer products. All are unique. They come in all sizes, and either enjoy some measure of financial success, or eventually close their doors. In every instance, and ideally with every prospect and customer interaction, they strive to listen, to build rapport and trust, to persuade as to their value proposition, and hopefully either create a new customer or secure additional business. Basically, storytelling is about SELLING and SERVING.

In every business, these storytelling activities—through the roles and responsibilities of all employees—are performed at varying degrees of effectiveness. When specific financial measures are falling short of expectations, and the resources inside of a business are stretched too thin or are lacking in some capacity to affect the change, most businesses reach out to trusted advisors to supplement their ability to resolve the challenges.

As external advisors engage to solve problems, we liken that to the publishing equivalent of editing. At GAPWORX, as our services are customized to address client needs, we collaborate and train to improve company processes and behaviors. Our project activities are, in effect, an editing of the story each company tells. As we work behind the scenes, our editing is ghostwriting.

Regardless of how one labels the activities, a new and improved story is created by changing some mix of processes, behaviors, and capabilities … to improve the individual and collective attainment of company goals and objectives.


We are fans of alliteration. It is evidenced in our company’s tagline—Awareness, Action, Achievement—and in other constructs within our models, processes, and intellectual property. We recognize that alliteration is advantageous, as it supports how all of us can more effectively remember things—processes and activities—that otherwise might be too complex.

Many business processes are complex, some by necessity. They provide a means for teams and individuals inside a company to accomplish specific activities in a best practice manner. The opposite approach might be described as “winging it,” and that is rarely advisable in business. Wherever possible, we believe that business processes and activities should be clear, concise, and complete (another alliteration), and not unnecessarily complex.

Many aspects of personal lives outside of business do not have templates, and we instinctively just “wing it.” That is how it should be. There should be freedom and flexibility, as we interact with family and friends. We adopt routines around our work days, but the consequence of NOT adhering to a specific personal routine is typically minimal.

In business, however, the negative consequence of “winging it” can be significant. It can adversely impact almost every aspect of business, but especially the interactions of employees with prospects and clients. So, to prevent or minimize such negative consequences, businesses have practices, processes, and procedures, which help build capabilities in roles, responsibilities, and relationships.

But, let’s consider the added dimension of business schemas. A schema is the present capacity of AWARENESS, attitudes, motivations, behaviors, capabilities, and knowledge to effectively perform in given situations.

For example, if you hire a new sales executive to fill a vacancy, but nine months later you are questioning that hire, because anticipated predictive performance indicators are coming up short. You ask, why? Often the answer is multi-faceted.

Maybe the executive’s prior sales environment was quite different, with a variety of factors. And those factors contributed to prior success.

Maybe sales capabilities need to be more aligned to a team selling environment, or maybe onboarding processes fell short of transferring needed company, technical, or product knowledge. These are performance factors that can be readily improved in most circumstances.

Understanding that salesperson’s prior sales environment in greater detail might have changed the hiring decision, but understanding it now might help you expand your business schema. With greater awareness of attitudes, motivations, behaviors, and capabilities, you can help the sales executive to once again be successful.

It might be … something surprisingly simple.