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February 26, 2019 General

Overcoming a Growth Stall: How We Revved Up Revenue by 20%

Jim Ward wearing a gray button-up shirt with his arms crossed.
By Jim Ward

I’m fortunate to be part of a team of great people. At the start of 2018, we implemented a new business operation strategy with the goal of 20% annual revenue growth in mind. With a lot of hard work, we achieved that goal – but revenue growth was only one of many results. We also helped each other become more deliberate and thoughtful teammates while improving our processes on operational, strategic, and personal levels.

But even as we celebrated our progress in January, we recognized how stressful it had been to run the company until now. I began to reflect on our history as a company.

From Cowboys to Shepherds

We saw consistent revenue growth on an average of 30% per year over the last decade – right up until 2017 when our growth stalled to 2.7%. This was the first time we plateaued, and it was alarming to all of us.

There was no time to waste. I quickly went into self-analysis mode and took a hard look at our people and processes. What I found was that I ran the company with a bit of a cowboy mentality: moving fast, being fiercely opportunistic, launching into technologies or processes that I loved and passionately sharing them with prospects and clients.

While the cowboy mentality was successful before, it began to clash with day-to-day responsibilities and pose a threat to our future growth. We were taking a Ready? Fire! approach to business, but we needed to adopt a Ready? Aim. Fire! approach. We needed deliberation and guidance. It was time to retire the cowboy mentality and embrace a shepherd mentality.

The good news about this revelation? We hit a revenue scale and client base size that was elevating the needs of the company. The bad news? We had to make serious changes to get back on the growth track, or else we would continue to plateau.

So, I began to research growth strategies. I can’t remember who recommended Traction by Gino Wickman to me (it may have been a friendly competitor), but when I read this book, I experienced an “Ah-ha!” moment. According to Traction, my role at BrainSell falls under the category of “visionary.” A visionary needs an “integrator” to keep them grounded, focused, and productive – and BrainSell was missing an integrator.

Finding Our Integrator

What happened next completely changed the company. I was lucky enough to serendipitously meet our integrator through a friend and hired her as our new COO. Over the course of a year and a half, she implemented our new business operation strategy, a system called the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) which is outlined in Traction.

The biggest adjustment was keeping up with a rigorous new schedule of weekly meetings and huddles. Each time we met as a team, we needed to predict the outcomes of our decisions and plan our responses to potential shifts in priorities. Everything needed to be deliberate. Everything needed to be thoughtful.

Of course, there are a lot more components to an EOS than this – like process documentation, independent quarterly projects (called ROCKS), ongoing reviews of issue lists, and tracking performance metrics, to name a few. In our future Overcoming Growth Stall series blogposts, we’ll dig deeper into what EOS is and how to tackle reconstructing your business operations.

The important thing to remember is that adopting a new business operation strategy isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s a daily grind and an ongoing process of rapid improvement, rooted in brutal self-awareness. It’s hard work, but it’s good work. And it’s worth it!

We are passionate about helping companies thrive by solving their business challenges with guidance and technology. If you’re currently experiencing a growth stall or looking for a clearer path business growth, we can help. Contact us to schedule a chat.

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Jim Ward

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Jim Ward wearing a gray button-up shirt with his arms crossed.

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