High growth leadership.

High GrowthThe three signs of sustainable business success

Last week I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with the two founders of a remarkable British business that has grown at over 25% a year for five years in a row. By 2018, it will have gone from £5m to £50m turnover, completely debt-free, in less than a decade.

On the surface, the secret of their success is simple.

They took the best practices and processes from one industry, in this case, the supply-chain for car manufacturing, and applied it to a different industry, where the prevailing model was much weaker. They offered a level of service, efficiency and convenience that simply wasn’t there before, permanently changing customer expectations and taking rapid market share as a result.

But scratch beneath the surface, and there is far more to their success than a borrowed, albeit brilliantly adapted business model.

During our time together, both partners talked with great pride about the investments they were making in new systems, new equipment and new premises. Both spoke with a deep passion about the time, money and effort they had spent, creating a culture where every employee felt valued and empowered to do their best work. But most of all, both talked, with utter conviction, about their desire for the business to become the very best it could be.

Their questions to me weren’t about how to generate growth, or even about how to manage the growth they had; they were about how to become better. Better leaders. Better at understanding and serving their customers. Better able to run a £50m business in three years time. Growth, for them, is simply an inevitable by-product of their relentless pursuit of excellence.

I’ve no doubt their success will continue, for three reasons. First, they know what they’re good at. They know that if they keep getting better at it, they’ll continue to grow; and they’re convinced enough to prepare for that growth two, three years ahead. Second, they’re willing, and able, to take a big chunk of time out from running the business, to stand back and think about what those future needs might be, and to continually ‘raise the bar’ of their own expectations.

Third, and most telling of all, is their openness to advice. They’re ambitious enough to want it, confident enough to ask for it, and discerning enough to take what they need from it.

How does your leadership stack against those three signs of success?