Professional Services: A Primer for Personal and Professional Growth (Opinion)

“Growth” refers to an increase in some quantity over time.

Whether your goal is to grow your practice or firm, or simply stabilize your business, growth will be involved. Most will agree that growth, when applied to revenues, volume, profit or quality is desirable. Nevertheless, whether you are able to fully realize your growth goals or not, two things are certain: You will get closer if you try, and you will grow through your efforts.

Our work within various industries shows us there are many ways to grow, and there are some common threads. Our work with medical and professional services has produced a dynamic primer that most organizations can benefit from.

To follow along, put yourself in the mind of a lead doctor, lawyer, engineer or architect who started your business to earn a living for your family. You have engaged in an exorbitant amount of learning to become qualified/certified in your profession. You will continue to do so, as long as you are actively working or practicing.

Despite all your ongoing educational efforts, there is a lot that no one tells you about running and growing a business. If you’ve done well, you have found yourself in a position to make more of what you have created than you ever thought you could. Maybe this happened in spite of some lack of knowledge, as it happens for most of us. We learn through the school of real-life setbacks and wins. Imagine what we can do if we think and plan.

In a smaller business group such as the professional services outlined above, each decision carries more risk than in a larger organization. Its contribution to the total outcome and its impact on the financial well-being of the partners is substantial. The term “make or break” comes to mind, along with “we bet the farm.”

This may not describe you exactly, but if you have spent time and effort working to accomplish what you have thus far, you have ownership. Making carefully planned decisions within the context of what you want to accomplish is critical to success.

The following is a six-step primer for GROWTH that can create the context for every decision to enable activities that are connected to your future goals.

Generate flexible plans with clear goals for growth. Know what you are trying to achieve and how you want to achieve it. Know what you have in place to support it and know what you need. Leadership should always have a plan, but it is dynamic and ever-changing. Always be ready to make adjustments.

Rework and document processes to efficiently build capacity for growth. Be sure you are keeping costs as low as possible. Communicate so everyone knows what to do. Make everything replicable and efficient. When you realize your growth, this will be critical. The only way to be ready for quick growth is to stay effective.

Over-communicate everything to your team. They will participate if they know and understand. They will trust you more if they hear about the direction, changes and new concepts from you, and subsequently from each other.

Welcome needed differences to the way you do things now. Embrace change and always challenge the status quo. But don’t let it happen to you or for you. Lead its direction, while always evaluating its relevance.

Target team collaboration. Not everyone has to agree, but they should be allowed to voice their opinions. This is heavily contingent on regular communication and the ability of the team to engage in sometimes rigorous dialogue.

Hire what you really need, not who you know. Bring in the skill sets that complement the ones you already have on your team. Identify the people who can bring the newer focuses you need.

In this primer, there are a few “must-do” leadership habits to form. Make it a habit to think and analyze regularly, and adjust direction frequently.

Ken and Patti Leith are managing partners of EDGES, Inc., a strategic planning and process efficiency firm based in Bentonville. They also own and operate e-Gauge, Inc. a software services company specializing in talent management and strategic plan execution. You may contact EDGES at 479.203.7198 or