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The growth mindset: are you a gazelle, or a lion?

The single most important factor in business growth is a growth mindset. One of my favorite quotes reflects this mindset.

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

As stated above, a growth mindset means you are always on your toes, just like a gazelle. Your awareness is up, you are looking for opportunities and see them when they approach. You are not satisfied with status quo, because if you become too complacent, pretty soon a lion will find you.

Let’s translate this metaphor to a family businesses. A family business that grows successfully has aligned owners, effective boards, good governance, and leadership advancement based on merit, not your last name. On the flip side, if there is discord and drama in a family-run business, the team loses sight of what’s going on around them. This will either set them up to “starve” because they can’t figure out how to move forward; or they will get blindsided by a “lion” be it a competitor or economic event.

One of the myths of business growth is that it is this “hockey stick” growth curve. Things start out slow and then BOOM, the business just explodes in a nice straight line.

The reality is most businesses experience a loss at the beginning (and often at other stages of the business) and then work their way through with strong talent, smart strategy, and disciplined execution. As a business owner, you know the curve feels anything but linear.

Steve Jobs once said, “People say you have to have a lot of passion for what you do and that’s totally true. The reason is because it is so hard that if you don’t, that any sane person would give up. And you have to do it over a sustained period of time.”

Family businesses must have a mindset of growth. That growth can be in the form of revenue and profit through new products, markets, efficiencies, etc… but there must be an eye on growth. There is NO COASTING. The only way to coast is downhill. That decline sneaks up on you slowly at first, until it’s too late. Don’t let that happen – keep your focus on growth and when the sun comes up, be running.

Tom Garrity is managing partner at Compass Point Consulting LLC in Hanover Township, Northampton County. He can be reached at tgarrity@compasspt.com

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