Not all growth is created equal. Some is static, tactical and project-driven — grounded in the here and now. Sustainable growth, on the other hand, is strategic, forward-looking and exponential. What are the elements of sustainable growth, and how can you leverage its vast potential?

The strength of sustainable growth derives from its strategic structure. Three interlocking circles represent the services, channels of distribution and targeted buyer groups most likely to purchase what you have to sell.

The more tightly the elements are linked, the more synergy and innovation will infuse your services, and the more dominant you will become in your markets. As that happens, the more credible you become and the easier it is for buyers to find you.



My visual representation of this model is a strategy machine because it does, in fact, manufacture opportunity. Like the components of any machine, the component parts (the three elements of growth) must be properly maintained to maximize the potential of the equipment to perform.

That ongoing maintenance takes a variety of forms. These include refining service offerings in response to changing market needs, conducting research calls to identify new buyer groups, and forging industry-based relationships that open up new, powerful channels of distribution.

Maintaining your strategy machine also requires tightening the interlocking parts to ensure that none fails and each is working at its best. There is an especially important connection between your channels of distribution and your buyer groups.

Buyers feed from the trough of information and knowledge. When they have confidence in the channels you select, that enhances their confidence in you.

For example, let's say you have identified a highly regarded conference in a particular industry as a distribution channel. The strength and reputation of that event in buyers' minds will transfer to you and your offerings.

Here's another example. Your dental services line leader arranges to make a presentation to sales reps of a pre-eminent dental products company. This company is known to bring to market the latest and greatest equipment and supplies.

By linking with that provider and aligning your interest with theirs, you gain credibility with the sales reps that interface directly with the dental practices potentially in need of your services.

A tight, well-oiled linkage between your buyer groups and channels of distribution works for you even when you're not working it. Like a solid investment that creates passive income, this strategic connection is drawing credible buyers to you around the clock, all year round. Compare that to a time-based, limited-value tactic like the classic banker breakfasts and lawyer lunches.

Fueled by thought leadership, innovation and market knowledge, the elements of growth are transformed into energy-producing cogs that drive your strategy machine.



One of the most important benefits of this approach is that it permits you to rely less on individual rainmakers and more on the strength of the machine.

That means you can achieve more growth with fewer experienced rainmakers who can focus their attention on service development and delivery, leadership, mentoring, etc.

This is especially valuable as many accounting firms are operating with fewer partners than in the past. As a result, there are fewer leaders with a proven ability to attract and retain business.

Build a robust strategy machine that does the heavy lifting for you, leverage that with reasonably strong rainmaking capacity, and the result can be extraordinary.

But don't let a well-operating strategy machine lull you into complacency. You've got to ensure its output by supplying the right raw materials -- a portfolio of fresh services that respond to the changing market and technology demands of your target buyers.

Identify creative, value-driven solutions and continue to refine and innovate them. Determine who wants and needs these services and is willing to pay for them. Find the channels of distribution that will lead you to them and them to you.

Take these steps to build a muscular strategy machine that will produce opportunities for sustainable growth for years to come.


Gale Crosley, CPA, is founder and principal of Crosley+Co., providing revenue growth consulting and coaching to CPA firms. She brings more than 30 years of experience in both public accounting and industry. Reach her at © 2012 Crosley + Co.

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