Dr. Jana Matthews is an experienced entrepreneur and an expert on entrepreneurial leadership and business growth. In 1996 she founded Boulder Quantum Ventures (now known as the Jana Matthews Group) to provide education and consulting to executives nationwide. A representative of Florida-based Small Business Resources asked Dr. Matthews to share some of her insights into the business world.

Q: What are some of the obstacles to growth?

One obstacle to growth is the CEO's ability to lead a growth company. Anyone who starts a company has to be willing to do everything, make a lot of decisions and juggle a lot of balls. But when a company starts to grow, the leader has to assume new roles and responsibilities. It takes one set of skills to start a business, but another set to grow the business.

The skills that make you successful during startup – or turnaround – are different from the ones you need to grow your company. During startup and turnaround, you need to limit risk, count pennies, make do, postpone expenditures, lay off people and cut out all fat.

But in order to grow, you have to take risks, try new things, "bet on the outcome," and know that some things you try will not be successful. Leaders who want their companies to grow must understand the relationship between innovation and growth. They have to think outside the box, be willing to travel into unknown territory and know how to manage risks, but also be willing to take risks. They have to know how to learn from failure as well as success.

They also need to understand what changes will be required in their roles and responsibilities at different stages of company growth. During startup, they are the Doer and Decision Maker. During initial growth, they have to be the Delegator and Direction Setter. In rapid growth, they need to play the role of Coach, Team Builder, Planner and Communicator. In continuous growth, they must move out of operations and become the Strategic Innovator, Change Catalyst, Organization Rebuilder and Chief of Culture. You can read more about the stages of growth and the changing role of the leader in Leading at the Speed of Growth: Journey from Entrepreneur to CEO.

Another obstacle to growth is the company itself, i.e., whether the company has the capacity and is ready to grow.

The leader who wants to grow needs to ask three questions:

1. Do I have a plan for growth?

2. Is my company ready for growth?

3. Am I ready for growth?

You need to work with your top team to develop a plan for growth, get your employees committed to that plan and then execute.

You also need to do an organizational audit to determine if your company is ready for growth. Make sure you are structured for growth and have the right people in the right jobs to execute the plan you are developing. For example, the people who performed well by cutting costs and "holding the line" may not be the ones who can innovate and take risks. The organizational audit will likely show that some people are in the wrong positions, and that others do not have the skills needed to move the company forward. Identify those who are ready for promotion, vs. those who need to be replaced. Reward the former, weed out the latter and then look for new people with the skills you need for growth. People are truly your most important resource, so make sure you lead and manage them well, and give them the training and development they need in order to succeed.

Finally, you need to have a little talk with yourself. Are you ready to lead a growth company? The past three years have not been easy. Many CEOs have struggled and fought to keep their companies at a steady state. We interviewed over 100 CEOs for our new book, Lessons from the Edge. All their companies were "on the edge"; most of them survived, but a few crashed and burned. The edge is such a fine line. One bit of good or bad publicity; a customer who places a big order or goes bankrupt; a banker who extends your line of credit or unexpectedly pulls your loan; these can make or break a growing company. You need to ask yourself whether you are ready for the roller coaster ride.

If you decide this isn't what you want to do – you don't have the stamina, the financial resources, or the desire to grow – then think about some alternatives. You might want to sell your company, or hire a CEO or COO who can grow the company or find a partner to share the risks and responsibilities. Even if you decide to stay on, make sure you develop a succession plan and groom new leaders to take on new responsibilities in your company.

Q: What are some of the opportunities for growth?

I see two big opportunities for growth: ethical leadership will attract great people and customers to your company and the global marketplace will provide many opportunities for the expansion of products and services.

One of the responsibilities of the leader is to establish and communicate the values on which the company will operate. The most successful growth companies I know have a set of values which include the following:

1. Treating others the way you'd want to be treated, i.e., with humility, dignity and respect. By the way, "others" includes employees, customers, vendors, suppliers and shareholders.

2. Share the rewards with those who produce and get rid of those who don't.

3. Give back to the community and accept responsibility for making the world a better place.

A company whose leader can tell people where they are going (the plan), how they are going to get there (the strategy) and the values that need to guide their decisions and their behavior has an edge in attracting and retaining great people and customers.

Another huge opportunity for growth is the global marketplace. Countries like China and Russia, in particular, offer some exciting markets for current and new products and services. But it takes time to learn the norms and the no-no’s; you need cultural sensitivity, and the exchange rates and financing issues are challenging. I predict we'll see more partnering arrangements as more companies move into new markets in our global economy.

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank.