Growth is what business is all about. If you run a business like mine, Ormsby Street, you’ll undoubtedly have been asked “how’s it going?”. And you just know that what you’re excited about – and what your questioner wants to hear. It’s the shiny, exciting stuff, the new customers, the new premises, the new team members you’re hiring, the new places you’re going.
But the reality is that while growth is at the heart of a successful business, it’s a by-product, not an objective, and it’s very hard to get right.
My current business, Ormsby Street, is one that’s delivering rapid growth. When I founded the company nearly three years ago, I did so because I could see the potential for what the company could become, so it’s no surprise. But it’s also far far more complicated than pointing at a graph that goes up and to the right.
When I started my first business, a digital agency back in 1997, I had the idea that if I did a valuable job for someone and could persuade them to come back for more, then I would have the beginnings of a great company. What I’ve learned over the last 20-odd years, though, is that while every business needs that core of value to make it in the long run, there are so many other things that an entrepreneur must learn along the way. These are things that won’t just trip you up – they’ll jump out from an alley and mug you. You won’t see them coming, so you can either be prepared or get hurt.
One of the most painful lessons that I learned while running my first business was that most customers don’t pay on time. Unless you’re selling over the counter (business-to-customer), this is true for most businesses, but it came as not just a nasty shock but a long-term drag on performance that my business suffered from for years. The lack of cash to invest held us back, but worse than that, I spent many sleepless nights in the early days wondering how I was going to make the payroll at the end of the month.
It was out of that particular experience that I founded my current company. Ormsby Street helps small business leaders with cash flow and late payment. But it’s also what drives me to share with others the lessons that I have learned and continue to learn every day about building, leading and growing a successful business.
Over the course of the coming months at Ormsby Street, we’re going to be hiring new staff, evolving our culture, expanding internationally, accelerating key parts of our business and launching a major update to our product in collaboration with a very well-known name in small business circles. At this point, I don’t know quite what will go wrong, but I know enough to expect that something will and that there will be lessons learned from it.
I’ll be sharing those experiences with you right here. I look forward to seeing what happens next and hope that you’ll join me.