When we work to figure out what’s really going on in companies experiencing a rough patch, we usually find three barriers to business growth.

These are often unseen until there’s an impact of millions of dollars in additional costs, losses or opportunities that really hurt:

1. Scalable Infrastructure

The lack of systems and structures to handle the complexities in communication and decision-making that come with growth.

If your people, strategy, execution, and cash systems aren’t right, you won’t have scalable infrastructure and, within that context, you need the right set of tools, systems, and processes to be as efficient and effective as you can – Kevin Lawrence

Take your ERP. Is it well designed and are your people trained to manage the complexity of, say, 200 different SKUs sold in different areas to different types of customers with different pricing and discounting mechanisms? Does it give you the data you need to understand profitability by a SKU, or by a customer or by sales rep.?

It’s serious work to get ERPs right, to get value from them – and well worth the effort. You have to:

  • Master the toolset and consistently agree how to use it.

If you automate weak systems into a toolset that everyone uses in a way they’re used to, you’re just systematizing garbage.

  • Streamline and refine.

Leaders must dedicate time to get it right, continue to dial in to make sure it works, and spend time troubleshooting, training and working with the team.

  • Master simplicity.

People get excited and want all these cool software systems, but they make a mess when they’re too complex. In fact, as companies get more complex, you actually need systems to make things simpler. Do the most basic possible to do a great job for the customer and to get the data you need to make decisions.

2. Market Dynamics

The failure to address increased competitive pressures that erode margins as you scale.

When there’s a desire to grow, you have to make sure you can sustain growth, maintain your competitive advantage and protect your brand.

For example: To hit growth sales targets, many companies sell their product to anyone who will take it, and then kill their brand when their premium product shows up in discount stores. Or they go down the price-war rabbit hole when they show up on the competitors’ radar, and margins erode as they try to keep up.

That’s a sign that you’ve lost your strategy or your discipline, or there’s not enough market to demand your growth. You need a stronger strategy and a different way to fight the battle.

A strategy’s primary stress test is if it will sustain or grow your gross profit margin. If not, is it really a good strategy?

 3. People Power

You don’t have enough of the right people in leadership positions to lead the company ahead, to delegate and predict – and, ideally, continue to grow up-and-coming leaders.

Building a world class team is challenging and takes time and serious investment in recruitment and development. Without it, you can’t sustain growth.

That’s why, in our organizations, we put so much energy into building a stronger, more capable team with two things:

  • Talent reviews every 90 days, and strategies to enhance and develop the existing team.
  • Topgrading™ to identify what great looks like, and then thoroughly screen people against it. Then, onboard them really well. We have a 70% to 95% hit rate on putting the right person, in the job, who’s going to be awesome.

The right leaders power growth.

Barriers to Business Growth Come at a Cost

Besides missed opportunities and inefficiencies, the two big costs are:

  • Less profit. Any of these barriers can prevent you from effective growth and profitably. That means growing at 20% or 25% versus 5% or 10%. Added up, over years, that’s a massive difference.
  • More stress. More problems and frustrations, less alignment. A team that’s structured to leverage the strengths of each member helps share the load. This helps your life becomes much easier.

The Challenge

  • Which of the barriers to business growth are you experiencing now – or could you experience, in the near future?
  • What can you do to illuminate or minimize those barriers to continue growing?

For more, listen to Episode 96 of The Growth Whisperers.


Lawrence & Co’s work focuses on sustainable and enhanced growth for you and your business. Our diverse and experienced group of advisors can help your leaders and executive teams stay competitive through the use of various learning tools including workshops, webinars, executive retreats, or one-to-one coaching.

We help high-achieving leaders to have it all – a great business and a rewarding life. Contact us for simple and impactful advice. No BS. No fluff.