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Grow Your Business Like a Fire and Ignite Others

‘Tis the season of pumpkin spice flavors and firepit s’mores. As the leaves and temperatures start to fall, I’m currently preparing for our annual multi-family camping trip that true adventurers would more accurately refer to as ‘glamping.’

⛺ - check

🔦 - check

🧻 - check

I even practiced my campfire-starting skills in our backyard fire pit. As two Nylas – myself and my nine year old daughter - debated the merits of blackened versus toasted marshmallows, I had some ‘ah-ha’ moments through the crackling heat. The process of creating the spark and accelerating heat underscored the importance in growth and scaling of paying attention to signals and sharing your light as a community – for fires and businesses alike.

Listening, smelling, and watching a fire can help detect signals of its growth potential.

When starting our fire, I explained to my daughter that she should listen for cracking sounds, watch the embers’ path, and note the smell of the air to see if the heat was increasing – even before she could see big flames. In working with startup and growth stage companies, determining whether growth is happening can similarly require paying attention to a broader array of signals and feedback.

It’s easy to confirm that your strategy is working when investment comes in or a sales contract is signed. Thumbs up when the dollars hit the account. But when an investor doesn’t sign the check, is that thumbs down for your strategy? As Adam Grant notes, it is an opportunity to learn. Whether with investors or customers, I have never heard a “no” that didn’t follow with “because…” Herein lies the feedback opportunity and a signal as to whether you’re on the right path.

Perhaps a potential customer needs to see specific functionality before they can buy. Maybe they have prerequisites that need to be considered in your product development. Maybe an investor simply is not the ideal partner given what your organization really needs to scale. In each of these examples – all of which I’ve experienced – the feedback is a glaring signal of how to evolve the flames of your critical growth path, not just douse it.

Much like the growth of a fire’s heat can be signaled by how loud it is, the odor it emits, path of embers and direction of flames, the growth potential of a nascent idea or business can be signaled by how well you listen to the feedback, sense the market environment, and watch for patterns. Feedback that at first presents as negative may actually hold the greatest positive potential if you are paying attention.

“Supporting another person’s success won’t ever dampen yours.” - Everyday Power Quotes

After we grew the fire, my astute daughter noted that when we passed a flame among our marshmallow sticks, it only created more light. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t ‘steal’ my crispy marshmallow flame. “It’s like when the fire glows brightest, it is most shareable.” Yes, Nyla #4, you are wise beyond your years.

Her observation is consistent with another attribute of success I see among clients. Entrepreneurs today bring a new mindset for success, one in which leaders realize that getting the Series A or successfully doubling in scale isn't based on beating the competition, but delivering greater customer value. Nascent companies are forging a mutually beneficial community to achieve their strategic intent rather than worrying about ‘winning’ alone.

This sense of community was exponentially visible last week when I had the honor of co-emceeing the Women In Tech - Global Movement North America awards event at the French Embassy in Washington, DC. The awards and subsequent networking reception included 150 passionate professionals, mostly female, who all oozed empowerment and support for each other. These women were executives, founders, and even students. The organizations represented spanned start ups through Fortune 100 companies across a wide range of technology missions. Whether the attendees had 30 or three years of experience, were vying for the same award or investment tranche, or whether they were on different sides of tech policy debates, attendees exuded their commitment for this community and for each other.

Flavia Sparacino, Ph.D., CEO/Founder of Sensing Places, an MIT Media Lab spinoff that specializes in immersive space design and technology, won the Arts Award powered by Amazon Music. She delivered eloquent, passionate, and succinct acceptance remarks. After the event, however, she shared with me that she couldn’t remember what she said and just hoped it was articulate. “I kept thinking I should have prepared a speech, but I really wanted to enjoy the event and the opportunity of making a community without presuming anything or feeling entitled. It's important for women to support each other.”

Dr. Sparacino wasn’t alone. The start up community both at this event and across many of the entrepreneur and small business forums I’m in are leaning in more to help each other. Much like the sticks my daughter and I held around our fire pit, they shared their light and made each other brighter.

For growth strategies to be successful, think about glamping around a campfire.

  • Grow your business like a fire. Pay attention to the signals and feedback so as to not dampen your potential too early. What may seem like you’re being dampened may actually offer more positive opportunities to evolve and ultimately accelerate.

  • Share and ignite others. Engage in your market and community, and create goals and objectives that are focused on what’s in your span of control and not just beating out or down others. If you remain focused on problem/solution fit, there will surely be enough flames to go around.

NBG Strategy Consulting helps create growth strategies that focus on the multifaceted business, leadership, and culture requirements for success.

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