Best Practices, Operations, V7I6

What’s Capping Your Growth?

(Photo courtesy of Lukas from Pexels)

All of us have experienced what could be called a growth cap. The business we are leading is on a growth trajectory and things seem to be going well. We go to work every day (or nearly so!) excited about what we are doing, and from our point of view, the sky is the limit as to where this can go. 

And then it seems as if we hit a ceiling. Growth slows, levels off, and then starts to decline. We try harder and try different things, but nothing changes, and we feel stuck.

John Maxwell, one of the world’s foremost leadership experts, explains the phenomenon this way: leadership is the lid to its organization. He calls it the law of the lid. And it’s true for any organization including your company, your division within the company, or any other space where you are providing leadership. The people around you and the organization you lead will not grow past you as a person. 

In order for your business to grow or your division inside the company to grow, you must grow.

Most of us are not looking for more things to do, especially things that don’t have an immediate impact on our business’ productivity and performance. However, intentional growth in leadership skills and competence is one thing that a leader must invest in regularly in order to lead any growing organization. 

This will not only affect the growth of the top line—gross revenue—though it certainly is true there. It also impacts how we cultivate efficiencies, quality, customer service, profitability, and talent pool—and maybe most significantly, how we continue to grow in effectiveness as leaders. 

After I took over our family business as president and bought out my father’s shares in the company, I knew we had issues that needed to be addressed. We had just survived the 2008 downturn where we saw revenue drop precipitously. In addition, we had just opened our second retail location. There was red ink on the P&L. Something needed to change.

In the process of buying out my father, I had hired a local business broker to do an appraisal on the company. In a conversation evaluating the business performance, he suggested I read The E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber as a way to think about business. As I recall, the subtitle of the book was “Why most small businesses don’t work, and what to do about it.” 

This conversation and Gerber’s book set me on a pathway of development, first as an individual and secondarily as a leader. Progress on those fronts allowed the business to expand significantly over the following years. From a very high level, I’ll introduce some of the things that contributed significantly to growth throughout those years.


My first move was to start taking advantage of the networks for entrepreneurs in my area. 

The friend who appraised the family business invited me to join the local chapter of a marketing group that met monthly to discuss the world of sales and marketing. This required an investment of time; however, it soon paid off. I developed both a strategy and specific skills for marketing our products in a time when technology was changing rapidly and social platforms were rising and falling at warp speed. 

I also attended a number of “Business Smart” sessions put on by the local chamber of commerce in partnership with other organizations such as the local community college and business development groups.


This networking introduced me to some professionals who became friends, advisors, and (in some cases), people we hired for specific purposes. 

One of the best web developers in the area was in my marketing group. Within a relatively short time, he introduced me to a local CPA who specialized in serving small businesses as a fractional CFO and a local law firm that was especially good with small businesses. This led to a new banking relationship that fueled the next phase of growth. 


My relationship to coaching started in a most unique way. I was driving home after work one evening listening to the local radio station when a commercial made me pull off to the side of the road and write down a phone number. 

That call led me to purchase a “Business Mastery System” including 40 DVDs, workbooks, and personal coaching that was to significantly impact our growth as well. I worked through that material with a coach over the course of a year. The coaching experience was positive and led to my contracting with another local coach who served for nearly two years. 

Outside voices such as these became a trusted source of guiding business principles, best practices, and a resource for personal growth.


Business peer groups form in many different ways. Over the years I was part of a number of different sorts of groups; the marketing group I mentioned earlier was one example. 

My next group was with Vistage, a global organization with CEO peer advisory groups meeting in many cities. While the costs for such a group can be significant (and I had to drive two hours one way each month), it was an investment in my personal growth that stimulated the continuing expansion of the business.

There are other such groups for different sizes of companies, using slightly different models. The concept is to provide a forum for business leaders to spend time together in disciplined conversation about personal and business matters. 

Some of these also provide monthly one-on-one sessions with the group chair. Some are for-profit organizations and others are nonprofits. 

I visited C12, a Christian organization, and was also a member and chair in the Virginia Council of CEOs. For a time, I participated in an industry group and led a local business group as well.


The simplest and most easily accessible resources provide a solid platform for growth. Books, periodicals, podcasts, conferences, and seminars are the backbone and sustenance of any continued growth. Develop the habits of feeding the mind and growing as a leader so that you can raise the lid on growth in your company. 

And while it may seem you don’t have the time, it may well be the best use of your time possible—at least several hours a week. Without an intentional pathway of growth, you will be the definitive cap on the growth of your company. 

Raise the lid! 

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