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How MSP Business Owners Can Achieve Fast, Long Term Growth

Posted November 3, 2015by Arlin Sorensen

Navigate 2015 was a fantastic conference with a lot of very relevant content for IT leaders. I particularly enjoyed the closing keynote by Verne Harnish, the Growth Guy, who shared his usual high-energy, hard-hitting and engaging expertise. Verne directed a number of his comments to the CEO/entrepreneur in the audience, striking a chord on two topics I see as challenges for many MSP business owners we consult with at HTG Peer Groups: business growth and sustainability.


Fast Growth

"Fast Growth requires focus and discipline."

This comment helps explain why 96% of businesses in the US never grow past ten employees. Focus and discipline are not typically the traits of an entrepreneur and visionary. These types of leaders and founders of companies are normally all over the board in their creative thoughts and ideas and tend to dislike discipline completely. Without this structure, they struggle to lead effectively in building an organization that will last over time.

Business Longevity

"You have to practice 1.5 to 3 hours a day the things you are focused on."

Fast growth is one way to approach your organization, but you should also consider the idea of building a company that will last 100 years. This is a very different mindset than running a company in preparation to sell it every day, a common approach for many. As Verne told the audience, “it is the daily routine that changes things” and that happens when “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” We need to build companies to last, not prioritize short term gain and ultimately die out.

Evergreen Entrepreneurs 

A new term I learned recently is the idea of “evergreen entrepreneurs,” who aren’t out looking for short term venture capital (VC) investments so they can build and sell. They are investors that believe in the long term potential. That is Warren Buffet’s strategy. He isn’t an "in and out" investor. He buys quality and builds those companies to last. Long term investments like this target the growth of a sustainable and profitable company for the future - the long term future - thus building a company that will last.

The CEO's Role 

CEO’s need to be out of the office 4 days a week in the marketplace, with customers, with employees, shopping competitors and attending conferences and events.

Verne Harnish also made bold statements about the role of a CEO. The quote above may be an exaggeration, but his guidance here is strong. CEOs have to do what only they can do. At HTG, we refer to that as HABU – highest and best use.  Other people in the organization cannot fulfill these responsibilities as effectively, so the CEO needs to manage a majority of the external-facing key relationships. We have to focus on performing the things that only we can do at the top of the org chart. Other tasks have to be delegated, so we can allocate our time on the most important, strategic initiatives. This is counter to the thinking of many executives. After all, they are the owners/entrepreneurs/CEO because they want to be the boss and do what they want to do. Unfortunately, that does not often equate to doing what they need to do.

Implementing Verne's Main Points

Discipline is the secret sauce for success according to Jim Collins. And like Verne stressed, completing tasks as part of a regular routine is the way we apply that discipline effectively. Collins calls it a SMaC recipe – simple, methodical and consistent. As humans, habits can be either our best friends or our worst enemies. We are creatures of habit, and the things we are most effective at are often habits we have built. For me, writing a daily update about what I learned the previous day is part of my SMaC. It gets me started each day on the right foot. We have to practice leadership if we want to lead well. We have to make the important things habits so we do them as a routine. It isn’t magic, but it is a powerful tool for us business owners to leverage.

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Failure to plan is a plan for failure...

Arlin Sorensen serves as the CEO and Founder of the Heartland Companies which includes HTG Peer Groups. When he is not traveling to speak and consult, he is home on his farm in Iowa with his wife Nancy. He is a proud “Pop” to four precocious grandchildren who serve as daily reminders of why he is intentionally living to leave a strong legacy of faith and integrity. He loves making a difference in the lives and businesses of small business owners. You can reach him at or on Twitter @asorensen.

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