You are a key shareholder in a private company with $2m in sales or $3m or $10m or $20m. What % do you need to grow Sales to build a business that is 10 times bigger in 10 years – 25.9%. That’s the math. Or if you are in a hurry to do it in 5 years then you need to grow at 58.5%. It may sound heady, a little beyond you. Well the top 2416 companies in the Inc 5000 2011 Awards grew on average at 25.9% per year from 2007 to 2010 covering every activity imaginable.

I have been working intensively with 3 companies in the $5m to $10m range, (email marketing and niche manufacturing) over the last 12 months where the average growth rate is running at 50%. All of these businesses have looked at the big picture to visualize faster growth. From my experience with them and many more examples here are 5 ideas to stimulate 10x thinking:

  1. Look at the sectors you service and ask your self what sectors am I missing? What techniques could I deploy to penetrate my existing sectors even further? Look at SIC codes or NAICS codes and work out which sectors have issues that you could solve. What is the economic value of each sector? A $3m business selling $1m to 3 sectors can start to believe it can become a $30m business selling $2m to 15 sectors! You just need the product map, the marketing strategy and a world class sales team!
  2. Regional thinking – Are you selling to all 50 states? Are there key demographics that point to Sweet States where your services could get traction? Does your marketing content reflect your regional ambitions? Could resellers help you penetrate attractive states? How about contiguous regions – expanding into Canada or Mexico. Have you considered incentives on offer from Ireland or Scotland as a platform for expanding into Europe. Think global but stay focused on a narrow segment of your market and be remarkable not invisible.
  3. Have you looked at your Product Road Map as a way of expanding into new markets? There may be new features or minimal design changes that could transform your base product into a sector category killer.
  4. Customer farming can bring 10x growth if approached the right way. IBM looks at a customer’s IT spend as a market share problem. If GE or Dysney or Facebook spends $1bn each year on IT then IBM asks: what share of that $1Bn do we own? How do we increase our market share of that IT spend. Think Big or Go Home!
  5. Balancing the product portfolio. Why do some products exhibit leader characteristics and others are laggards. Can you put together a sales led project team to examine what’s being missed in the market. Can we turnaround our weak products or perhaps kill them to release resources to make our winners even better! Laggards hold back growth, screw up averages, and waste talented individuals. So fix them or close them.

I’m sure you have many more ideas that worked for you, that caused a breakthrough in thinking. Share them below if you have a minute.