How Do You Grow?

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By Ricky Harper, C12

As a business owner or leader, you are constantly looking for ways to grow. Whether it is the business’s size, revenue, margin, productivity or the leader’s acumen, skillset or professional development, most CEO’s and owners are acutely aware that lack of growth is an indicator that the business might be dying.

So, how do you grow? Increasing sales, adding products or territory, networking, new marketing strategies, creating productivity efficiencies, and on and on. Growth can be found in myriad ways, some obvious, some less so. One effective and powerful way to grow a business is by building a diverse or multicultural staff. What? How does adding minorities to my staff grow my business?

Simply put, it is because a diverse staff has a wider degree of experience, tastes, education, values and insights into the minds of the consumers you serve and, more importantly, the minds of the consumers you are not serving. Think of it like this: if all your sales staff are all men, how can you fully relate to and effectively sell your product to women? If your product is consumed by men and women, you should have a sales staff that is made up of both genders. Likewise, your sales staff should reflect every spectrum of the socio-culture makeup of your potential customer base.

Intentional diversity and inclusion strategies sharpen our competitive edge. Research for decades has shown how diversity improves customer service, increases employee satisfaction and collaboration, sparks innovation and enhances decision-making—all of which lead to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns.

Many studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of diversity. One such study found that companies improving their diversity increased revenue by 19% . Another found that diverse teams performed at a higher level and were more innovative. But here is the number that really drives the point home: a 2013 study found that diverse companies are 70% more likely to capture new markets and are 158% more likely to understand the needs and wants of their target end-users. That is a path to growth.

Unfortunately, the path to diversity is bumpy. Many of us have inherent bias or we are afraid of the unknown. Becoming more diverse must be an intentional strategy for a business if it is to achieve that goal. Inga Beale, former CEO of Lloyds of London pushed that company to diversify, and in doing so they enjoyed growth in markets they never expected to be in. She said, “Many conversations about diversity and inclusion do not happen in the boardroom, because people are embarrassed at using unfamiliar words or afraid of saying the wrong thing — yet this is the very place we need to be talking about it. The business case speaks for itself — diverse teams are more innovative and successful in going after new markets.”

Diversity should be our goal, but you cannot simply mandate a number. Quotas not only demoralize people, but they also rarely work. Instead, diversity must be an intentional process that is allowed to play out organically. In other words, look hard at all the candidates, and then pick the best one without any kind of bias; that is true diversity achieved organically that will build diverse and effective teams.