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Growing Revenue:
How Do We Make Money Happen?

This is a book and blog about growing your revenue, your time, and helping your people grow as well. Since we are talking about business, we’re going to start with revenue. In the end, it will be the tail that wags the dog, but revenue tends to get the most attention.

You have probably told someone that money doesn’t grow on trees. You have to make it happen. And if this someone was a teenager, you probably said that it was through hard work.

But there is more, isn’t there? People who work incredibly hard have businesses that crater. Some people who work smart have operations that excel, but even more have businesses that putter along and don’t excel. People who are connected succeed, but just as many people who are connected fail.

What is the difference between failure and growth? To illustrate, I’m drawing a 2x2 grid or Johari Window. The vertical axis goes from the assumption of "limits" at the bottom to the premise of "growth" at the top. (You can read more about this in Dr. Carol Dweck’s book: Mindset.) On the left side of the horizontal axis you will see "take" and on the right "make." (The photographer Ansel Adams discusses this in: "Ansel Adams: An Autobiography.") How does this 2x2 model work in business? Let’s explore that.


First, this is not fixed. Looking at the vertical axis, you see an assumption that scales from "we are limited" to "we are going to continue growing even further." Each of us is somewhere on this scale in every moment. At the same time, each of us makes an assumption of "take" versus "make" and that’s reflected on the horizontal access. We don’t live in one pane. We move from pane to pane as we learn and explore.

This book and blog are going to start with exploring good practices for growing revenue. But revenue is just the side effect. We’ll look at how to use the same window to help your people grow and then help you to grow more access to your time. In other words, you can use this as a tool to help you build your whole business.

And it starts with a core premise: We choose where we want to be in the window.

Limits or Growth?

We approach every moment with mindsets, our views of how we operate. One of those is just how limited we are. This is the feeling that we’ve topped out. Maybe we feel that we can only go so far, and then we’ll be done succeeding. Perhaps we feel that there is no limit, that we can grow indefinitely. The lower left of this window is assuming that we will have a limit. The upper left is feeling that we can grow further than we used to think possible. We don’t live at either end, we are always moving somewhere higher or lower on the scale.

Dr. Dweck and some associates have written extensively about how this works for students. Dweck refers to "fixed mindset" and "growth mindset."
• "In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that's that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb.
• "In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don't necessarily think everyone's the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it."
[Dweck, C. S.; Leggett, E. L. (1988). "A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality". Psychological Review 95 (2): 256—273. DOI:10.1037/0033-295X.95.2.256.]

Some people like to reach a place of excellence and then stop, thinking that this is the end of their ability. Some can’t stand that idea. They insist that there is nothing but upside opportunity. Success for the upper end of this axis is not reaching targets, it is continuing to grow past them.

How we define success when we start projects is important. If success is to aim for a specific target, you can get and then stop there. Your target becomes a limit on growth. Saying that we want to grow past a milestone isn’t placing a limit.

To be clear, when we define success as meeting a targets we are staying low on the vertical axis. When we define success as continual growth we are higher on the vertical axis. Yes, we meet targets along the way, and that is a byproduct.

Most of the people you work with will be somewhere along the spectrum. At first, you might think that this is binary: either you work from a fixed and limited mindset or you work from a growth mindset. In practice, all of us move up and down the vertical axis each day with each challenge.

Take or Make?
In his photography, Ansel Adams set many standards. Lets focus on one key assumption from which he worked: "You don't take a photograph, you make it."

When you pick up a camera, you have two choices. One is to look at what you have been given. The other is to look at what you want to do with it. Do you ask your team to approach a project based on what they are given? Or do you ask them to look at what they can make with whatever resources are reasonable?

You initiate from one of two starting points. You can look for what is available. The other is to try to make an image that you want. Along with many other great photographers, Adams strived to make, not take.

It is easy to say that we have a limited set of resources from which to generate success. The same is true of Adams standing on a promontory. He had only one camera, and a few plates on which he could make images. He had a limited view in front of him. Still, he took the position that he built his photograph to match his vision, and that he’d make an image and not just take one.

Adams made photographs by working from his inner vision, and assembling the resources in a way that worked well for him. He made images work by starting from his inner strength. It is something he had, that we all have.

This is also not binary. There also are many times when Adams says that he got the image he wanted by what he called an act of God. In the "make" vs "take" spectrum, you don’t need to get to 100% make. Just moving past 50% will put you in a rarified atmosphere. The people around you have enough ability. The question is whether you can help them choose to make something more with their ability. Do they sleepwalk through the work? Do they follow the traditional paths with enthusiasm? Do they make new paths? These would appear as three different marks on the horizontal axis.

You can ask the question that grows revenue on this axis:
- Are you taking what you are given from the outside or making what you will want from the inside?
Consistent revenue growth comes when you help people see a way to take themselves further to the right.

Which of Four Positions Will You Be In Today?

In any given sales or development effort, you and the people around you might be feeling that you:
- Have topped out and it is time to take what you have and pause (lower left pane).
- Are at your best and you want to make more and more with what you have (lower right pane). - Have much more that you can take and use (upper left pane).
- Have much more that you can do, and you can make revenue that was never forecast (upper right pane).

The more time you help people spend in the upper right, the faster your revenue grows. Just as important, the success there is self-reinforcing. If you can help your team taste the upper right more often, then they will want to live there. Then your task moves from pushing increased growth to managing increased growth. This is a better problem to have, no?

The more time you and the people around spend working from high growth and make assumptions, the more they will grow as people and you will grow your time. This is the cornerstone of growing your revenue, time, and people.

Getting you, your people, and your business to the upper right is what this book and blog are about.

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