ASAE 2007: The Seven Irrefutable Rules of Small Business Growth with Steven S. Little

My notes from the early afternoon Thought Leader session with Steven S. Little on 8/13/2007 at ASAE2007.

Little does 150+ speaking engagements a year – all focused on growth. More specifically sustainable growth. And he has a book that gives 7 rules to create growth:

1. Have a sense of purpose – It's not always about money. Companies with good growth numbers are mission-driven and often place purpose before profit (to an extent). Mentions a chance meeting with a hero of his: UCLA basketball coach John Wooden (pic). Wooden was at an event and was asked what he wanted to be remembered for, what was he most proud of. Took him 30 seconds to answer. Said he had two answers. 1. The 13 NCAA titles was a by-product of his life goal – which was to get young men to achieve beyond their expectations. Mentioned getting farm boys and inner city youth to graduate and become lawyers and doctors. Second part later…clever speaking by Little.

2. Have outstanding market intelligence – You must recognize change and adapt.

3. Do effective growth planning – Only 12% of small businesses have a growth plan that is effectively communicated and updated regularly.

Someone just got up to leave. Little handed the gentleman a book and told him to read from chapter 4 on…pretty funny.

4. Have customer-driven processes – I didn't take any notes for this rule. Not sure why. Sorry.

5. Recognize the power of technology – You must use the tools available to you to experience growth. Just like cavemen invented hunting tools – it is essential to be an expert in tech. His quote: "if you're in the association business, you're in the technology business." I guess because you need technology to do your job. Moving on…

The Milkshake Rule – Little rewards himself after a long day of travel with a vanilla milkshake, usually from room service. Many times a milkshake is not on the menu. However, 80% of the time, he can get room service to bring him a bowl of ice cream, a half glass of milk, and a long spoon. The point: Don't let your systems make you stupid!

6. Hire the best and the brightest – This is the most important rule according to Little. He equates employee retention with growth and says its impossible to separate the two. I guess like member retention can equal growth.

7. See the future – Something, according to Little, we're not good at. Mentions population shifts and expected life expectancies. Under 50 is now relatively young, while most men died in their 40's in 1900. Shows us a pic of Jacyln Smith (Charlie's Angels). She's 60. Predicts that by 2020, associations will have 85 year old members and employees. Interesting change from the usual focus on younger generations.

Also brings up China and its unprecedented wealth creation. And the fact that by 2020, 1 in 4 Americans will speak Spanish as a first language. These are shifts we must pay attention to and recognize as opportunity. We must reach out to Latin America.

Second Wooden quote. He's proudest moment was during the Watts race riots. Apparently a TV crew interviewed 3 of his ball players. Two were white and one was African-American. The reporter asked what the race relations were like on the team. One of the young men said Wooden didn't see color and the interview was over.

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3 thoughts on “ASAE 2007: The Seven Irrefutable Rules of Small Business Growth with Steven S. Little

    Thanks Fred for the 7 rules to create growth. John Wooden was the master at coaching the best out of his players to become the best they can be. They won a few basketball championships along the way (ten). One other ingredient that virtually all successful business owners have is a coach or some one who provides them coaching. Just like John Wooden coached his players to be the best, business owners will want their own (John Wooden) to coach them to be the best. Business owners who go it alone will rarely win, even if they try to follow all 7 rules you listed.

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