Imagine if your business was sold today and a new senior team took over. What long-term value could they create from what have you built so far?

This is a measure of the inherent Growth Potential of your business and the following 6 Growth Probability Indicators (GPIs) will help you reflect on how strong that might be.

Growth Potential Axis

Are you trapped in a cycle of diminishing returns?

It’s all too easy for your core products and services to become stale and for ­Sales and Marketing to become trapped in a cycle that produces diminishing returns. This can result in a slow death for many organisations, as they fail to generate sufficient earnings to invest in future products and services.

  • If sales are on track, be mindful of how much of this is being achieved through price discounting; this is rarely sustainable.
  • Where discounting isn’t an issue, margins are often diluted by the promises made to ‘seal the deal’. As a result, operations struggle to meet inflated client expectations, firefighting becomes ‘business as usual’ and expensive resources are consumed.

Both these scenarios are warning signs that your core Value Proposition (and/or the communication of it) has weakened over time.

Careful what you wish for!

The best organisations understand their capacity constraints. This is, perhaps, most obvious in the heavy manufacturing sector where they must plan months and years ahead to ensure that they can meet anticipated demand; but scalability applies to all organisations, whatever their service or product.

Preparing for growth means being honest about the challenges that must be overcome to deliver, at scale, the promises that you make to your customers. Addressing these challenges usually involves investing ahead of time in robust, repeatable processes, strong middle management and, if it’s a people-intensive business, good training and a great employment brand!

If people are your greatest asset, then their intellectual capabilities should be critical to your growth plans. If you’re scaling your business, are employee (and contractor) contracts clear on ownership and use of intellectual property (IP) created during employment/contract?

Are your ‘scale-up’ plans supported by an IP Strategy for exploiting opportunities and mitigating risks?

A rising tide lifts all boats.

It’s crucial to understand what’s happening in your industry and the market you serve. You should be able to describe the trends that you expect to see over the next few years and explain how these will provide you with the opportunity to grow.

It’s rare to see rapid, organic growth in mature/stable markets. So, if you have ambitious growth targets, then you should ideally be describing significant changes in technologies, regulations or buyer behaviours. But remember that a rapidly expanding market will also help existing (and attract new) competition. As John F Kennedy once said, “a rising tide lifts all boats”.

Vague statements of intent just won’t cut it!

It’s important to have a clear and vivid image of the future and the key milestones on the way. This isn’t just about revenues and margins; it’s about the markets, products, services, locations, functions and employees needed to deliver these numbers. It’s also about how you want your organisation to be seen by customers, employees, prospective employees, suppliers, competitors and influencers.

If you think of your Vision as a ‘photograph of the future’, then your Mission describes what your business must do to deliver that future. Your Values describe how you and your team will behave whilst completing your Mission.

There’s no denying that your ultimate destination will look different to what you first imagined, but that’s not the point. If you aspire to grow, then it’s important to move beyond just numbers and vague statements of intent. How else can you lead your team and get them to buy into your vision? How else can you develop a meaningful plan to achieve that growth? How else can you engage and enthuse potential investors or acquirers?

So, what makes you so special anyway?

It’s important to be precise about what makes your organisation special to your customers. Ideally, you will have a complex mix of capabilities that are extremely difficult for competitors to imitate. Increasingly, it’s the intangible assets of knowledge, skills and the creative expression of ideas that modern businesses are reliant upon. Many successful businesses are built around these types of intellectual assets rather than traditional tangible assets, such as buildings and equipment.

Whatever makes you distinct, if the customer doesn’t value it then it’s not going to help you grow! So, can you describe how this distinctiveness will enhance a customer’s experience of your product or service over the medium to long term?

If you have a winning formula, then competitors will try to imitate it. So, it’s vital to invest in your ‘points of difference’ to protect, retain and strengthen them. Intellectual Property (IP) may be protected in Patents, Trade marks, Registered Designs or Copyright but often it’s more subtle than that; for example, it might be data, processes, know how or relationships that no-one else has.

Do you have an IP Strategy that not only covers formal protection but also recognises what is in your interests to keep confidential and describes how you should do this?

Are you just going through the motions?

All industries and markets change. The speed of change varies considerably but most, if not all, will be very different in 3 years’ time. For that reason, successful organisations capture great new ideas in a ‘venturing funnel’ and then prioritise, fund and progress the best ideas in a meaningful and measurable way.

Innovative businesses are more competitive and those that manage their intellectual property well, grow faster and are more resilient.

There are some common reasons why many organisations struggle with innovation:

  • Some fail to set aside time to think about growth opportunities and the evolution of their industry. The day to day issues always seem to get in the way.
  • Some simply capture the same ideas as they did last year but lack a ‘venturing process’. So, after another buzz of enthusiasm, they leave these ideas to gather dust on a flipchart until next year.
  • Some prioritise great new ideas in their ‘venturing funnel’ (and may even check originality with a patent search) yet have no-one who is accountable for the ‘venturing process’ and progress stalls.
  • Some key individuals don’t respect or trust the process and continue with their ‘pet projects’. This undermines the process and distracts them (and others) from progressing the very best ideas.


Does any of this sound familiar?

Growth Probability Matrix guidance in respect of Intellectual Property was developed in partnership with the Intellectual Property Office.