You will face plenty of hurdles when trying to grow the top line of your business. From rising customer expectations to competitive threats, many obstacles to revenue growth are out of your control completely.
In my experience, the most hazardous problems are those that are self-inflicted. They occur when leaders take counterproductive actions in an effort to produce results. For example: a company has a goal to improve customer satisfaction or net promoter scores, and an executive places limits on call times, in an effort toward efficiency. Bang! You've just shot yourself in the foot.
It's not insidious or intentional. It stems from unintended and unforeseen consequences of leadership decisions. Here are three I see most often:
Increasing revenue by declaration. Occasionally I'll see an executive speak about revenue growth as an imperative for the business. Sometimes a leader will go so far as to demand growth, even budgeting increases into the top line. But when those demands aren't backed up with a refined strategy, new offerings, or providing additional resources in marketing or sales, I wonder how revenue growth can possibly happen. Just telling people they need to produce more rarely works, even if they have excess capacity. Leaders have to be clear about what actually will drive the growth.
Changing sales compensation to improve performance. This is a perennial favorite. It's driven by an outdated notion that quality sales professionals are "coin-operated." Research shows that sales professionals are driven by autonomy and purpose as well as money. We've all encountered Bankers, Lawyers, Accountants, and leaders in other functions that are driven equally by financial gain. Compensation may get you additional effort (if the amount of compensation is significant), or it may provide a change in focus. But it won't make people better at their jobs.
Measuring the wrong data. Most corporate dashboards are judgments masquerading as data. Not that the reporting is inaccurate. Leaders make determinations about what data is predictive of results. Plenty of times the measures that portend success (like new client opportunity movement in the pipeline) get missed in favor of easier-to-report financial and efficiency metrics. Both types of data are important to know, but understanding which helps you manage the business better is critical, especially when it comes to growing revenue.
In medicine, sometimes the cure can cause more problems than the disease. Literally meaning "physician-induced," the term "iatrogenic" describes diseases inadvertently resulting from medical treatments or procedures. As an executive, you are responsible for the future value of your business. Make sure you aren't causing the kinds of problems you are paid to solve.