If you read the press, every commentator is writing about the need to improve productivity. This is important and must be done.

However, it is not enough. In my travels, leaders and business owners are having quite a different conversation.

Their key challenge is this:

How do we improve our top-line revenue with limited resources?

Here are two suggestions.

1. Focus on a few big opportunities

I know everyone knows it but I rarely see leaders actually do it. As the new CEO of Apple, Tim Cook suggests:

Focus is key – not just in running your company, but in your personal life. You can only do certain things well.”

I have attended, designed and run numerous leadership conferences and planning sessions and they always seem to end with a shopping list of initiatives the group will be doing next year.

Most of these sound useful but I am always left with the impression that they will not make a significant difference to the revenue line.

I cannot help but compare the difference with this process and the process of the late Steve Jobs, who would allow his management team to decide on their top 10 priorities, then delete the bottom seven and proclaim that they would focus on just the top-three opportunities for the year, according to Jobs’ biographer, Walter Isaacson.

I love this story.

This advice has also helped me with my business, to focus on a few big opportunities and dedicate limited resources to leveraging these.

2.  Ensure that every leader has a revenue growth goal

Again this is a twist on the business-as-usual approach.

Normally when a leadership team is talking about growing revenue, all eyes turn to the sales, business development or marketing directors.

They shuffle their papers and presentations and sometimes not so confidently talk about how they will make the ‘numbers’.

What if every leader had to make a contribution to revenue growth?

Imagine the change in engagement and interest if revenue growth was a collective leadership responsibility?

Many leaders tell me that this cannot be done.

But perhaps it is worth a try.

A few years ago I was working with a hotel leadership team and we introduced this concept. The head of services suddenly offered a great idea.

He noted that the hotel’s security services were not being utilised 100% of the time. Rather than letting the security guys play cards, he wondered whether they could be leased out at a reasonable fee to protect other buildings in the area.

The idea eventuated. Suddenly the company had a plan to ensure that its cost centre broke even.

Imagine the impact if every cost centre could do this?

Growing revenue with limited resources, in this environment, is difficult.

It requires different thinking, tools and perspectives, but it can be done.

* First appeared in Leading Company (www.leadingcompany.com.au)

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