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5 Keys to Averaging 20% Growth for 20 Consecutive Years

Guest: Shep Moyle, a coach at CEO Coaching International. Before coaching, Shep was the owner, chairman, and CEO of Shindigz party supplies and the International Chairman of YPO.

Quick Background: The true measure of a CEO’s strategy isn’t if his or her plan leads to BIG growth in a year or two. It’s if the CEO’s combination of vision, processes, people, and discipline can snowball into sustained growth year after year after year.

On today’s show, Shep Moyle explains how he led his company to average 20% growth for 20 consecutive years.

Keys to Sustaining BIG Growth from Shep Moyle

1. Learn how to lead. 

When Shep was the student body president at Duke, the university’s president took him under his wing. Their morning breakfasts became master classes that taught Shep the importance of thoughtful leadership and mentorship, values he carried with him during his professional career.

“Through my YPO experience, I not only got to see these incredible business leaders around the world and to learn from them,” Shep says. “I realized the power of mentors and networks and coaches. As we work together, we can learn from each other.”

As YPO’s International Chairman, Shep was able to observe 30,000 CEOs from over 100 countries. He found that the absolute best leaders shared these traits:

The challenge for CEOs is how to internalize the habits of great leaders without coming off like a second-rate copy. Shep believes that circles back to the importance of mentorship and coaching.

“I think it does come down to being authentic and understanding yourself,” he says. “Being self-aware is not a skill that most entrepreneurs naturally have. We are driven. We are focused. And we are working on the results no matter what. So that self-awareness comes through having coaches and mentors around us who can hold that mirror up and say, ‘Do you understand what this looks like in terms of your behavior, your style, your beliefs?’ So getting that outside input is extremely important.”

2. Dream BIG!

Shep says, “I remember at the age of 27 sitting behind my desk, I just bought the company from my father, and I wrote down what I wanted to have as my sales goals and my profit goals for the next 10 years. They seemed outrageous. They seemed ridiculous. And it was based on that 20% growth per year. I kept that little sheet of paper on my desk for the next 32 years, because it taught me that no matter what the goals are, we’re going to exceed them. My original goals, while at the time they seemed outrageous, were actually a little quaint in that we exceeded all of those very early.”

If you don’t set your sights on something BIG, you’re not just dooming your company to stay small until it dies. You’re also never going to find out what you and your team can accomplish with just a bit more focus and motivation. And, in fact, thinking BIG doesn’t have to feel as outrageous as the kinds of goals Shep set. At the end of the annual planning sessions we facilitate, our coaches often challenge CEOs to raise their targets by 3-5% or complete the initiative 6 months faster. Just that slight uptick in ambition can cause your team to address inefficiencies, go a little further for every customer, and think outside the box.

3. Develop culture around the right people.

“Culture itself was a constantly evolving process for us,” Shep says. “And it was something that had to be an ongoing, never-ending journey because it changes as the demands of the business change. When you’re a $5 million business, that’s a lot different than the needs of the organization at $20 million and $30 million and $50 million. And part of this whole leadership journey is understanding how your organization has to change as you grow.”

As Shep’s team grew from 30 to 400 people around the world, he was committed to making each person feel like the company wasn’t just paying them, it was investing in their futures. Shep’s “Journey” program encouraged employees to achieve personal and professional milestones over a three-year period, from improving workplace skills to things like learning a new language. Those who met their goals won a family vacation to Disneyland or Disney World.

Increasingly, these are the kinds of perks that are going to make your culture and your relationship to top talent stickier: not better pay and working from home, but feeling like your company really cares about its people, including outside of 9-5. 

4. Keep creating and innovating.

“One of the goals we set for ourselves was that we wanted to generate 20% of our sales every year from items introduced within the last 12 months,” Shep says. “That’s a pretty high bar as you grow. If you’ve got a $10 million business, now all of a sudden you’ve got to do $2 million in new products. So it was, ‘How do we build that creative, innovative new spirit within our company?‘”

Part of Shep’s creative strategy was what he calls a “SKU explosion.” Just as we recommend that our CEO coaching clients review their mission and values every couple years, you also have to review what you’re selling and to whom you’re selling it. Eliminate any products or services that are going stale before they pass their expiration dates. Think about problems you can solve for your customers that they might not realize they have. And don’t chase any shiny objects that might lead you away from your core competencies.

“Here’s the power of data,” Shep says. “I’ve become inspired by the power of underpinning an organization with data and with analytics. So to the degree that you take these actions, and you maintain strict data integrity, strong analytics underneath it, you then can moderate risk because you’re able to have higher predictive capability on what success looks like.”

5. Bond with your customers.

“Particularly in difficult times, the customer is not looking for price.” says Shep. “What they’re looking for is, ‘What’s that promise that this product or this service will bring to me?'”

It’s possible that the rest of this year is going to test your relationship to your customers as much as the pandemic did. Rising prices, supply chain problems, and global uncertainty are causing business owners and families alike to question the value they place on everything. Companies that don’t stand out in the hearts and minds of their customers will race their competitors to the discount bins.

Remember, you’re not only selling a product or a service. You’re selling a moment with a loved one, a solution that makes life a little easier, a means to connect, a process that speeds up business. Build your brand and your relationships around those experiences that customers won’t be able to buy from anyone but you, and sustained growth will follow.

“I think as entrepreneurs look at their markets, if they can understand who their customer is, they can discover untold riches in connecting with a customer emotionally and not just functionally,” Shep says.

Top Takeaways

1. BIGGER goals lead to year-after-year growth. If you don’t keep aiming higher you’ll never find out how BIG you can be. 

2. Don’t be complacent. The things you’re good at now should develop into things you can be great at tomorrow. 

3. Make meaningful connections. The way your employees and customers feel about you is just as important as what you pay and charge. 

About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 67.8% during their time as a client, nearly four times the U.S. average and a revenue CAGR of 25.5%, more than twice the U.S. average.

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