Monday, September 17, 2007

Growing in Three Dimensions

What did you do on your summer vacation?

Eric Andrew, a Vancouver-based private company services leader for PriceWaterhousecoopers, went kayaking off the west coast. And learned something new about business.

As Andrew reported last month in his blog, he soon noticed that the water looked different depending how he looked at it. On the surface, he could see kelp, logs and ripples. Changing focus, he could see the reflection of the coastline. And when he looked down into the water, he could see beds filled with sea cucumbers, starfish and marine plants.

He writes: “What was interesting was that I had to focus on each of these three dimensions quite deliberately. Otherwise I would miss one or more of them entirely. It was difficult—if not impossible—to see all of these at once..."

"This reminded me of several experiences I’ve had working with different businesses. Many businesses are very good at dealing with the one dimension that made them successful in the first place, which is most often the customers who are their source of revenue. However, many businesses fail to pay attention early enough to the other two important dimensions: the financial and operational health of their business (the “organization” dimension) and the management of their people within the business (the “people” dimension).”

Andrew's point is that as business becomes more competitive, companies need to focus much sooner on developing a financially sound operating structure - and on creating a culture to attract and retain good people. The trick is to work on all three dimensions at the same time.

“Just as it's difficult to see the surface of the water, the reflection on the water and what lies beneath the water at the same time, it’s also difficult to balance and focus on the different dimensions of clients, people and the organization simultaneously. To build a healthy and sustainable business, owners and managers must focus on all three dimensions and ensure that they have developed strategies that will allow them to succeed.”

For more of Eric’s blogposts (and to encourage him to keep writing), visit

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