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Fox & Hare and why learning never stops

In May 1989, Manchester band The Stone Roses published their self-titled debut album to widespread acclaim.

The album – which sold 4 million copies at a time when buying an album required a visit to an actual physical shop – was seminal and the pointy end of a musical movement in its infancy.

…and had everyone waiting in anticipation of their second album.

In the end, the wait was longer than expected.

When it finally came in 1994 – famously taking 347 ten-hour days to produce – their cultural moment had passed and The Stone Roses had become a secondary player in the new Britpop phenomenon.

Yet another case of the “difficult second album syndrome”.

It’s an enduring concept in pop mythology where young bands, inspired to create an explosive debut, stumble when forced to follow it up with something equally impressive.

Creating anything from scratch is hard enough, and business is no different.

The often-repeated mantra is that only 1 in 5 businesses make it past five years (in truth, Australian statistics suggest that number is closer to 50%), but it’s not as simple as that.

What makes things particularly challenging is that growing a business is rarely a linear progression.

Just when you think you’ve nailed it and reached the promised land, you often discovered that all you’ve done is find Level 2 and a bunch of all-new challenges.

Many, many business thinkers have written about this progression, from Vern Harnish’s Scaling Up to Meister’s Managing the Professional Services Firm and our own Journey to Leveraged model (which you can view here)…

…all of which explain the common reality that what got you here isn’t always the stuff that’s going to get you there.

Glenn Hare and Jessica Brady are the founders of Fox & Hare.

If you know the name, there’s a chance you may know the story.

By anyone’s measure, the story of Fox & Hare is a growth success story. Like the ballerina meme though, it’s when you unpack the hard work underneath and challenges faced and overcome (or in the process of being overcome), the truth about the progression becomes evident.

You start to see common patterns that uncover a recipe for replicating that success, such as:

  • Starting with a clear target market you can connect with and need your help.
  • Ensuring you create a clear & compelling offer aligned with real-world needs.
  • Craft an emotionally-engaging new client engagement process,
  • Work networks and align yourself with others who know the road ahead.
  • Focus on marketing as a priority.
  • Follow the opportunity.
But here’s the key point.

If you do all of that well, often what you earn is simply the chance to see the game change in front of your eyes.

For an advice firm entering the next phase, that’s often about.

  • Delivering what you do profitability so you can reinvest in further growth.
  • Creating a service system to deliver to ongoing clients,
  • Having a great, repeatable Review experience,
  • Embracing outsourcing and make sure you hire the right roles first,
  • Starting to lay the tracks for your tech without overbuilding.

Get that right and you earn…well… in truth, the right to watch it change all over again!

…and then three more times until, if you choose to go all the way, you reach the true end game of having a business that can grow without the need from you to be the primary driver of growth.

It’s these transition stories for me that are the most powerful to hear.

They give insight into what it takes to grow a business over time, makes you realise that business is at the core a learning journey where sooner or later if we’re lucky, we get to a point where we’re outside of our field of experience and knowledge and deep in the learning zone.

If not though, let me leave you with this thought.

One key insight I took from working in the tech startup space is realising that most businesses end up looking nothing like the plan-at-the-start says they will.

For me, this is a good thing.

If business were a computer game, it might well end up being the most difficult ever invented.

It requires persistence and also knowing when the right decision is quit and go down a different path.

The ability to be truly honest with yourself and know when it’s right to ignore what others think.

It means being prepared to be wrong, try new things, watch them fail and see it as meaning you’re one step closer to the solution.

To be able to plan to win even when you lose, change direction quickly when it’s needed, stick it out and not “tinker” when that’s needed, and realise that your passion sometimes won’t become clear until you’ve done the hard yards of struggling through something first.

Most of all it requires, and demands growth, a lot of it personal…

…which for me is what makes it most satisfying of all.

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