October 21, 2017

Column from Florida Trend's Business Coach

The secret to growing your revenue

Ron Stein | 3/26/2012

We all know that in business, to grow your company and its sales you have to take risks. Right? Well, yes, but only if you take steps to minimize those risks, strategically and on a daily basis.

Andrew Carnegie, arguably one of the most successful entrepreneurs of American businesses, is viewed by many as a great risk-taker. Yet, in his autobiography he said, "I am sure that any competent judge would be surprised how little I ever risked ... my supply of Scotch caution was never small." Of course, he was referring to his Scottish heritage, not his drink of choice!

Carnegie was not that much of a visionary -- instead, he looked at what was going on around him and realized every new competitive product or new way of doing business was a threat to his vested interests.

I think he was paranoid! That’s right, paranoid, but not in an irrational way. Carnegie was simply suspicious of what his competitors might be doing. This was his big edge.

How do you look at risk? When I was director of marketing for a large telecommunications equipment manufacturer, it occurred to me that everyone was so focused on revenue that no one was really worried about what could go wrong. After all, the unexpected can and will happen. So one day, I came into work early and taped a "paranoia meter" outside of my office, with the pointer pegged on high. It wasn’t long before the CEO walked into my office and asked about it. I told him that even though we were meeting our revenue projections, there were storm clouds on the horizon. He asked me specifically what I feared. My answer was not what he expected: "I don’t know and that is precisely what worries me." Don’t take your situation and marketplace for granted;

Always have a contingency plan. Assume that at this very moment, your competitors are up to no good. That should guide much of your thinking and force you to be prepared. You can’t predict the future, yet you know the needs of your target market and the corresponding holes in your offering. Get the entire team involved and on the same page -- if you can’t, try this: write a news release announcing a breakthrough product or service, the type of offering that you think would be a real game changer. However, write it as if was sent out from your fiercest competitor! Include a made up quote by their president. Then send it out to your team and ask, "What does this mean to us?" I’ve used this many times and it’s a real wake up call. I promise that you’ll have a great conversation about preparing for unforeseen events and reshaping your strategy.

Asking what can go wrong may seem like negative thinking. I call it positive paranoia. Always keep your paranoia meter pegged on high to stay alert to industry and competitive changes. This is one of the best ways to minimize risk and grow revenues.

Read earlier columns from Florida Trend's business coach, Ron Stein
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Ron Stein is the founder and President of FastPath Marketing ( He has more than 20 years experience in sales, marketing, and business development, working positions ranging from salesman to vice president of sales and marketing to CEO of startups with industry leaders such as Motorola, VideoServer, Paradyne, and SercoNet. Ron is a member of the advisory team at the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, a nationally recognized entrepreneurial and startup accelerator for the state of Florida. He can be reached at 727-398-1855 or

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