The GROW Model and why it’s good for startups

Published by Anna on

Since starting my business as a freelance copywriter, I’ve been fortunate to work with a very talented (and patient) business coach who’s introduced me to a model – no, not that kind of model – a business model.

Its name? GROW. Yes, yet another acronym to get acquainted with (as if there aren’t enough in the world), but, this is a good’un!

If you’re a startup looking to give your business structure and direction, I think you’ll like this.

What is the GROW model?

The GROW model is a simple process for goal-setting and problem-solving. It was developed by Sir John Whitmore and colleagues in the 1980s and has been widely used since. It’s probably used in lots of different ways, but the following explains how I’ve been introduced to it (and why I recommend it to fellow startups).

What does GROW stand for?

G.R.O.W. stands for Goal, Reality, Options and Way Forward which form the four stages of the process.

G = Goal (long-term goal)

Step one is defining your long-term goal and setting a timeframe. It’s deciding what your end goal is, how feasible it is and how you’ll know when you’ve achieved it.

Everyone’s goals will differ – the key is YOU believe they’re achievable. It’s helpful to talk through it with someone you trust. I know it helped me and brought all sorts of thoughts to mind that wouldn’t have surfaced otherwise.

R = Reality

Step two is awareness of your current situation. What’s your reality? What are the positives? What are the negatives? Drawing up a table can be a helpful way to visualise it.

Positives Negatives

The more honest you can be with yourself, the better. Consider your skillset, experience and characteristics – anything that could help or hinder your new venture.

For example, I knew one of the biggest barriers for me was the sales and finance side of things so that went on the negatives list. On the flipside, I’d received a great deal of encouraging feedback from my contacts with some work on the horizon, so that was a big positive. There’s no right or wrong – it’s about looking at where you’re at.

It’s obviously a personal process, so again, talking through it with someone you trust can help pull out unknowns. Make sure they’re honest, though – you don’t want someone who avoids the negatives because they’re worried they’ll offend you! But at the same time, don’t be modest about yourself.

Now you’ve got your list, it’s time to move on to step three.

O = Options

Step three is about reviewing your options and how they’ll help you achieve your long-term goal. From the reality exercise above, you’ll have identified clear areas to work on. For example, it might be marketing yourself and getting your business out there, developing your skills or creating a forecast of your finances, etc. List them all out – the more specific you can be for each option, the better. These will form your way forward. 

W = Way forward (short-term goal)

The final piece of the puzzle is deciding your immediate way forward, or short-term goals. Of your above options, which will you implement first? How will this impact your reality and get you closer to your long-term goal? For example, if one of your options is to create a website for your business, don’t just write ‘create website’ – break down all the steps involved to do this.

If like me, you ended up with quite a long list of options, it’s time to prioritise. There’s always loads you could be doing, but it’s about selecting the short-term goals that will have the biggest impact and get you closer to your overall goal the quickest. Deadlines are an important part of this.

Why the GROW model is good for startups (or any business, for that matter)

Opens you up to your strengths and weaknesses

There’s lots to think about when going at it alone. I wouldn’t say I was naïve to this fact, but I don’t think you truly realise just how much is involved until you get properly stuck in. You’re not only your profession, but also a marketeer, sales person, networker, the finance dept and the admin dept all rolled into one! As humans, we accept we each have strengths and weaknesses, so if you’re running your own business, you have to become aware of your weaknesses, otherwise, it can affect your whole business. It’s no use saying, ‘sorry the finance department is on holiday indefinitely’ – the reality is, you won’t get paid! The GROW model allows you to weigh up your positives and negatives and the options you have to bridge any gaps.

It’s your real business plan

I’m not saying your standard business plan isn’t important (I mentioned a couple of templates in my startup checklist) – they’re a good starting point. But I’ve come to realise I didn’t need those 16 odd pages of information with numerous sections. I’d filled out what I could but was left with what felt like a half-finished plan (I hate things half-finished!). It certainly didn’t inspire me to keep checking back. You might need that level of detail if, say, you’re applying for funding for a new business venture, but in my case, who was I writing it for other than me? No-one. Sure enough, my plan started to feel like a chore and gathered dust. That’s why I like the GROW model – it’s a working document, tailored with the information you need. No longer gathering dust – phew.

It keeps you focussed

Probably the most important when you’re new to the freelance world! It’s so easy to get overwhelmed and lose focus. The GROW model solves this because you’ve defined your main goal and the steps (your short-term goals) to reach it. You have a plan.

You can monitor your progress easily

Every time you revisit your plan, you can see exactly how much progress you’ve made which is nice and satisfying. The first time I revisited my plan, I was chuffed by how much had changed in six weeks. I realised my overall goal posts were gradually changing, so we went through the GROW process once again, updating the plan to reflect the changes. Equally, you can see if you’re not progressing and need to kick yourself into gear – there’s no hiding behind anything!

Your business will naturally evolve

The model provides the structure that, if you follow through with your goals, your business will naturally develop and, well…GROW. Music to freelancers’ ears!

The result?

You go from feeling like you’re having a go at running a business to actually running one. I know I’ll be continuing to use it.

What’s your experience of business models? Any you’d recommend?

Get in touch to grow your content (see what I did there?).



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.