4 minute read 26 Apr 2018
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How to empower your people to accelerate growth


EY Global

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

4 minute read 26 Apr 2018

Award-winning entrepreneurs explain how a shared purpose means they can trust employees with the quick decisions that drive growth.

Achieving and sustaining growth ranks among the top challenges facing business leaders today. Those entrepreneurs who have won the US EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Award have presided over companies that consistently outperform and outlast the market. These companies outpaced US national GDP in growth rates by as much as 100%.

They also outperformed national averages in rates of job creation, and remain in business far longer than the competition. But how do you start building momentum for business growth?

It’s important not to have enough money when you start. If you have a lot of capital, you can easily end up wasting it because you have to spend it.

Small beginnings

Every billion-dollar business has to start somewhere. In today’s world of unicorns, that “somewhere” has increasingly been in the boardrooms of venture capital (VC) organizations. VC funding provides early stage companies with investment, in exchange for an equity share in the company. As Payal Kadakia, a 2015 award winner, explains: “Venture capital put fuel on the fire needed to get into all markets and help achieve our dream.”

But VC is not the only way to go. According to a survey of 500 Entrepreneur Of The Year award winners, 55% launched and built their companies largely with loans, retained earnings and other sources of self-funding. They may have been unready or unwilling to hand over equity — and thus a degree of control — to investors whose values and strategic direction may not have aligned with their own.

Planning for bigger things

Whatever the initial funding strategy, there still needs to be a strong plan for turning investment into growth and returns.

Strategizing and developing a roadmap for growth means more than just pouring fresh funds into core business functions. Indeed, too much money too soon can also be distracting. Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s and a 1991 award winner, says: “It’s important not to have enough money when you start. If you have a lot of capital, you can easily end up wasting it because you have to spend it.” 

Thorough planning can help map out key priorities and focus areas. But when moving and growing fast, the last thing a leader needs is to have to worry about micromanaging every decision. And that’s why, as 2013 winner Daniel Lubetzky, CEO of KIND, explains, “Culture becomes the biggest asset and tool that you have to rely on.”

With the right corporate culture, your people will be aligned and able to work together to solve challenges. This is something 2011 winner Jessica Herrin, CEO of Stella & Dot, finds vital. “We’ve only grown because of a collective commitment to our vision,” she says, “and it’s our people that will help us continue to grow.”

How data can help

Establishing a shared organizational culture can be an important first step. But to truly drive growth also requires the right data, as well as the tools and expertise needed to understand it. Insights generated from this data can give you a better understanding of the needs of your end customers — your ultimate source of revenue.

And knowing your customers better can enable you to develop a clearer business plan, to streamline and focus your operations around clearer goals, and to better align your team around these goals — all of which will, in turn, help you attract additional sources of funding and finance.

The most successful leaders need great people that they can rely on, supported by a strong culture and a shared vision of the ultimate end goal. They don’t necessarily need agreement on the precise path to that goal.

This is where a clear sense of purpose can become valuable, helping your team to identify and take the right risks to drive results. With such a purpose-driven approach, an initial growth plan may not need to include all the details — but an understanding of the main drivers of business growth can help guide you, as your plan continues to evolve.

In 2016, EY analysts quantified the combined accomplishments of these 9,200 visionary men and women and joined forces with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services to interview many of the winners and capture the findings.


Successful leaders don’t need to make every decision. They build great teams with a strong culture and a shared vision.

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EY Global

Multidisciplinary professional services organization