Punching Through Your Growth Ceiling

by Chris Cloud

Continuing on the theme of ‘maximizing BAM success factors’ we have invited guest authors to highlight what they consider key factors contributing to success and growth for BAM practitioners. Business consultant Chris Cloud shares this mini-series on how to break through your growth ceiling.


In the first post we discussed what a growth ceiling is, and how to identify whether or not you are at one. In these second post we’ll cover proven strategies for growing past your ceiling.

The following advice has been gleaned from years of studying how people break past their growth ceiling, from personal experience, and from helping dozens of executive teams identify and break through their ceilings.

Working ON the business, not just IN it

Warren Buffet says his managers should spend 80% of their time working on becoming better leaders and thinking about how they will grow their business. How much time do you spend focused on growing in these areas? Most missional small business owners spend next to zero amount of time working ON the business or on their leadership, because they are too overwhelmed working IN the business. We have to find a way to rise above, if we are ever going to break past our growth ceilings.

We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training. – Archilochus

Reminder: There’s hidden grace available if we’re willing to step out.

Isolate the Problem

Once you have committed time to work ON the business, the first step is to isolate the specific area where you are plateauing. 

What are the exact areas where you are struggling? Is it growing the company past a certain number of employees? Is it growing the company past a certain revenue amount? Are you just swamped and don’t know how to get out from under the weight of all the work? Where are things breaking down, exactly?

Isolate the issues and begin addressing them specifically, not in vague generalities. Are you a visionary who has trouble with the administrative work, or vice versa? It may be helpful to have this conversation with a mentor or trusted adviser who can give you a helpful perspective.

Perhaps you are overwhelmed with a specific aspect of the business, be it sales, marketing, operations, or so on. Perhaps you just don’t know how to expand into new markets. Work out whether you have an issue with “I can’t figure out how to grow this business” or is it an issue of, “I’m not improving at a certain skill or discipline”? There’s a difference and it helps to identify the difference.

Try to avoid solving the problem at this stage, that’s for later.

Identify Other Root Causes

Things such as healthy eating, getting exercise, and proper rest all have an impact on our emotions and energy. Addressing these root human conditions may be difficult but extremely rewarding as it will unlock greater potential. These physical factors impact us more than we think.

Identify Other Resources and Tools

Perhaps it would help to become an understudy of someone in your field before moving forward. You may consider changing your surroundings for a season. You may need to find new groups of people to hang out with who are where you want to be.

Sometimes a change in context can bring a new perspective that can help us dig out of a hole. Much research supports the fact that learning new things is one of the only, and best, ways to stave off deterioration of our mental faculties. Fight off ageing by keeping your mind growing and fresh.

Four Pillars for Punching Through

Finally, here are four pillars that will undergird your efforts to break through your ceiling:

1. Admit the need

Be honest with yourself, the truth will set you free. This was a focus of the first blog post.

2. Get outside your own head

If you stay inside your own head, you’ll be limited to your own experience but the world is a big place with unlimited resources and wisdom. Tap into that by getting outside help. Find a mentor or coach who has done it, and pay them to help you. If you don’t pay, typically they will not be as committed and you won’t value it as much. We value what we pay for. Great advice isn’t cheap, and often in ministry we cheapen advice because we treat it as a free commodity instead of a priceless treasure.

Once you have found a great source of wisdom, you then need to be willing to actually listen and trust the advice, to do it.

3. Find and follow a new system

Without a new framework, a paradigm shift, a new way of approaching the challenge, we will all go back to our default mode after a short period of time. Find a system that makes it impossible to go back to your old ways.

4. Get consistent reinforcement

In the information age, we need reinforcement more than we need instruction. Find a peer group to meet with regularly, hire a coach, but make a commitment to regular practice and reinforcement. Otherwise there will be no permanent change.

You will never maximize your potential in any area without coaching. It is impossible. You may be good. You may even be better than everyone else. But without outside input you will never be as good as you could be. – Andy Stanley, Next Generation


In short, identify and be honest about where you are reaching a growth ceiling (and there could be multiple ceilings). Then, be open to approaching the problem in a new way. If we keep trying the same things, expecting a different result, that’s called crazy. Don’t be insane!

< Read Part 1: Have You Reached a Growth Ceiling?

Great Resources for Further Reading and Study

  1. Top 20 Leadership Behaviors by Dan Rockwell
  2. 5 Key Strategies Behind Behavior Change by Tony Stubblebine
  3. 18 Mistakes that Kill Startups by Paul Graham (one of the most successful investors and advisers in the world)
  1. Good to Great by Jim Collins (for any organization)
  2. Traction: Get a Grip; on Your Business by Gino Wickman (for teams of 10-500 – teaches the Entrepreneur’s Operating System (EOS))
  3. The E Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber
  4. Managing Oneself by Peter F. Drucker
Principles from “Good to Great” by Jim Collins
  1. Good is the enemy of Great
  2. Level 5 Leadership – moving from “merely competent” to “strategic leadership”
  3. First who then what – having the right people in the right seats on the leadership team will often solve issues that have been plaguing the organization
  4. Confront the brutal facts, yet never lose faith – “if we were to start this today, how would we do it?”
  5. The hedgehog concept (simplicity within the three circles) – not by doing everything well, but by doing one thing better than anyone else
  6. A culture of discipline
  7. Technology accelerators
  8. The flywheel vs. the doom loop – greatness is a series of right decisions that build momentum over time, vs. the status quo which is to limp along, repeat failing strategies that kill momentum and rob energy.


Chris Cloud Chris Cloud is an entrepreneur who has been living and working with his wife in Nepal over the past 3 years. He is passionate about helping companies and individuals identify their perceived growth ceiling, and break past that ceiling. He is partner at a firm in the U.S., ALIGN. ALIGN helps leadership teams clarify their “true north” and gain traction by aligning every aspect of the organization to that vision. He holds a degree in business administration, but counts his 12+ years of starting or serving in a series of fast-growing startups as his real entrepreneurial education! 

On a good day, you’ll find Chris running up a mountain or snowboarding down one. You can connect with him here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ccloud/