I recently had the opportunity to listen to Steve McKee, the author of the book “When Growth Stalls” speak at a conference. He studied the phenomenon of how some small companies on a very good growth trajectory seemed to stall out and plateau as they became medium sized and larger companies. I think the 4 basic topics that he covered are applicable across the market in general today, not just for smaller growing companies.
1. Lack of Alignment: Steve spoke about the fact that as management teams grew with the company, their alignment tended to vary more. I think that this is the case today with various issues such as when “revenue growth at all costs” groups do battle with “profitability at all costs” groups within company leadership teams. It is easy to say you want both, but it is a very precarious balancing act to try and implement.
2. Loss of Focus: Similar to lack of alignment, loss of focus deals with a decline in the passion and commitment to success that drove the company’s earlier success. It seems to have become a “job”, not an avocation or career. Good enough has in fact become good enough.
3. Loss of Nerve: When issues arise it now seems that the first (and sometimes only approach) is to scale back. We now scale back on R&D investment. We scale back on Marketing. We scale back on what we need for future success. It is here that he asked the best question I have heard in a long time:
“What do we need to do to remember that this economic crisis is a gift?”
Or in other words, what can we do with respect to our relative positioning to our competitors in the market to be more successful than them. Times of instability can be times of market opportunity if properly approached.
We seemed to have forgotten this concept across the board in the market lately.
4. Finally he spoke about business and marketing inconsistency and how “stuck” companies seem to change these items more / too quickly. As every business struggles to move forward they continue to try “new” things. New organizational structures. New marketing campaigns. What they fail to notice is that change also starts everything over. You must give each new structure or campaign time to be successful. It is a failure to stay with a bad structure or campaign too long, but it is also a failure to not give them enough time to be successful.
Steve McKee struck a chord with me and I will try to use and apply some of the comments and approaches he mentioned. Hopefully we will all be able to get the system“unstuck”, and moving forward in a more healthy market in the near future.