The First Post: Unraveling the Business Growth Dilemma
Much of what we believe about what it takes to scale a successful company and keep it growing is just plain wrong. Despite all the conventional wisdom about the greatness of America’s entrepreneurial culture, the fact is most companies start small and stay that way.
Think that’s an overstatement?
Consider this: In the United States, only seven tenths of one percent (0.7%) of all companies will ever reach $50 million in annual revenues. And an even smaller number, only one in a thousand companies (0.1%) will ever reach $250 million in annual sales revenues.
Business Growth – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
I know firsthand how hard it is to scale a company and keep it growing. As a growth company leader, I’ve enjoyed the upside of business growth and endured its destructive nature.
Early in my career, I was part of a classic entrepreneurial dream come true, which then turned into a classic entrepreneurial nightmare.
In the dream, the business experienced rapid growth – $3 billion in sales – and hired over 1200 people in less than three years. The company achieved market leadership. We won all kinds of awards and recognition. Investors wooed us. Wall Street loved us. The management team made millions. And an IPO was just months away.
In the nightmare, the business failed almost overnight as it imploded under the weight of its own growth. The high-speed crash resulted in a $1 billion Chapter 11 bankruptcy and with those 1200 people losing their jobs.
We got lost on our way from small company to big company and we are not alone.
Business Growth is Hard
Almost all of the business leaders I know strive for rapid growth. Nothing energizes them quite like the thought of the market validating their vision of doing something new or better.
Yet growing a successful business to scale is difficult and risky. For every Steve Jobs or Richard Branson there are millions of entrepreneurs who fail to lead their companies from promising upstart to dominant industry player.
The fundamental cause is a lack of knowledge of how to avoid the pitfalls, how to think through the issues, how to operate the business, and how to systematically manage growth. In other words, how to build and maintain a business that can survive in the short term and succeed in the long term.
Where’s the Help?
Unfortunately, the vast majority of the advice handed out by the business press, “gurus,” and consulting firms simply doesn’t address the real challenges businesses face as they target the next stage of growth.
Most of the attention gets focused at the extreme ends of the spectrum – very small businesses and very large businesses. But fast-growing companies face a completely different set of challenges than Fortune 500 firms or start-ups.
What is needed is a better understanding of how successful companies actually grow over time, the challenges growth presents for companies, and the strategies, skills, and capabilities required to manage growth.
Learning From Failure
Having a front row seat to a meteoric success followed by a catastrophic failure is a uniquely painful experience that shaped my perspective about business growth. I’ve spent the last 15 years working with growth companies and learning what enables that tiny fraction of businesses to become wildly successful, while others stagnate, stumble or even fail.
These real-world lessons have taught me quite a bit about what it takes to build lasting companies.
Why This Blog?
Leading a fast-growing company can seem a lot like traveling through uncharted territory. The right path isn’t always clear. You need to know what lies ahead, around the next corner. Growth company leaders need the insight of others who have successfully traveled the same path – and that is the purpose of this blog.
This is the place where CEOs, entrepreneurs, and other executives can find insight into the most vexing challenges of business growth and guidance through the most difficult passages. My aim is to share my knowledge and experience in business growth and entrepreneurial leadership.
No theoretical nonsense here – just practical, digestible, and actionable ideas that will help you run and grow your business.
I value comments and encourage debate and dissent. I appreciate the time that readers spend to share ideas and contribute feedback. I look forward to hearing what’s on your mind.