Nine Growth Lessons


Robert M. Tomasko


My clients are impatient. They buy books, but don't have time to read them. They hire me to speak to their top managers, but often duck out of the meeting early to make calls or catch a flight. One client, the head of a financial services company, gave me 5 minutes to preview the message I was to deliver at a seminar attended by his executive team and the CEOs of his major customers. A "top 10" list seemed a little long for him, so I summarized along these lines:


1. There is no such thing as a mature business with no opportunities for growth.

- Mature executives know how to find growth opportunities in a wide range of situations, especially in the rapidly growing segments of mature markets.


2. Not all growth is good growth.

- Growth that makes inefficient use of capital, or is driven primarily by volume expansion, is usually counterproductive and seldom sustainable. Head count growth eventually puts a break on business growth, as does excess product diversity or organizational complexity.


3. Successful growth requires two careful matches:

- First, between situation and strategy,

- Then, between strategy and internal capabilities.

High economic performance comes when both links are made.


4. All growth initiatives have a life cycle associated with them.

- Long term, sustainable growth requires the ability to shift - at the right moment - from one growth path to another.


5. Growth planning starts with an outside-in view of the business.
- Some people are better than others at knowing the difference between what a business sells (the inside-out view) and what its customers want.


6. It's difficult for the CEO to be the CG(rowth)O.

- Growth initiatives have a love-hate relationship with the needs of the ongoing business. It's hard for one person to champion both.


7. Growth is a lot more energizing than cost-cutting, reengineering, acquisition assimilation, and quality improvement.

- But realizing the benefits of growth requires balanced attention to these "operational fixes" as well as to new opportunities. Providing this balance is a key contribution of the CEO to growth.


8. The biggest obstacle to future growth is past success.

- What drove growth in the past is probably hard wired into the business today, and will hinder forward movement as conditions change in the future.


9. Growing is frequently less risky than not growing.

- Growth is the best way a business can remain in control of its destiny.



© Robert M. Tomasko 2002


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