In 2010 we launched a comprehensive research initiative to explore how companies, globally, were addressing business growth within their organizations. In our data collection, interviews and analysis, we originally sought to identify patterns in growth rates, return on invested capital, and future growth potential. During this process, one thing became very clear. When we asked companies “What is your growth strategy?”, the answer, surprisingly, took many different forms, or in some cases, no specific form at all when companies simply didn’t have explicit growth strategies.
Whether it was expressed formally in bar charts or presentations, or informally on the back of an envelope or verbally, we realized that it was difficult for companies to organize and articulate their growth strategy clearly and consistently. So, we shifted our research to search for different methods and frameworks that companies could use to formulate, articulate and communicate how they intended to grow. Surprisingly, we could not find a consistent approach or distinct growth strategy discipline. In fact, there wasn’t even a Wikipedia entry for Growth Strategy!
As a result of these discoveries, we spent three years designing, and co-designing with large and mid-size companies, a specific discipline around growth strategy. This article is part of a two-part series to introduce growth strategy as a distinct discipline, and how it can be applied in companies large and small.
The Growth Imperative
At the end of the day, growth is every company’s most important objective and most important challenge. According to our recent research, 90% of surveyed strategists (senior executives in strategy, innovation, marketing and related fields) indicate that business growth will become even more of a challenge amidst macroeconomic uncertainty, structural change and competitive complexity. Further, with future growth as the dominant factor is determining enterprise value and stock prices, shareholders will still demand more growth. These forces have come together to create an urgent agenda for senior executives and their companies. So, where will future growth come from? How will it be sustained? Should business growth be left to chance and the mercy of volatile markets and changing customer behavior? These are the questions that strategists grapple with everyday.
To answer these questions, many companies rely on traditional, decades old playbooks that emphasize marketing effectiveness and sales acumen as the primary sources of business growth. These two cornerstones are on the front lines of revenue generation and command a lion’s share of corporate resources. However, marketing and sales are inherently tactical and are not designed to provide the strategic, medium to long-term growth that is critical to enterprise value creation.
Some companies also look to traditional strategy and innovation management disciplines to help them shape the future and navigate the new landscape. However, many of these traditional strategic tools, that include balanced scorecards, strategic planning and idea “funnels” date from the 1970s, are focused on operational effectiveness and incremental improvements. Therefore, it has proven difficult for these approaches to be truly connected to sustained revenue and growth.
While all of the approaches may be comfortable and familiar, closer examination shows that each of them – strategic planning, innovation, marketing, and sales – are simply means to the true end game of sustainable business growth. So, what if none of these options are actually enough to drive sustainable business growth in the new normal business environment?
Introducing the modern discipline of Growth Strategy
Business growth can often be over-simplified into familiar strategies such as organic growth, inorganic growth, growth from adjacencies, or “white space” growth. Further, many companies simply don’t view “business growth” as a business process. As a result, the processes associated with achieving business growth and improving future growth prospects are generally inconsistent, unsynchronized or, in many cases, completely absent. As companies realize that their traditional playbooks may no longer be enough to actually achieve these outcomes, the central question becomes: What’s the alternative?
Growth Strategy is an integrated, dedicated and distinct business discipline that is purpose-built to make business growth more accessible, achievable and repeatable. Growth Strategy accomplishes this by bridging the gap between strategic planning and innovation disciplines and the revenue generating processes of marketing and sales to help companies achieve three crucial goals that we call The Growth Imperative:
- Achieving business growth.
- Sustaining business growth.
- Improving future growth prospects.
Growth strategy offers a unified business process that is purpose-built for business growth. Like any modern business discipline, growth strategy is designed to structurally enable individuals and entire organizations through a consistent management framework, defined workflows and information empowerment.
Watch our animated video to learn more about the discipline of growth strategy as an integrated system with three major components: a growth strategy framework, a growth strategy continuum and a growth strategy grid.
Collectively, the elements of growth strategy provide the consistency, structure and strategic clarity needed to help companies evolve from tactical, short-term and incremental growth to strategic, long-term and transformational growth – the key ingredients for enterprise value creation.
 The 2013 Chief Strategy Officer Survey, The Growth Strategy Co. & Innovation Enterprise Ltd.
image credit: growthstrategy.com
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Wayne Simmons is an accomplished executive, innovator, value creator, and entrepreneur and co-author of GrowthThinking: Building the New Growth Enterprise. As CEO and Co-Founder of The Growth Strategy Company, Wayne leads the vision, strategy and growth of the company. He has worked for global advisory firms Ernst & Young, Deloitte Consulting, and has been a trusted advisor to C-level executives at Fortune 500 corporations, venture capital firms, and small and midsized companies. Wayne was trained in airborne reconnaissance for US Army Intelligence; and is an alumnus and Fellow of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Keary Crawford is a results-driven executive leader with extensive experience in operations, M&A and finance for start-up, entrepreneurial and middle-market companies. As co-founder and COO of The Growth Strategy Company, she manages the strategic growth and vision, and day-to-day operations; and is co-author of GrowthThinking: Building the New Growth Enterprise. Keary was trained in Behavioral and Social Sciences and is a Fellow and alumna of the Executive Development Program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.