I am privileged to get to speak and spend time with hundreds of senior executives every year in various forums. There are smart and driven people as a general rule. There are several common themes that I get to see across this group, regardless of the size of company, industry or geography. The most common theme or priority I hear is the desire for organic revenue growth. The rationale is somewhat obvious, but the ability to plan it and execute the plan is far less obvious.

There was one meeting a few years ago that stood out for me by the over confidence of their position. This company had scaled dramatically, but on closer inspection of their financials, they were leveraging their balance sheet. They were acquirers, aggregators and financial engineers. Their model worked as long as they had cash and there were assets to buy at the right price. Their brand is relatively unknown and despite decent top line growth numbers, their organic growth was negative 5% for the past few years. What they lacked was the DNA or understanding of how to drive organic growth. They also did not care. At some point, this will be less optional for them and they will be forced to think about the levers of organic growth.

What if your Balance Sheet does not give you the opportunity to buy or leverage debt to buy growth? What if the ability to grow was not option as it is required for survival? How do these scenarios change your approach to growth strategy, execution plans and required investments? An ongoing Harvard indicates that virtually every for-profit company sets growth goals, but less than 15% actually achieve the goals they set.

In general, our markets are more competitive and the environment we exist in with our clients is getting dramatically more complex. Public markets reward growth, top-line and bottom-line. How would your approach change if growth was less of a “nice to have” and more of a “must have”? Not to generalize, but I think it changes almost everything. Examples include your:

-initiative ownership
-strategy
-operating plan
-execution model
-structure and tools
-sense of urgency
-accountability model
-key performance indicators or metrics
-need to measure and adjust rapidly

This all may sound a little obvious, but it is actually pretty uncommon. When we show up, typically an organization is embarking on a major transformational journey. Even though these are often big bets and the stakes are pretty high, we will often coach and guide to get some essential elements in place that were not considered.

Growth cannot be taken for granted and requires a clear strategic vision and a well-defined execution model if you want to be part of the 15% who achieve their goals. To echo a famous CEO’s words, “you cannot delegate strategy and execution”.

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