Growth – That Crazy Talk
Call it the entrepreneurial instinct, innovation, business savvy, whatever you want: strategic growth is how business prospers.
While some Mid-South and Memphis-area ventures stand as global luminaries of category-defining growth such as the modern grocery store and overnight delivery, most area businesses cower when facing growth.
Growth is a natural source of power, a wellspring or volcano. Businesses, like nature, live a lifecycle. Organizations are as alive as a person; yet, most businesses do not harness the growth process to gain an advantage.
Rare companies that address growth by a mix of planning and making well-timed, well-orchestrated adaptions to their plan make positive headlines.
In most cases, dynamics change market conditions and businesses retrench. They do more of what no longer works with increased vigor and focus. They react in fear. These actions dig a grave.
More than ever, every business needs to find, discover, and implement fresh, rewarding ways to procure and retain business. Remain relevant, demonstrate value, and compete with formally unthinkably high levels of service.
At the time when companies need to radically rethink their market strategy, they hide behind walls of denial and the sleepy, sentimental practices that worked in the 70s, 80s or 90s.
Sadly, we witness this reenactment at business after business: “Growth. What do you mean? We’re just sitting, waiting for the phone to ring. … We don’t need a plan. … We just trade customers back and forth with our competition, ” and on and on. We get thrown out for crazy talk.
Excuses and justifications, we’ve heard them all. They add up to a deafening wake up call for the whole business culture of the Mid-South.
Memphis? Do you really want to become just the world’s warehouse? Or, can we retool our business climate and invent new product pipelines and services that create new markets and generate serious returns?
Will the next Abe Plough, Clarence Saunders, Fred Smith, Pitt Hyde, Elvis Presley please stand up?
What will this generation’s visionaries look like? What core markets will they disrupt or create? How will they impact the world and infuse the local economy by being a top employer and recruiter for the area? Perhaps it will grow out of your neighborhood?
Let’s apply this crazy talk to existing companies. What old-line companies will transform their business model and product/service mix to keep growing? What companies will quicken their demise by not changing?
These are crazy times. Listen to the crazy talk.
What keeps you sane: accept the fact that growth is a reality in business. What keeps you inspired is when you see your topline revenue growing because you guided change in your favor. You have a strategy. You adapt. You keep the firm in the present moment, instead of living a tired dream and repeating outmoded practices.
Will the next company ready to grow, stand up. Memphis needs you. The world needs you.
In this article we will explore growth, innovation, and entrepreneurial issues and profile real, Mid-South examples. We want to give voice to strategic growth in the Memphis area. We invite you to help create a thriving business culture. Talk that crazy talk. Dream. Measure. Do.
Stuck in a rut? Meet Dis- and Re-
Perspective is everything. In life and work-life, this adage proves true time and time again.
If you can see opportunity without pre-set lenses, you are more prone to make advantageous use of this gift. If you harness the skill to zoom out and zoom in, you see your business in many different settings, in different categories and segments, and serving different customers. We, at the Studio, cannot empathize the power of fresh thinking and a cached perspective.
Let’s look at the opposite skill. Your organization has attained the glory of management, operational excellence. You have orchestrated the entire flow of work down to a predictable algorithm.
While you may realize a short-term bump in cost-savings because you have optimized efficiencies, something is not right. No matter how tightly you put the screws to your sales team, sales are down, heading toward flat.
What you manufacture is no longer desired at a premium price. Imports are killing your once sacred margin. The market has changed. Distributors turn your loyal relationship into a parts-dealer relationship. Low cost is king. And, they will not take your higher margin products to their clients. The market has changed. Your business model, although optimized, is no longer viable. You have gotten so rigid in your perspective that you cannot adapt and transform the business to meet today’s demands. You have essentially created a trap, built upon the faulty assumption that your snapshot of reality from which you derived the operational algorithm was an eternal truth.
Now, you must change or face extinction. If you kept a fresh perspective—and the ability to zoom in and zoom out—you would have never found yourself in such a costly bind.
Leaders today realize that they need to disorient their perspectives and reorient themselves to the market with fresh eyes on a daily or weekly basis to avoid getting stuck in such a deep rut. The market is never linear; nor should businesses be.
There are exercises leadership teams can do to disorient their perspectives, think creatively about their businesses, and awaken to a broader sense of opportunities for their firms.
If you are stuck, and what once worked well is working against you, try some creative disorientation and role-playing to way find and lead a way out.
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Michael Graber is the co-founder and managing partner at Southern Growth Studio, a Memphis, Tennessee-based firm that specializes in growth strategy and innovation. A published poet and musician, Graber is the creative force that complements the analytical side of the house. He speaks and publishes frequently on best practices in design thinking, business strategy, and innovation and earned an MFA from the University of Memphis. Follow Michael @SouthernGrowth
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