I was talking to another business friend recently, let’s call him Kevin, who, exhausted by a few years of successful growth, was looking to put a hold on growth for a while, just tread water and maintain position rather than pursue further growth.
This got me thinking, can this be done? Can you choose not to grow and still expect to maintain your position?
Unfortunately for Kevin, the answer seems to be ‘no’.
It’s going to sound like an awful cliché, but if you’re standing still in business you’re actually going backwards.
Growth is life, and just as a living organism can’t decide to take a break from growth, neither can a company.
I think this applies to all industries, but particularly to fast changing industries like publishing and marketing.
The reason you can’t just stop and stay still is simple: as Ovid wrote two thousand years ago Omnia Mutantur, everything changes.
Customers’ needs change.
If you’re not changing with them, you will miss the opportunity, and a decision to put the brakes on growth will cut you off from the opportunity to change.
I came across a very interesting article from Clayton Christensen in the Harvard Business Review (I can’t find a link unfortunately), but the gist of it was that good management can be a consequence of growth rather than a cause, that is, growth enables good management.
In other words, companies that are growing are better at improving processes and products than an equivalently-resourced company that is not growing.
In companies that aren’t growing, the spark of life disappears, the management capability of the same people withers and they are no longer able to recognise or take advantage of the opportunities.
In business as in biology, growth is life, and if you are not prepared to grow then perhaps you are in the wrong business.