Growth is the lifeblood of any company. A slowdown in the growth, or worse yet, a stoppage of growth can be a signal for downward trajectory or even the beginning of the end of that company. For every CEO or member of the executive team, pursuing enduring growth is one of the most important priorities. As soon as you get complacent and take your foot off the gas, you’ve made a cardinal error. Your company growth slows, stops or a competitor takes market share from you. Even more egregious of an executive mistake is that a competitor passes you and takes your market leadership away from you.
There is a life cycle in business that even the most successful organizations have to deal with, every company gets to a point of diminishing returns. This requires innovation, strategy, product or service modifications to fend off the declines. Companies like Blackberry avoided these strategic adjustments and it slowed companies like Apple and Android to take market share away. You can also look at situations like Gillette and Dollar Shave Club. Gillette had the razor blade and shaving market dominated, but the upstart Dollar Shave Club entered the market with a strategy to take market share away from Gillette and they succeeded mightily.
Here are some early symptoms to be aware of which may be signaling your company’s growth could be stalling.
1. Inability to state your strategy simply
If you and/or members of your executive team or any person in your company cannot communicate your strategy in the marketplace in a simple, straightforward way, this is an issue. Everyone should be able to explain in a few simple words what it is you are trying to do in the market. Most key people stumble around in a roundabout way when trying to search for a narrative to answer this to someone. When someone asked Bill Gates, he would say “a computer on every desk and in every home”.
2. New customer leads have tried others before you and failed
So, the good news is that prospects did not get the results they wanted from your competition. The bad news is they didn’t come to you in the first place. This usually indicates you have a brand problem in the marketplace. It will be a horse race between you and the competition about who will fix their issues first. Will you fix your brand perception about your ability to deliver competency to available prospects and projects first? Or, will your competition will their internal delivery issues first?
3. You are competing on price
If you are competing on price, chances are you have been commoditized in the market place. What has occurred in the customer’s mind and perceptions is that everyone in your industry and market are equal in quality and competency, now it is just a question of who costs more or less. You have no or very little value perception or your value perception is equal to everyone else who does what you do for customers. This is the commodity trap you don’t want to fall into because it’s probably going to be expensive to get free from it, as you will need to make sure you have value established in your product or service and then engage in a process to help educate your customers about it.
4. You are having trouble recruiting elite talent
If you find yourself asking “why can’t we get elite-level A-players”, you have a weakness in your culture and brand perception among possible top talent. High-level talent in any industry knows where they can go to expand themselves and increase their satisfaction and benefits. If you are not getting calls from top talent or up-and-comers, then you have a perception problem among the best people available that you are not a top-flight company. Maybe you lag in compensation packages, perhaps you are behind in technology, your vision may not be big enough. If you want to attract top talent, you must be telling your story all the time way before they consider you or come inside your walls. Orientation is TOO LATE to expose them to what you have to offer.
These are just a few symptoms of growth has stalled or worse. I could probably name 20 more but these are the most prominent and most deadly ones CEOs miss or have to try to cure. If you can avoid these or cure them, you can ensure your organization has a chance to maximize their ongoing efforts to continue to grow their company.