Many high-concept business books present amorphous ideas about how to succeed in business, but Growth IQ by bestselling author, Tiffani Bova, is extremely concrete. This is not a book about turning your company upside down or inside out using trendy new concepts from a TED talk, but rather a book that looks at the way businesses really work and how to achieve growth.
The ten growth paths, a list “built on the back of long-standing management thinking and frameworks…” are all practical and applicable to all sorts of businesses. However, this is no quick-fix book: the ideas here call for a long-term approach.
Ten Paths to Growth
Starting from the premise that “one of the most persistent and vexing challenges faced by executives is determining how best to grow their business,” the author outlines ten paths to growth:
Customer base penetration
Customer and product diversification
Bova points out, “Too many companies seek the one right move — which, by the way, rarely exists — in order to improve or sustain their performance, respond to a competitive threat, or recover from a growth stall.” She also states, “When it comes to growth … the one thing is it’s never just one thing.” As such, she presents these ideas as part of a coherent set of strategies that work in synergy.
Throughout the book, there are case studies of companies that have either succeeded or failed at achieving growth, or who have turned around a business whose growth was flagging. These companies are mostly familiar names: McDonald’s, Sears, Netflix, Blockbuster, and, of course, Apple, the latter of which is probably the best example of a successful turnaround. However, most of these companies, if not all of them, are sui generis, and it would be foolish to attempt to emulate their strategies, just as it would be foolish to try to emulate Tiger Woods on the golf course.
However, with such well-known companies, it’s easy for the author to highlight the ten paths that she discusses, and how they manifest themselves in difficult business conditions.
The Customer is King
Bova begins with customers and their experience purchasing from companies.
“Becoming a customer-led company, one that is obsessively focused on customers and their experiences with a brand, isn’t just one of the ten growth paths, it is the growth path that must become the foundation for each subsequent path.”
She then builds on this throughout the book, with each of these growth paths referring back to the importance of the customer experience.
At one point, Bova gives a list of new technologies and how long it took for them to be adopted by fifty million people. At the head of the list are things like air travel, the automobile, the telephone, the lightbulb, and radio. Bova further explains:
“It’s mind-boggling that it took Air Travel sixty-eight years to capture fifty million ‘flyers’ and today companies, like Angry Birds, are able to reach fifty million users in a mere thirty-five days!”
However, she neglects to point out how all these technologies relied on existing infrastructure – airports, roads and gas stations, wires to homes, and more. In today’s world, launching a new technology that requires its own infrastructure is incredibly complex, though one could say that the electric car is currently retrofitting existing infrastructures to its new power source. But it’s worth considering how much of your company’s product or service does depend on an infrastructure, and how you can leverage that to expand.
There are some warm and fuzzy “unconventional strategies” as part of the last growth path, such as companies operating with a social purpose, sustainable brands, and other concerns. I would argue that these are no longer unconventional, that they have become almost essential in today’s market.
These strategies have, as Tiffani Bova explains, “The potential to be a gigantic breakout, making an end run around the competition — and even to pioneer a vast new market.” If you do have plans on selling your product or service through a charismatic CEO, it’s a good idea to have a look at this section of the book.
Why you should read Growth IQ
It is, perhaps, best to consider Growth IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices that Will Make or Break Your Business not as a series of actionable steps you can take in your company, but as a framework for future development and growth of your company that will most certainly require more thorough investigation.
The key points and ideas in the book show the direction companies may want to go in order to pursue growth, but adapting them to your own products, services, and market requires a lot of thought. This is not the kind of book that you can read through once, then walk away with techniques that you can apply immediately. But it does give you a clear overview of the issues that your company may face as it pursues a growth strategy.
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