The Growth That May Not Show

What do you call growth? Increase in size and scope of operations? What is the hope in this kind of growth? Increase in market share? But market share is relative, meaning that you can’t grow larger than 100 percent, the pure monopoly. Is it continued increase in profits — the proper motivation for the growth obsession? One can also imagine a limit or supremum to how much profit can be made, even in a perfect monopoly, because resources are finite. So when you tank at 100 percent market share and are very well profitable, what is left is to leave, expand your portfolio, maintain your position and/or become totally tyrannical. It’s a nice place to be.

But if the structure of society/nations doesn’t permit that, you could either try to restructure society and the nations, and/or enjoy the vagaries of competition and chance in business. The point we’re making is that everything tanks somewhere or at some point. So we ask, is it possible to chose your size and maintain ‘successful’ operations despite the operating environment? What conditions would be necessary for this.

Most organisations have a growth obsession, and perhaps, rightly so. Because growth may be translated to profit. And even where it doesn’t translate to profit, a ‘good’ objective is to have minimal competition, insuring dominance and long term profitability and existence. Every going concern has to have a strategy to remain so. Every one, we assume, wants to be successful. And more, to be seen to be successful. These are the origins of the growth obsession: power, pride, survival.

If survival is the primary and overarching motive, then business growth, as is commonly understood, isn’t a necessity. How many profitable one-man or small businesses do you know or see around that have been operating for decades without visibly growing. On a bigger scale, the Semco group of Brazil deliberately control their size, minimizing the temptation to get acquired or to acquire new operations. It is said that they’ve implemented sales and human resource policies that have ensured profitable operations in their environment without over-expanding, for decades.

Could we choose where to tank per time whilst ensuring sustained success, without the pressure to survive and complicate management by expansion. It would at least mean respecting our abilities and capacity as a person or organisation, understanding the competitive and operating environment, potential/likely industry trajectory, and committing your objectives to wisdom.

This brings us to the notion of ‘invisible’ growth, something akin to maturity and the realities of our human experience. We all stop growing physically at some time, but our bodies continually regenerate cells, flushing out the old and bringing in the fresh. We also grow in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. So that there’s a constancy to our appearance and a growth within that can be seen in the fruit we yield and that we still live.

If we hold on to that which is true, our tenacity keeps us from falling; we’re growing against a decay, so that people see a constancy. The underlying growth is hidden. Therefore, it is an attribute of growth to not regress from our current states when true and good. We may thus regard the act of maintaining sound practices as growth in itself. This growth is the growth of renewing and refreshing (i.e. a cultivation), not of change in height or status. Clearly, creating and maintaining some special relationships require the cleverness of renewing and refreshing those relationships (as with CRM). That is cultivation that leads to growth, a growth within constancy or permanence.

This is a growth where one is still: we aren’t stagnant since the cells of your bodies are continually renewed even while one greys. Procter and Gamble have rebranded a lot of their products countless times. It helps to keep and renew a product in the face of the people to keep it going. That’s the benefit of having traditions. It keeps hope alive. Products and services do not need to suffer from the decay that is of nature. They can be cultivated and made into a full grown tree, bearing fruit in its seasons.

CRM = Customer Relationship Management.

Growth is always at something’s expense. So we may choose to consider whether the expense is worth it. A number of environmentalists are of the opinion that the price we pay as a biological system for mining and burning fossil fuels at the current rate is too high for our future to bear.

If like Apple you have tens of billions in cash, most of which you choose not to share, and supposedly more than enough to maintain your competitive edge, what do you do? Buy up/into your supply chain, making you vertically integrated. Buy RIM and IBM if you could? Go into supercomputers? And then what? What about digging deeper roots in order to tank? Perhaps it’s some credit to apple they’ve been growing without radically expanding their their core businesses. And both them and Microsoft etc. are looking for new core businesses—and more importantly, relevance for the future.

Tanking requires strategic positioning and perpetual vigilance; it’s an equilibrium state that is potentially highly dynamic. So situations may not be right achieve and maintain it.

Couldn’t your businesses grow and maintain great market share and profits without necessarily growing its size. Let’s try to be as effective as possible, then as efficient as possible, before probably deciding that we need a new house. But why strain ourselves if we can already get the new place? Probably because we need to have learned some lessons from experience.