Even though I was browsing the HBR Bogs, I was still a little surprised to see a post titled Five Steps to Long Term Growth because, to be honest, thanks to Wall Street, I didn’t think anyone knew what Long-Term Growth meant anymore. And I’m being serious here. The focus on quarterly earnings calls has gotten so intense that it’s almost obscene — the nosedive a stock takes in the market after a bad earnings call is typically so severe that one would think the world is going to end.
Not only did this intense focus on short-term profit cause the end of the famed research labs in the 1990s (like Bell Labs, Xerox Parc, Texas Instruments — and yes, I know that Bell, PARC, and TI still exist, but what we have today is not what we had then), two major market busts in the naughts (as everyone tried to IPO at unsustainable valuations), and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs (because people cost money and it’s more profitable to operate at skeleton crew levels and make everyone, in fear for their jobs, work unpaid overtime than actually be responsible and use the obscene amounts of profit the corporation is making to actually hire the headcount the organization should have), but it pretty much spelled the end of any thought to growth plans beyond the next year in the corporate boardroom – at least as far as I can see.
Of course, it is this lack of focus on the long term that captures everything that is wrong with the marketplace today. Once long term growth and sustainability take centre stage, short term profit becomes unimportant, Wall Street is told to go <expletive> themselves, people become as important as product, and the market changes — for the better. If you would like the market to change for the better, and become successful beyond your wildest dreams when it does, you can start by taking Vijay Govindarajan’s advice and take the following Five Steps to Long Term Growth.
1. Decide What You Are Playing For
Are you playing for the fat <expletive>s on Wall Street? Or are you playing for yourself and your stakeholders. If the latter, then you have to take a stand and do something about it. No one is going to do it for you.
2. Get Everyone Speaking the Same Language
Once you decide you’re playing for the long term, the next thing you have to do is something different. Growth means fostering transformational or breakthrough innovation. This will require identifying value propositions that will expand your business into new markets with new advantages.
3. Imagine Your Future
If you want sustainable growth, you must have a sense of what the future will be, what it will require, and how you will win. Then you apply your breakthrough or transformational innovation to achieving that vision.
4. Align Your Actions With Your Intentions
As Def Leppard said in a fit of Pyromania, it’s Action, Not Words. You have to remember that your people are used to hearing a lot of big talk about great new initiatives that never come to pass and without some action behind them, they will assume that your words are just another corporate fad that will be forgotten as time passes. If you say you are going to eliminate all traces of phosphate from your products, assemble teams to do it. If you say you are going to create 50 jobs with a new initiative, start hiring!
5. Do It!
Growth is hard work requiring strategy, judgment, and leadership. It involves risk. It involves you. You will have to keep doing it. Day in. Day out. Day over. Day under. Day torn asunder. And back to day in.