Keary Crawford is a Vice President, Portfolio Service Experience at E*TRADE based in Arlington, Virginia.
Keary talks to us about the “new normal” business environment and she teaches us the six components of any business which have the potential to create growth for an organization.
→ Growth strategy Company helps businesses achieve and sustain growth through research, consulting, and technology
→ Growth thinking emphasizes entrepreneurship, growth, strategy, and business innovation
→ Sustainable growth is important for long-term success, rather than just incremental growth
→ The current “new normal” business environment presents challenges and opportunities
→ A growth team within a company is responsible for defining growth objectives and creating a roadmap to achieve them
→ Experimentation and continuous learning are important in the growth process.
→ And a whole lot more
Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Bronson Taylor and today I have Kerry Crawford with us. Kerry, thanks so much for coming on the show.
Keary: Thanks for having me.
Bronson: Yeah, now I’m excited because you are the co-founder and CEO of the Growth Strategy Company. And with a name like that, it has to be a great interview for Growth Actor TV. And you’re also the author of Growth Thinking, a book that I’ve been reading through for the last month or so. So let’s start with the company and then we’ll kind of move into your book. Sound good?
Bronson: So tell us about the Growth Strategy Company. Are you guys a research firm? Are you a consulting firm or are you a software company? It seems like you got your hands in a lot of stuff there. What do you what do you guys do?
Keary: Yeah, you know, it’s we kind of do it all together exactly what you were just saying. We as our name says, we do. Our whole purpose of our company is built around growth and how do we help companies achieve and sustain business growth? We are all three. We do provide research that is tailor made for growth. We like to ensure that our content is consumable. It’s easy to read, share, discuss, because the whole purpose of it is to foster conversations and promote new ideas to help companies really solve old growth problems, you know, in new ways. But we also are a consulting firm as well. We exclusively focus on business growth. So we’re not like the traditional. We are all things to all people kind of consulting model. Our learning and consulting support services are designed to help companies define and achieve those growth objectives. And then, you know, our our future is really built around technology. We built a platform called Growth Cloud, and that platform helps companies grow in sustained growth, separate and apart from our services so they can do them by themselves. We can also help them do it, but it’s an annual subscription and it’s literally automating strategy. So it’s sort of like Marketo and Eloqua did for marketing and Salesforce did for sales we’re doing for strategy these days.
Bronson: Yeah, sounds really interesting. And you’re also timeline is we equip companies for sustainable growth in the new normal business environment. Those are all kind of loaded words. I want you to walk us through those a little bit, because I know you mean a lot behind those words. They’re not just a catchy phrase. Yeah. How do you typically equip companies? I guess that’s what you’ve already covered, just through the software, through the consulting to those kind of things.
Keary: Yeah, yeah. It is all of our services, whether it’s research or our platform or our actual training services that we do, they’re all purpose built for that very reason to help equip companies to achieve and sustain their business growth. And we have a philosophy called growth thinking, and we truly believe strongly in entrepreneurship, growth, strategy and business innovation. And that helps equip companies and refocuses them on their growth.
Bronson: Mm hmm. And then the next part of your tagline is, you don’t just say growth, but sustainable growth. So what do you mean by sustainable growth? Isn’t all growth good?
Keary: Yeah, I guess. But, you know, most companies experience incremental growth and it’s where they actually see a very discontinuous growth. So they’re up and down a lot. They they don’t they struggle to maintain a consistent and steady growth rate. Sustainable growth. Israel some companies actually achieve and sustain growth year after year, even in the face of uncertainty and change.
Bronson: Gotcha. And I think those would be some of the things we’ll get into in a minute with some of the philosophies that you guys use of how we actually get sustainable growth, because that’s what everybody wants. You know, going up a little bit to the right is good, but continually going up to the right is better. Yeah.
Keary: Yeah, absolutely.
Bronson: And then you use the phrase new normal, the new normal business environment. So what is the new normal to you?
Keary: Yeah, I know we use it a lot in the book. You know, the term defines this unprecedented economic disruption and uncertainty and change and complexity that has occurred in the last five or six years. That’s dramatically affected every aspect of business these days. You know, there’s a lot of saturation. There’s a lot of competition going across at the industry level, at every industry. And companies are so hard wired to for operational excellence. So that shift into innovation and business and growth is a fundamentally different new way of thinking for them.
Bronson: Okay. So operational excellence is doing what we did yesterday a little bit better where innovation is doing a new thing that we didn’t do yesterday. Is that kind of an easy way to get our head around it? Yeah.
Keary: You know, we actually distinguish in the book between corporate thinking and growth thinking. Obviously, the name of the book and corporate thinking is really that dominant mindset that every company does, that they lean themselves out. They’ve taken every scrap of waste out of the equation. And you have to have it to to properly compete these days at your basic temp, you know, ticket to compete. However, with the new normal business environment of all this shift and uncertainty, the only way you’re going to. Grow is to think outside that box anymore. You have to have a new way of thinking. You have to create demand instead of fulfilling demand. You have to you know, you don’t compete head to head. You compete. PIOLI Different market, the new offerings. So it’s a different way of thinking these days that is needed for companies. Yeah.
Bronson: And as you talk about the new normal. Tell me if I’m wrong. But the business that comes to my mind is Apple. I think about how they just come out with new product lines, doing better laptops. They kind of the poster child for large company that has growth thinking.
Keary: Absolutely. They embody everything we talk about in growth thinking. And actually, they we use them as a case study towards the back. Google is the exact same way. I mean, they’re just they’re the poster child for growth thinking. They think outside the box. They come up with different things. They create entirely new markets that people weren’t even thinking out before they came along. So, yes, that is what we’re talking about. We call our growth enterprises. So it’s a whole new kind of language that we’re trying to put out there around this and sprout these days.
Bronson: Yeah, well, now let’s dig into the book because I want to talk about some of the concepts that I think will help people listening to this understand innovation versus just operational excellence. So at a high level, what is the book about? I mean, how would you describe it in a phrase?
Keary: You know, I would say growth thinking is a new way of thinking that helps companies to consistently grow in a nutshell, even in a new environment that we just described. So at the core of growth thinking, it really offers a common language to mobilize entire companies and the employees within the companies around entrepreneurship, growth, strategy and business innovation. It’s really written for companies who are struggling to fulfill the demand for growth from stakeholders or whomever, and those who are really are just trying to be a little bit more preemptive, like, how do I actually make sure that I’m going to ensure my continued growth throughout the next couple years?
Bronson: Yeah. And as I was looking through the book, there were really a couple sections. I mean, all of it’s great. There’s a couple section that stood out that I think this audience will really resonate with. One of them is the Growth Strategy Framework. I’m a fan of frameworks. I mean, the Lean Startup has their frameworks, you know, you know, a lot of startups, they deal with frameworks, they have a growth strategy framework and you kind of go through six sections, six little blocks, and each of them is kind of something we should wrestle with to understand the growth opportunities that we have. Is that right?
Keary: Yeah, that’s exactly right. So, you know, I always say that growth strategy has an identity crisis or strategy in general has a identity crisis. You know, growth strategies are really about having the right tool for the right job. It’s much like strategic planning, operations, planning, market strategy, operations strategies. These are all interpretations of strategy, but they really focus this on operational effectiveness and incremental growth and head to head competition, not on sustaining business growth. So what we’ve done is we’ve created a dedicated and purpose built discipline growth strategy around making growth more accessible, repeatable and consistent. And to have that, you have to have a framework to do that. So we call ours the growth strategy framework. And it’s it allows you to have a visual of how you build and formulate and execute strategy across certain key domains that are imperative to growth. Yeah, we think there’s six imperatives to growth. One of them is the company, so we need you to look at your company. So we want you to look internally to your company. One of the principal areas that’s critical to growth is the idea that your culture and the assets of the company are they’re the means to your growth. And how well those assets are aligned is how well you’re going to grow in the future. They’re the core of your company. So we say you really need to create and formulate strategies and execute around certain questions around the company, like what makes you unique? What are you competing on and how can you improve and maximize those assets that make them more conducive for growth? So that’s kind of the company perspective. These are all lenses that you can look at for growth. We think these are the most important ones. The competition, it’s very similar to the company. So everybody competes on assets really. And this this really looking at your competition, really, you have to understand who they are and take the preemptive actions necessary to actually change your competitors strengths and weaknesses. So formulas and strategies around understanding who your competitors are, establishing how your competitors are positioned, like where they position within certain markets, and identifying those competitive gaps between your company, the competitor and your customer needs.
Bronson: To build that right there, because I think that’s a really important right understanding kind of what their position is, what your positioning yourself as, where the gaps are and how it all works. Are there any examples there you can give us or any more you can tell us? To really think through that cause I think that’s huge.
Keary: Yeah. So I think it’s important to kind of look at if you’re like in the manufacturing field, I think your assets are kind of your are more at your core competency, right? You have to have the right assets in the right locations. But where are your competitors sitting? Are they entering a different market to get a different advantage over you, whether it’s labor, whether it’s a relationship with a government, tax benefits, whatever. Looking at seeing where they’re positioned within the market and where you’re positioned and what the desires your customers are needing right at that time, or you think they’re going to be meeting, needing to be looking at, you have to find that gap there. And once you define that and you create strategies around it, then you can actually measure those and see how well you’re doing for that growth and matter.
Bronson: Is it fair to say that you almost have to like role play and act as if you’re the entrepreneur on the other side of the equation, that you’re the CEO of the other company? And you have to think through almost what is their strategy? Why are they doing that? What’s their long term play? Because if you do that, you’re going to realize what they’re ignoring, what they’re not excited about, what gaps they’re leaving, and then where you can come in. Is that the way you’re you’re talking? They’re really realigning and figuring out what they’re doing.
Keary: Yeah, and that’s actually what we call it. We say you need to realign your competition or force them to move, you know, move them for you. Don’t just stand by and idly wait for it. Don’t don’t compete head to head, figure out a way that you can realign. And whether it’s an asset realignment or a resource realignment or a market, whatever, whatever, what you can do it to reposition yourself, to make them irrelevant.
Bronson: Yeah. Now that’s a great way to put it, you know, make them irrelevant because just understanding their strategy now you can sum up their strategy in such a way that makes them seem less powerful in the marketplace. You can say, Oh, well, they’re doing this and this, but you can use the words are flattering and they don’t put their best foot forward and minimizes their strengths, right?
Keary: Yeah, absolutely. So we want to make competition irrelevant. That’s the best way to put it.
Bronson: Yeah, I know. That’s great. So we have kind of your own company. You’re thinking about what you have and your culture and your assets and your strengths and kind of where you sit in the marketplace. And then we think about the competition, which is obviously the other elephant in the room and what they’re doing, what their internal strengths are. And then I guess the next one would be the market, right? Because now you’re looking at the market itself and how those two kind of fit together. Yep.
Keary: So the it is it’s interesting, everybody has their current market really well, but what they don’t understand is their future growth and all their opportunities are going to come from markets that they’re not in. So we say that you have to really, really kind of reframe your markets. You need to formulate strategies and execution and execute upon where are we going and why do we need to do that? So let’s look at shifts and trends, what’s really going on in markets and why is that more appealing and why is the market not appealing? And maybe that appeal, that market’s appealing today, but given the shifts and trends and maybe regulations or trade issues or whatever, maybe the market’s not going to be so attractive in two or three years. So thinking ahead of that is really important. Okay. And another thing with the market, the other thing that I said, you know, a lot of people know their markets, but they’re not thinking about the other markets. This is same thing. That’s true for customers. So, you know, companies understand their current customers very, very well, but they’re not thinking about non customers like who am I not serving these days? Okay. So they’re very, very tuned into their existing customer base, but not to where their their growth is really going to come from. So we say you have to explore the new customer returns as long as well as markets and defining new customers while you’re defining new markets. And who are we not looking at right now? Who we could satisfy a need for?
Bronson: Yeah. You know, going back to the example of Apple, you know, when we’re talking about their products in this case, but they came out with new whole new product lines in that same way it said innovation thinking, but doing the same thing with customers, not just selling better to your existing customers, but having a whole new demographic that could benefit from what you’re doing. It seems like there’s a mental block there because I mean, I’ll give my own example, you know, growth after TV. I have all this content. I know who it’s for. I know that audience well. It’s hard to make the mental shift that, but this other group might benefit also if I just offer in this way, do you find that companies have a really hard time just even imagining new markets that they would even care.
Keary: A new markets and new customers in general? I think it’s I think they’re so complacent sometimes. I mean, we could talk we could talk rim all day long. We could talk Nokia all day long. They’re so complacent and they don’t think about it until it’s too late. I mean, Apple pretty much made Nokia irrelevant because Nokia had the technology way before Apple did. But they didn’t think there was a market for it because they didn’t go out to see if there was customers for it. This is the way it was. This is what people have always wanted. Why would they want something like this? It was not it didn’t it was a meaningful to them, but it was very meaningful to the potential non customers that they were not thinking about. Yeah. So realizing that being ahead of the game and understanding that there’s certain questions that you need to ask to be able to kind of try to be ahead of all of this. Yeah.
Bronson: But that’s what.
Bronson: About. Well, you know, you mentioned RIM. I mean that’s a great kind of antithesis to Apple where they thought that business was not a new normal. They just thought it was the way it was going to be. Yeah, they were the market leader. And if you’re, you know, it’s like Coca-Cola. You stay the market leader. No one can take that mantle from you. But now business. Anyone can take it from you. MySpace is huge. MySpace is an anything, you know. You know, rim is huge. Rim isn’t anything. And so this new business environment, it’s this understanding that it’s absolutely chaotic. And if you ignore innovation, you have no chance in ten years. You may be fine today, but you have no chance in ten years, right?
Keary: Yes. Yeah, I completely agree with that. You really have to be a little proactive in every aspect of business these days. And I think that’s why the three pillars of growth thinking are so important. I mean, it’s not just an offering thing. It’s not just a business model thing, it’s not just a customer thing. This is also internally focused as well. You have to be able to get outside of your comfort zone and to have that little bit of a balance on risk tolerance, so to speak, to make something happen, that’s that’s the only way you’re going to make something happen in the new normal business environment.
Bronson: I’m so glad you said that. Just going out and being willing to make something happen. My assumption is you tell me if I’m wrong, that that’s a big part of what you do when you consult it. You just go in and just light a fire. You just say, look, you need to think about this stuff. Things are changing. The business landscape is chaotic. Here’s some things you might want to try. Here’s some ways to think about it. But just having some energy in the room around growth allows them to start thinking, Oh, who are our customers? What should we try? You know, all these things. And I just want to say to the entrepreneurs, listen to this. Growth happens when you care about growth. You have to be thinking about it. You have to be obsessed with it a little bit. You have to have a plan. If you’re thinking about something else, growth isn’t going to happen. Is that right?
Keary: Yes, I completely agree. You have to make it an organizational discipline. Whether it’s a one person organization or a 500,000 person organization, you have to make growth an entire organizational discipline or it’s not going to happen. And I think Apple and Google are so good at that. And I hate to use them so much because they.
Bronson: Are trials for a reason.
Keary: They are. And you know, the other things that people really have to think about is their business models. And I think business models these days are really a modern source of commerce. You know, we we actually it shapes a company’s density and it really is who they are and who they serve. And and what does it do and how does it do it and how does it get paid to do it? You know, and if you can renew your business model alone, it’s a critical component to actually modern growth strategy.
Bronson: Yeah, let’s do it.
Keary: It is.
Bronson: Wonderful. Let’s dig into that because I think business model is not talked about enough. I think about Google, for instance, we go back to some of these examples. They have an Android phone that’s basically free because they’re not competing on hardware. They don’t need to make a marginal hardware. So they’re competing with Apple, giving away free phones almost because they make their money on AdWords. So their business model allows them to hurt a competitor because they’re allowed to give away something that someone else has to charge for. And that’s thinking about business models, right? How do we make money and how can we use that as an advantage to crush competitors because they can’t make money the way we do and they have to compete in their own way. Is that right?
Keary: Yeah. I like to think of business models as I like to do scenario planning and if I can test things out in my head. And the good thing with growth cloud is you can actually do it in a system before you actually put money to it. You know.
Bronson: There’s always good.
Keary: Which is always good these days, especially given the fact that people go into markets without even thinking of the risk and lose billions of dollars to do it. But, you know, you can take business models and you can kind of make portfolios of them. And what I mean by that is you take the components of your business model, whether it’s your channel delivery, whether it’s your partnership, whether it’s your value proposition, whatever it is, your revenue stream. And if you can think of different ways to integrate those and combine them, you can actually reinvent your business model by just doing that. You don’t have to do these elaborate, big things. We’re going to go out and create a totally new business. Think about what you’re currently doing and think about different ways that you can refresh the value proposition, or you can create a new value or revenue stream, or you can introduce a new partnership into the equation to, you know, decrease cost. I mean, that is is small things like that is really in renewing your business model, which is so important to growth strategy.
Bronson: It seems like all the things we talked about so far. At the heart of it is just not being satisfied with where you’re at. I mean, because, you know, you have a business model that’s working. Most people never even get one that’s working. Try a business model and they actually lose money to go out of business. That’s what happens to most companies. And so you’re saying even after I’m making money, don’t be happy with the business model. Reassess all the components. Even after I understand that I have a place in the marketplace that the competitors don’t feel. Well, how much more of the marketplace can you take and get inside their heads? More. Just really not being satisfied, right?
Keary: Yeah. Complacency is a dying word. I hope. I’m hoping it is. It’s really killed a lot of great companies. And I think that that’s why we always talk about entrepreneurship being so important, especially to more mature, stalling companies that are midsize. Or you could even have a mature small business that could be family owned for 20 years, and you’re just not growing. But if you’re not thinking about re kind of refreshing that mindset in that I’m allowing myself to be entrepreneur, I’m giving myself permission to fail to try different things, to take a little bit more risks than I normally do. I think it’ll go a long way, no matter how big of a company you are. One person to multiple national ones.
Bronson: Yeah. And you said, Akeelah, they’re giving yourself permission, you know, permission. Just allow yourself to have thoughts that may not be that good. I mean, that’s one of the things that I practice is allow myself to have dumb thoughts, allow myself to have radical thoughts, allow my mind just to go there because there’s no penalty. And just allowing my mind to think, well, what if I give away this and charge for that? What if I got this person on board as a partner and then I could do this instead of that? Like just thinking about it. You don’t lose any money.
Keary: Absolutely. You don’t. And I think it’s fair. I think companies really need to do that. They need to give teams and employees the permission to actually test things internally, to talk about them, to collaborate if it doesn’t work. Pivot from it. Pivot and go at completely different direction. But at least test you because that’s what’s really going to bring up the new offerings, the new products, the new ideas, new experiences. That could be a huge new future growth outcome for you.
Bronson: Yeah. And then the sixth one that we haven’t really talked about a lot, but it’s kind of been in everything is the offering that’s kind of been woven through all we talked about. But it’s really think about how to refresh the offer and give new offerings all that, right?
Keary: Yes. So products and services in a company oftentimes get stale. A lot of companies do. I mean, we can go back to BlackBerry if you want.
Bronson: Sure, why not?
Keary: But the proposition of these offerings may not be strong enough as it is to be you. So creating a strategy around renewing that offering is so critical and it could be taking a product that you have and creating a service around it, or taking a service and creating a profit product around it, or creating an experience above it all. And Nespresso is beautiful at this express, just started out as a coffee making machine. Then they went to home and then they sold the services around the pods, and then they created this whole experience around the great cafes that they put out together. And then they’re just it’s a great brand because they hit all the intangibles and tangibles of an offering and they just keep renewing themselves. And they’re a beautiful I love to use them as an offering example because they just hit it all.
Bronson: Yeah. Now, let me ask you this. With all the growth strategy framework, things that we’ve talked about, you know, you’ve given a lot of examples like Apple and Google and RIM and Nokia and really household names, but those are big companies. And a lot of the consulting you guys do is with larger companies. A lot of the audience watching this, they’re just starting out. They’re just got themselves or they’ve got a few team members. They just got VC funding. Maybe they’re trying to make something happen. Does this still apply? Should they still go through this list? I think customer market company offering competition, business model, how can innovate in those six areas and that lead to growth? Is it still relevant?
Keary: Yes. So growth thinking is a philosophy, but it actually has tangible tools and the tools and the philosophy, the whole mindset around growth thinking is size and industry agnostic. So it doesn’t matter what size a company are, you can be a one person drycleaner. And I know now I need to look at all six of these areas and I’ve got to figure out simultaneously, but also consistently repeating the process. So strategy is a living discipline. It constantly has to be refreshed or it dies. That’s what’s happened to these other companies. So looking across these six areas continuously over every year, every corporate are just constantly looking at it. How can I make myself better no matter what size or industry you’re in? Yes. This philosophy can work for you.
Bronson: Yeah. Now it’s good because as much as I think about growth for us, I didn’t have a framework that was this detail oriented or this clear, but this is basically well in lines running through just all these kinds of things that are just a little more chaotic. Now, I have something in front of me with six blocks on it, but I can, you know, systematically think through, which is even better. Yeah, another way, you know, we’re going to cover probably some of the same ideas we’ve already talked about, but. Another way to come to it is from what you call the science of growth, and you have three things time, space and sources. We’ll start with time, which may be one of my favorite things that I got from the book, because it just really it just made things really clear for me. But how does time and growth kind of go hand in hand?
Keary: MM So we have a couple of DNA organizational things we talk about. We talk about the psychology of growth, the science of growth in the mechanics of growth. So the science of growth is it’s really about a fundamentally new business logic that you put within your and it really is about creating growth and value creation as a function of time, space and source. So the time is by considering time, companies can actually deliver short term growth, which is what a lot of companies focus on, especially through strategic planning. All of that normal planning stuff is really focus. Even sales and marketing are focused on short term growth. But we need you to also think simultaneously about medium to long term growth. And that’s where your differentiation, that’s where your long term growth is going to come. That’s where your sustainable growth is going to come. And when looking at the framework of growth strategy that will help you develop the strategies for that medium and long term growth strategy.
Bronson: So you’re always thinking about all three. You’re doing something for today, something for tomorrow, and something for the future. It’s, you know, short term, mid-term and long term growth and is part of the problem because companies don’t do that right. They focus on the short term basically because, you know, the quarterly, you know, things are coming out and they need to get the numbers up or, you know, for whatever reason, they’re trying to pay the bills of their small company. It’s hard to think long term and try to pay the bills. Is part of the problem that to do long term things you have, they don’t show any results in the short term and people just can’t get over that hump.
Keary: Absolutely. And unfortunately, most companies are so held to to Wall Street. I mean, they have to show returns and they have to immediately pay their employees. And so they’re so focused on meeting, meeting that immediate need that that’s why they stall, because by time they get to the next quarter, they haven’t thought far enough ahead. They haven’t given them a solid enough time to think for the long term to get the strategies in place that are actually going to be able to get them through a full year, get them through a full two years in the full five years, whatever. So being able to stop for a second and think a little longer term than just your immediate needs will get you. It’ll go a long way and it’ll help you achieve and also be able to sustain your growth.
Bronson: Yeah. You know, in a company I think about with that discussion of time is Amazon and Jeff Bezos because, you know, some people love the way he thinks about time and some people hate it. I’m kind of on the fence. I mean, I’m going to wait and see how it plays out and just see what I think about it. Because he plays long ball. You know, he doesn’t care if the you know, the if the quarterly announcements are not up into the right, you know, in the stock, it doesn’t take that much of a hit because a lot of the investors know he’s playing long ball and he’s, you know, willing to give away shipping for free so that he can build up this massive customer base. I mean, he’s not playing short term almost at all. Right.
Keary: Yeah, he’s he is on the extreme side of time. Yeah. I mean, he has thought nothing but long term growth. Right. So he’s sat here and sacrificed short term, immediate returns and profit to make sure that he’s grabbed up all the market share all the customer base. And it’s a brilliant plan. We’ll see how it plays out. I mean, I have all the faith that he’s a brilliant man and he’s done very well with Amazon and it’s an impressive thing. I’ll be curious to see how it does come out. But yeah, he’s I’m very far extreme. Yeah.
Bronson: I mean, has there ever been a company that’s been that long term focused only.
Keary: I can’t think of another one can’t.
Bronson: Either. And I think it’s really interesting because if he succeeds, it’s going to become the new thing that you should do if you have, you know, the possibility of taking massive market share. And if he fails, I think that’s what’s going to happen. They’re going to get even more, you know, focus on the near term. So, you know, I hope he succeeds because I think long term matters. But we’ll see. I don’t know. We’ll see what happens. And it’s funny because people don’t even know that they’re not profitable. They like they actually think that Amazon is just this juggernaut of profit. They’re a juggernaut of revenue, which is different. And so that verdict still out on what’s really going to happen with that company, even though they’re such a household name. But that’s really a good way to think about this time aspect. The other one you mentioned is space, and I think that goes back to the market that we already talked about. This is really, you know, thinking about adjacent space and, you know, spaces near you that you might want to go into, right?
Keary: Yes. So the space dimension and you and this is about exposing adjacent an entirely new market. So again, this goes back to the Apple example or just thinking outside of the market you’re not currently looking at. So yeah, the space thing is getting outside of your comfort zone. Of what? You’re currently doing within whatever current market you’re at and really thinking around you. What else is going on? How can I take advantage of that? And how can I do something that will create a first mover advantage for me? Things like that. So space is really also very important to sort of the science of growth.
Bronson: Yeah. And then the third one you mentioned is sources, explained sources to me a little bit. What do you mean by that?
Keary: So we call sources. So by exploring new sources of growth, companies are able to kind of create unique combinations of value proposition offerings, whatever, for that kind of growth. So sources of growth can be anything from what we talked about earlier, you know, how do I create a new product, how to service experience around it? Where’s my new source of customers? Where’s my new source of market? You know? So creating all of these connections and combinations and playing around with them is creating new sources for unique combinations of value proposition.
Bronson: Gotcha. And then, you know, because of your framework, because of all your kind of philosophical thinking about growth, it seems like it’s led to some counterintuitive beliefs that you have that you don’t hear talked about a whole lot. Yeah. One of the things I found online is you say that companies can’t buy growth. What do you mean by that? Because we think that’s what M&A is. Do they buy growth? Right.
Keary: Yeah. You know, so Cisco’s a great example of a Cisco over the last, you know, ever since it was formed by husband and wife, team, entrepreneur team. They that’s how they grew. They bought company after company after company. And they grew very well over the last couple. I mean, it’s worked out very well for them for a while. A lot of companies use mergers, mergers and acquisitions to buy their growth. We say it’s a proxy for real growth, growth focused companies, what we call growth enterprises. They don’t buy growth. Rather, they focus on M&A activities for emerging technologies or a complementary offering that could provide them with a differentiation or a first mover advantage. So mergers acquisition is not a B-word. It’s not a no no. And growth thinking. It’s you have to strategically think about it. You don’t grow just to, you know, have favorable accounting treatment to allow you to adjust your growth rates. In the past, that’s a proxy.
Keary: You buy for forward thinking growth. So you buy to try to figure out, oh, there’s a new emerging technology that can integrate into a project I already have that could really create a unique value proposition for my customers.
Bronson: So it kind of goes back to the idea of time. And so if they’re doing M&A is only for the now the short term growth, you’re already at the end of that growth curve for that company and it’s just going to die off. I think about Zynga buying what’s that one company pop whatever that did the the you know the word game that went crazy and then they bought at the top of its growth I can’t read the name of it it’s it’s given me by the board at the top of its growth. And if you look at the the curve like the week they bought it, it starts going down. So that was a bad M&A because they didn’t buy for future innovation. They bought for today what they have as an asset where they bought something that was an emerging technology, something new, a new kind of game. It’s really thinking more mid-term and long term and that’s how you buy growth if it’s possible, right? Yeah.
Keary: I mean, it does hit time very well. Also is a good source. I mean, what’s buy new source of technology that I could come up with that could create a new offering and and space as well? Is that new? Is that new complementary? Often can get me into a completely different market I wasn’t even thinking of. I mean, it really embodies all three components of the science of growth, really.
Bronson: And then another thing that you say is that finance doesn’t create growth. So tell me about that a little bit. Why doesn’t finance create growth? What do you mean by that anyway?
Keary: Yeah, this is kind of a complicated concept. So this is really the difference between inside out and outside in measurements of growth. So let me see some. Finance dominated corporate environments they grow. Growth is really viewed as like this mathematical complex formula that comes out that’s very internally driven, is created internally. You know, Exxon, I think, was really famous for this in the 1990s where they used they built their entire culture and communicated its value based on as internal metrics they called return on capital employed. And it was an internal one. But in contrast, growth focused companies focus on top line growth and their ability to sustain that growth. So internal metrics are critical because they use them to, you know, for over period to see how they’re doing internally. But top line growth, it’s an outside measure that determines sort of the ultimate outcome and the rate that companies can actually create value to their customers, their stakeholders, their community alike.
Bronson: So tell me if I’ve got this right. It’s basically is what you’re doing, is the market responding in the terms the market already uses, not with your fancy new algorithms that you use to hype up everybody to make you think you’re going at the bottom line. Are people buying what you’re selling more today than yesterday? Do the numbers that we normally think about growth with, are they going up into the right? Not some internal metric to make employees feel good, right?
Keary: Yeah. So it’s not about financial engineering, it’s about top line growth. I mean, in a nutshell, that’s the only way that’s the easiest way to explain it. It’s it’s not about how what you’re doing internally to manipulate numbers. It’s about your top line growth. How are you actually growing and how are you going to sustain it? And that will create your value for your future.
Bronson: Example of growth after TV, you know, we have a dashboard because we’re growth hackers. We have tons of data on everything that’s happening in our system. And there’s only one number that matters. How much was my paycheck this month? That’s like because that’s the number where it doesn’t matter how many videos are watched, it doesn’t matter how many new accounts we have, it doesn’t matter how many can’t. Like end of the day, there’s a lot of metrics. Is my paycheck going up or is it going down because I’m an employee trying to make money? So it’s just the bottom line is, is the market responding when it comes down to money? And if they’re not, they’re not. And it makes things simple, you know.
Keary: Yeah, it does in financial engineering is you can name the names of companies who have gotten in trouble for financial years. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. It’s top line growth.
Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. Just keep things simple. Yeah. And then the third one is that growth is not tactical. What do you mean by that? Because we love tactics here. We use them all the time. So how is growth not tactical?
Keary: Everybody like tactical stuff. It’s easy, right? Since you can see it immediately. Yeah. You know, most companies talk about growth immediately. When you talk to companies, they talk about growth as marketing and sales activity. So if you talk about marketing campaigns or sales activities, they’re inherently tactical and they focus immediately again on that short term result in growth growth focused companies. Again, this goes back to the time dimension. We focus on improving the medium to long term growth prospects to create that differentiated customer value. And this approach, when you when you think all across the three horizons the short to long term this takes companies from being tactical and fulfilling demand tactically to strategically creating new demand that leads to higher growth. So thinking over that time aspect again.
Bronson: Now that’s great. And I’m actually a huge fan of both. I mean, you need tactics in each strategy because strategy without tactics is just people talking a boardroom and tactical strategy is not doing. What I’m doing is shooting from the hip and maybe hitting my target on accident when you put them together. It’s a really powerful one. Two points, and that’s what I want people to hear from. This is the philosophy, the strategy. The overarching concept is here’s the six things in the growth strategy framework. Have a way for your company to think through those six things on an ongoing basis, not just once. Make sure you thinking about in the short term, mid-term and long term, and then you have a discussion about tactics. How do how are we going to absolutely move the needle, given that we’re going to try to redefine the customer to be X instead of Y?
Keary: Yeah. And growth thinking. And I’ll just make this one point, because I think it’s very important to what you just said. Growth thinking is a complement. It’s almost an antidote to everything companies are doing currently. You have to do what you’re doing. You have to be operationally efficient. You have to lean out your organizations. You have to do all the things that you’re currently doing. Looking at short term growth, you have to have sales and marketing. Those are inherent in every company. But it’s also a basic tactic to get to compete. In order to grow in the new environment, you have to think outside that. You have to have sort of like a yin and yang to that, right? And when you think growth thinking is that you have to still do what you’re currently doing to stay current.
Bronson: To stay alive today.
Keary: So I want you to think outside of that shell a little bit. And I think that’s where people will start realizing that they can actually sustain and actually keep it going. The breath. That they need to.
Bronson: Yeah, no, it’s great. Well, Kerry, this has been an incredible interview. I have one last question for you. Given how much you’ve thought about growth, a lot of people watching this are entrepreneurs are trying to something growing. What’s the best advice you have for any startup that’s trying to grow?
Keary: Being a serial entrepreneur, my partner and I talk about this all the time because this is our third venture and we’ve been lucky and blessed enough to have them been sold or bought by private equity firms in the past. But I think that the one piece of advice that we always go back to is the one advantage that entrepreneurs have over me. The medium to large companies is their ability to change direction quickly. So if you pivot quickly, take advantage of that, take take the time and give yourself permission again to experiment, to challenge all your assumptions that you have about business and growth and evolve those ideas into new offerings, new business models, new customers and new markets. And I think you’ll be very successful.
Bronson: Yeah. As an entrepreneur, they can run through the strategy, the growth strategy framework faster than other corporations, so they can innovate so quick. And the whole interview has been about innovation, not just operational excellence. So that’s great advice to end on. Cleary, thank you so much for coming on growth after TV.
Keary: Thank you for having me.
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