Updated: Mar 10, 2020
Throughout my corporate career from analyst to executive, I built my career on my strategic skills. From my first post-MBA job as a Market Research Analyst at GE to my return to GE as an executive responsible for $350M in revenue, the primary capability that kept me growing into bigger and bigger jobs was the ability to deliver growth to stalled businesses and product.
The special sauce that helped deliver this repeated success? An externally focused approach to strategy. I was initially taught this approach in business school, where I had the privilege to study and learn from a mentor, Dr. Stewart Bither, at Penn State. I learned first hand from him of the importance of market focus and the teachings of Peter Drucker. At that first job at GE, another mentor, Steve Bell, showed me that starting in market research would provide me with the fundamental skills to gain a full understanding of the market and their needs and provide me with the foundation for a successful career.
I was lucky to have the chance to work in some fantastic large and small organizations, and regardless of whether it was from market research, product management, or business unit leader roles, I always was very involved in strategic planning. More specifically, I was very engaged in the growth strategy side of strategic planning. I learned first hand the power of taking a strategic approach to growth and the tools and thinking it takes to do it well.
One thing I came to realize is that this approach to growth and strategic thinking was not accessible to the leaders of smaller companies. As I started to interact with the leaders of companies under $25m, I began to realize that not everyone did Growth Strategy, and more so, most people could not do it. One and four of the CEOs I talk to in that market say they have the capabilities to be strategic about growth, even if they struggle to take the time to do it. The same CEOs think that less than 1 in 10 of their leadership teams have the knowledge or skills to be strategic about growth.
This gap is why I started Growth Strategy Labs to bring Growth Strategy to all organizations regardless of size or pedigrees. I genuinely believe that most companies have 80% of what they need for an effective Growth Strategy in their walls and with a straightforward and practical approach to help them their existing ideas and knowledge into focus.
To turn this idea into a reality, though, it took some motivation, which happened at the Thinkers 50 event in November 2019. Conversations with inspirational thought leaders like Chris Zook from Bain and listening to the top thought leaders in the plenary helped. Two specific things ignited the process for me to start Growth Strategy Labs. First, it was a great workshop by Alex Osterwalder, Yves Pinguer and Tandayi Viki (the inventors of the Business Model Canvas and Value Proposition Canvas) on creating Visual Tools to help people apply your concepts. This workshop gave me the inspiration for the Growth Strategy Playbook set of tools. The second was sitting at a table of Recognized Experts who had traveled across the Atlantic to support their coach and friend Dorie Clark who was a finalist for the Talent Award. The conversations at that table gave me the inspiration and reality to know that I could do this.
Just a few months later, and here I am, and here is Growth Strategy Labs. As the name implies with Labs, we will be doing experimentation with companies to help them learn the power of Growth Strategy and build the capabilities and process to do it effectively. I look forward to the journey and more so look forward to having everyone be a part of it.