Why Organizational Growth Is Like Being Addicted To Drugs

On June 24, 2013

Why Organizational Growth Is Like Being Addicted To Drugs

When I was on staff at an organization years back, we talked about growth all the time.

  • What are we doing to get more money?
  • What are we doing to get more customers?
  • What are we doing to get more people signed up?
  • Why aren’t we bigger?
  • Why aren’t we growing as fast as we once did?

Growth was the culture. Growth is what made us all happy.  Grow your department, get a raise & a lot of praise.

Grow. Grow. Grow.  Growth is an awesome drug but we never could get back to those early day “highs” that we felt.  We seemed to be searching for a new staff person, strategy, coach, & gimmick to get that original high.  In the attempt to reach the first high, we consistently felt like we weren’t there yet.  Soon, we became addicted to the growth needle.

I swore I would never lead that way if I was in charge but then…

We started The Rocket Company, we focused a lot on growth.  We HAD to grow to survive.  After growing by 832% in 3 years, we aren’t going to maintain the same growth pattern in 2013.  As a leader, I like for things to grow fast. So when growth slows down, it can be really frustrating to me. And even though I said I wouldn’t obsesses over explosive growth, I still do.

I found myself early this year wondering the same questions that were asked above.  I thought something may be wrong or maybe we were missing the mark.  What’s funny is this… We are still on the path to grow significantly but not at the percentage rate that we grew the year before.

As a leader, I have the ability to keep my foot on the gas pedal & push for more but I don’t think that’s what’s best.  Here are a couple of things I’ve learned about growth & when it’s time to slow down.

1. Massive growth should be a season, not a culture

You should focus on massive growth sometimes but not all the time.  If you are a growth only leader, you will typically experience a culture like this:

  • Staff turnover but think “they needed to go anyway”
  • Bad customer care but you don’t know about it
  • Crappy products or services but not really care as long as money is coming in
  • Unpredictable income patterns that make the organization unstable
  • Erratic culture that changes on a whim
  • Creating more stuff without making your existing stuff better

At The Rocket Company, we are making some very hard decisions to slow down & get better.  Bigger makes magazines, better makes customers happier.  We believe what Truett Cathy said is true, “If we focus on getting better, our customers will demand we get bigger.”

I am not perfect at leading this.  Most days I’d rather just grow more but the team around me pushes back really hard & keeps us getting better and better.

Key Question: Do you need to push the gas pedal now or slow down & focus on getting better?

2. Growth through gimmicks isn’t growth

Sure, I could send an email to our huge email list right now & make more money.  I could do stupid gimmicks to get a quick response or more profit but we have decided to move away from gimmicks & focus on slow, steady & predictable growth.  Gimmicks are good for the short term but they will absolutely kill your brand over the long haul.

We had one of customers tell us about someone that uses crazy marketing gimmicks every day to get people to buy but he literally said this, “If I saw _________(gimmick guy), I would stab his throat with a spoon.”

Obviously this was ridiculous statement but it was a perfect example of how growth gimmicks hurt your brand.  I also know churches & non-profits that do absolutely stupid stunts to get a crowd.  I’m not against an occasional gimmick or stunt but please use them with care.

Key Question: Do you justify your growth gimmicks & think they are needed?  What gimmicks do you need to get rid of in order to focus on long term health? 

3. Predictable growth is priceless

Growing at a very steady pace for a very long time isn’t sexy but it’s healthy.  Predictable growth typically creates a culture where:

  • Staff stay a long time
  • Your customers feel like somebody, not just anybody
  • Finances are detailed & predictable
  • You improvise through small tweaks, not massive overhauls
  • Your team operates off a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly rhythm
  • The leaders are focused, not frantic
  • Many ideas are talked about, few are implemented
  • You hit most every goal you set with ruthless discipline
  • The leaders are OK with leaving some growth on the table because of what it will entail

Predictable growth is priceless for the organization because it takes the pressure off to hit made up growth goals.  Predictable growth patterns produce better decisions for the end user.  I’m addicted to predictable growth.  I personally have experienced erratic & crazy growth & predictable growth.  I’ll take predictable growth every time.

I DO believe you should GROW GROW GROW when you are starting the organization but not when you are trying to sustain it.  I’ve seen too many firms do the , “Grow, Grow, Grow, Gone” strategy.  We are committed to creating something that is great & enduring.  Are you?

Do you agree or disagree with my philosophy on growth?  Comment & let me know how you feel about this post & ask any question you want.  I’ll personally answer them! Comment button at top of post. 

  • By caseygraham  1 Comments   


    Posted by Casey Graham on
    • Aug 11 2013
    Rodney, I don't know why this comment is just showing up but thanks. I appreciate you reading & sharing with your staff!

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