Break Down Internal Barriers to Growth
By Karen See & Keith Russell, Abovo Group
The market is finally rebounding, and attention is moving from cost control and efficiency to growth. Unfortunately, the internal focus on efficiency has left a legacy in many companies that constrains their ability to find growth opportunities. Companies must abandon these constraints to achieve their potential.
A recent client experience helps illustrate this point. The company engaged our services to validate and position for market success a new service concept they had been developing for 18 months. Interviews with the client’s current and potential customers validated market demand for elements of the solution—as long as they were presented in a fundamentally different package. The interviews also revealed demand for a new business that would bring together offerings across multiple client divisions.
This scenario illustrates two important lessons about growth. First, listen to your market. Our client was internally focused, worrying about what they had built and could efficiently deliver instead of understanding what the market wanted. By listening objectively to the market, we were able to modify the offering to ensure its success—and uncover a new business opportunity. The market will give you permission to grow, but you must ask your customers what they need, rather than focus on your own capabilities.
Second, open up your organizational boundaries if you want to develop new and advantaged offerings. Our client’s organization had strong silos, yet the market could see resources buried in each division that together could potentially satisfy unmet needs. They saw it, but the company couldn’t. You must look across the total company to generate ideas and develop your ability to serve. Don’t let structure and politics get in the way of innovation.
Simple concepts … but how do you do it? Empower someone external to the existing structure and products—someone in corporate, or an outsider—to gather unfiltered insight from the market and secure cross-organizational access to ideas without concern for politics.
As the economy recovers, companies must focus on growth. Make sure you really listen to the needs of the market. And then harness the resources of the total organization. The solutions with the strongest defensibility and highest profits come from leveraging the full capabilities of the company to satisfy an unmet market need.
Karen See and Keith Russell are partners in Abovo Growth Strategies, a division of Abovo Group, Inc. Keith has more than 20 years business strategy expertise as an executive at Boston Consulting Group, Booz-Allen Hamilton and as CEO of ForestExpress. CEO and founder of Abovo Group, Karen offers 20 years of marketing strategy and branding expertise. She has also held executive marketing positions at KPMG Peat Marwick and First Data Corporation’s Health Systems Division.