Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

How to Grow When Markets Don't

How to Grow When Markets Don't

5.0 1
by Adrian Slywotzky, Richard Wise, Karl Weber

See All Formats & Editions

Experts on corporate growth and profitability tell how nimble companies find additional profit by mining the margins of existing revenue categories. This text describes how today's best companies look for problems and opportunities in their customers' businesses and find solutions that stretch the boundaries of their product and service lines.


Experts on corporate growth and profitability tell how nimble companies find additional profit by mining the margins of existing revenue categories. This text describes how today's best companies look for problems and opportunities in their customers' businesses and find solutions that stretch the boundaries of their product and service lines.

Editorial Reviews

Boston Globe
...the most fascinating part of the book is not the cure, but the diagnosis...the analysis rings true...
Business Week
...a thought-provoking prescription to revive the top-line...they have the expertise, data, and technology to help customers...
June 2003 Industry Week, June, 2003
Adrian Slywotzky promises to be what Peter Drucker was...the management guru against whom all others are measured...
Publishers Weekly
In this shrewdly titled volume for today's tough economy, global strategy consultants Slywotsky (The Art of Profitability) and Wise analyze companies in mature markets that have managed to achieve significant growth without venturing outside their industry, manipulating their financial statements or acquiring dot-coms. Their chief insight is that established companies with experience in their field have, aside from their core business, a wealth of hidden assets-customer contacts, technical expertise, efficient business models-that they can exploit to grow new businesses. Take John Deere, which studied the growth in home ownership (and consequently in the residential landscaping market) and decided to graft its trusted brand name and expertise in agricultural equipment onto a significant growth market. Clarke American took an apparently waning business-check printing-and morphed it into a customer services firm for large banks. By building on intangible assets like brand recognition, knowledge of the customer and distribution channels, these companies transformed themselves into growth centers for new products and services. The authors gloss over many of the problems that hamper blue chip companies seeking growth, however-e.g., market attrition, declining cash flow, recalcitrant middle managers and stodgy tradition-and fail to note that many of the corporations they cite here fall into current growth industries like personal banking, health care and home ownership. Nevertheless, the book does take an imaginative look at the possibilities open to mature companies looking to rejuvenate themselves. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.79(d)

Read an Excerpt

How to Grow When Markets Don't

By Adrian Slywotzky, Richard Wise and Karl Weber

Warner Books

Copyright © 2003 Mercer Management Consulting, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0446531774

Chapter One

This is a book about growth-specifically, about how you can grow your business in the difficult environment most companies are facing now and will face in the decades to come.

Many businesspeople think of the postwar decades as a golden era of routine, almost reflexive growth. This picture is exaggerated but fundamentally accurate. It was significantly easier for most firms to rapidly and steadily increase their revenues and profits during those years than it is today. Many great companies were built using a model that appears, in retrospect, exceedingly simple: Invent a great product. Launch it. Sell it like hell. Go international. Acquire and consolidate. Cut costs. Raise prices if you can. Repeat ad infinitum.

But as most businesspeople realize, cracks have long been spreading in that traditional model of business growth.

The first major stress on this traditional growth model came with the rise of the business design innovators beginning in the mid-1980s. Companies such as Southwest Airlines, Nucor, and Wal-Mart focused not on product innovation but on inventing new ways to better serve the customer, capture value, and create strategic control in their industries. They created innovative business designs even as they sold products similar to everyone else's.

The result was that billions of dollars of shareholder value migrated from the traditional industry leaders such as United Airlines, U.S. Steel, and Sears to these upstarts. We've learned a lot by studying the business design innovation methods developed by these companies and other industry leaders, and many of our consulting clients, as well as readers of our previous books, Value Migration, The Profit Zone, and The Art of Profitability, have benefited from applying the same ideas to their own businesses.

Within the past five years, though, we've begun to observe a new and troubling pattern. What was once value migration from one business model to another has increasingly changed into value outflow. Profits and shareholder value are leaving industries altogether as markets become increasingly saturated and traditional sources of growth run out of steam.

This value outflow points out a key challenge to business design innovators in today's marketplace. Most have done little to shape new customer needs beyond those addressed by traditional product offerings. Take Southwest Airlines, for instance. It has built an innovative point-to-point route system with lower overall costs than the major airlines, but it still sells only the standard airline seat. It hasn't redefined the travel experience or created new demand by helping customers in some special way before or after they occupy that seat. The same is true of Nucor in steel or Wal-Mart in general merchandise retailing or Dell in computers. All have successful but fundamentally product-focused business designs.

Out of Steam

Unfortunately, in the years to come, traditional product-centered strategies alone will be unable to create the kind of growth companies desire.

In the past, companies searching for growth opportunities have relied on classic product-focused growth strategies: Create innovative products, expand the market for them globally, and make acquisitions to gain market share and create efficiencies. These traditional growth moves are as important as ever (and for a few companies, even more important). But for most companies, these moves will merely replace revenues and profits lost to commoditization and increased competition. They won't represent a platform for driving significant, sustained new growth. This is true for a variety of reasons. Let's begin with the challenging dynamics facing product-innovation-oriented growth moves: brand extensions, core product enhancements, and new-product introductions.

After years of brand extensions, most spin-off products are serving ever-smaller niche markets and fighting for space on increasingly crowded shelves. (The same applies to such basic services as banking, hospitality, and travel, which can be thought of as "products" in this context.) For example, between 1980 and 1998, the number of annual new food product introductions in the United States grew five-fold, to nearly eleven thousand. Similarly daunting statistics could be cited for cars and CDs, books and cosmetics, toys and televisions. In such an environment of saturation, is the world waiting eagerly for your next product extension? Not likely.

Thus, most companies? product extensions-think of American Express Optima or Pepsi Blue-are producing increasingly small returns in terms of growth, especially in percentage terms. The bigger your company, the bigger the growth opportunities you need if you hope to achieve double-digit growth. But while many of the billion-dollar companies of fifteen years ago had robust product extension pipelines, the same pipelines are producing only a trickle of growth for today's $10 billion companies. The disproportion is growing increasingly painful.

Product enhancement is another largely depleted avenue for new profit growth. In most industries, truly differentiating new-product breakthroughs are becoming increasingly rare. As a result, product competition in one industry after another is reduced to back-and-forth jockeying, as first one competitor and then another introduces a product with slightly better performance. Think of Nintendo and Sony, Intel and AMD, Boeing and Airbus, Avis and Hertz. The advantages gained in this tit-for-tat combat are invariably slender and fleeting.

And because meaningful product breakthroughs have become rare, customers are extending their product replacement cycles. If the newest car, copier, or computer is only marginally better than last year's model, customers can wait longer to replace it. Sales growth thus shrinks further.

Even new-product innovation is a largely depleted avenue for consistent profit growth. Of course, there will always be new technologies and new products, and some of these will provide genuine growth opportunities. But the intensity of today's product competition means that most product-driven growth is likely to be increasingly low-margin and short-lived. This is why consumer electronics companies struggle to post profits despite a never-ending cascade of new gadgets.

In high-tech industries, the vast majority of companies and initiatives founded on breakthrough technologies fail to get off the ground. Think of NeXT Computer, Apple's Newton, or Sprint's ION communications platform. Even the most successful high-tech companies have been "bottle rockets" that experience three to four years of spectacular growth and stellar financial performance followed by equally spectacular collapse, as newer technologies emerge and customer needs shift. This pattern has been borne out in the histories of such former high-fliers as Wang, Data General, Rolm, and Digital. Recently, with companies such as Lucent and Palm, this cycle has compressed to two years.

Thus, while technological innovation will be a source of growth for some companies and is clearly a major contributor to macroeconomic growth, relying on it for sustained growth is a highly risky proposition.

For all these reasons, the vast majority of companies are now finding that product innovation is, at best, a source of profit replacement or profit protection; it isn't a source of new, long-term growth.

The other legs of the traditional growth strategy, international expansion and acquisitions, are also largely depleted of their potential.

International markets, often viewed as a rich field for growth, have indeed created decades-long growth for companies such as Coke, Boeing, and McDonald's. Increasingly, however, international markets hold declining opportunities for significant new growth. For one thing, many companies have already exploited the richest international opportunities. A decade ago, international sales might have been 15 to 20 percent of revenues at most Fortune 500 companies. Today, foreign markets drive 40 to 50 percent of revenues. In addition, in most industries, the largest foreign markets-Western Europe and Japan-are now as mature, competitive, and saturated as the United States. And most emerging markets, despite all the billion-consumers-in-China rhetoric, are much smaller, especially when measured by consumer and industrial purchasing power rather than by mere head count. They're also generally plagued by inefficient distribution channels, economic and political instability, and protectionist laws.

Worse, emerging markets that once looked promising are increasingly producing world-class competitors that challenge U.S. firms not only abroad but also on their home turf (think of Korea's Samsung in electronics and Hyundai in autos). Or they backslide suddenly into economic chaos (think of Brazil, Argentina, Russia, and Thailand).

Now let's turn to mergers and acquisitions, a huge component of the 1990s growth story. From 1994 to 2000, M&A activity grew sevenfold to $1.4 trillion per year. But the pace of deal making has dropped precipitously as the high stock valuations that allowed many companies to make cheap acquisitions in recent years have dropped back to more reasonable levels. In many industries, moreover, consolidation has reduced the number of viable acquisition targets to a handful, making antitrust concerns a barrier to future growth through M&A. In any case, numerous studies have shown that acquisitions rarely produce new value and often lead to disaster, which has dampened investor enthusiasm for such moves.

When you strip away the effects of international expansion and merger activity from the seemingly impressive growth rates of the 1990s, what remains is often less than impressive. Many companies with nominal growth rates in the double digits have real growth rates in their base businesses of less than 5 percent. That holds true even without considering the use of aggressive and sometimes dubious accounting practices to boost reported revenues-a big problem and one that's much harder to disentangle. The popularity of such practices is, at one level, a symptom of the spreading growth crisis.

Creating sustained growth is hard under the best of circumstances. From 1990 to 2000, just 7 percent of publicly traded companies in the U.S. enjoyed eight or more years of double-digit growth in revenues and operating profits. As the growth crisis worsens in the coming decade, you can expect this percentage to shrink significantly-unless companies rethink their approach to growth.

The Human Costs of the Growth Crisis

This is not an abstract problem but rather a painful day-to-day reality. No matter what role you play in the world of business, the chances are good that you've already begun to personally feel some of the effects of the breakdown of the traditional growth model.

If you're a middle manager, for example, you've probably found yourself having thoughts like this:

Over the past few years, things have been getting tougher and tougher for me at work. I used to be able to glide from one success to the next. But lately, the raises have been getting smaller and the promotions less frequent. It keeps getting harder to win approval for new investments, new hiring, or new equipment.

When I first joined the company, it felt like an upbeat, innovative, forward-looking place. Now I'm not so sure. The top brass keep saying, at least in public, that this is just a cyclical downturn ... that all we have to do is batten down the hatches and ride out the storm. But I don't think I believe that anymore.

I still have a job-knock on wood!-but who knows how long that'll last. When my company stock holdings soared back in the 1990s, I toyed with the idea of early retirement. But for the past three years, they've been sliding sideways at best, and now I wonder if I'll ever be able to stop working.

Worst of all, work just isn't much fun anymore. Walking down the hall, I used to hear laughter and lively debates. Now I hear people whispering nervously behind half-closed office doors. I used to look forward to Monday morning. Now I just try not to think about it.

If you're a senior executive, you silently share many of the grimmer feelings of the middle manager ... along with a few special torments of your own:

It's always been tough to be a company leader. There's a lot on my shoulders-that's the nature of the job. But the weight sure feels heavier today than it did five years ago.

The problem is that earnings growth has gotten so hard to come by. Everyone I pass in the hallways is looking to me for answers. They're counting on me, and I know it. At staff meetings, I look determined and promise that the initiatives we're undertaking will turn all the trend lines up. But how am I going to deliver?

We have a strategic planning team that dutifully prepares reports recommending new-growth initiatives. Trouble is, the last ten proposals I've read look like the same ideas our company tried three years ago and five years ago. They didn't work then, and they won't work now. I visit the folks in R&D. They're just as smart and diligent as ever. But the new-product concepts they're working on look small, tired, and unappealing. How are they supposed to usher in a new era of growth?

My job has always been tough, but it used to be fun, too. Now it seems I spend my days scrambling to meet earnings forecasts to keep the wolves of Wall Street at bay. We cut costs a little more here, accelerate revenues a little more there, push a little more inventory out to the retail level somewhere else. I feel as if I'm endlessly pulling rabbits out of hats. Worst of all, deep inside, I'm pretty sure that one day soon the miracles will come to an end, and there won't be any more rabbits to produce.

Even the professional investor or money manager, who makes a living by picking winners among the thousands of publicly traded companies, is suffering because of the growth crisis:

Not so long ago, it was easy to deliver double-digit returns to my clients. The challenge wasn't where to invest; it was where to get enough money to chase all the good ideas.

The world seemed to be full of opportunities. New markets were opening up around the world. New technologies were revolutionizing one industry after another. And for years, the markets behaved as if the old rules about P/E ratios and earnings yield had been repealed. The multiples soared, kids straight out of MIT or Stanford became millionaires, and every quarter my portfolio went up another 8 or 10 or 12 percent. Those were the days.

Now it seems to be almost impossible to find solid companies with meaningful growth plans.


Excerpted from How to Grow When Markets Don't by Adrian Slywotzky, Richard Wise and Karl Weber Copyright © 2003 by Mercer Management Consulting, Inc.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

How to Grow When Markets Don't 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Leaders of established companies are now finding it harder to earn additional revenue. Authors Adrian Slywotzky and Richard Wise say managers must realize that the old reliable revenue sources - brand extensions, mergers, international growth - just aren¿t panaceas any more. The answer, they say, is 'demand innovation.' That means proactively making business more efficient for your suppliers upstream and your customers downstream. The authors bolster their argument with detailed, relevant case studies involving the likes of Cardinal Health, GM¿s OnStar, Virgin, Johnson Controls and many more. The case studies mostly manage to avoid the breathy, laudatory treatment that is virtually de rigueur when consultants write about their corporate subjects. The authors¿ 'invisible balance sheet' concept is useful. They also provide seven immediate steps companies can take to improve earnings, even if they can¿t create fresh revenue streams. Because this book offers practical applications, as well as theoretical strategic insights, we recommends it to managers in established companies.