Double-Digit Growth in a Slow Economy – A Few Great Businesses Are Doing It


Slow market growth leads to a great deal of uncertainty for business leaders. One thing that is certain is the need to find growth on the earnings line of your business. In the period of 2013 – 2015 the topic was topline growth. Our economy had been sluggish for long enough that we were all eager to get back to growth and a few critical sectors began to grow at an encouraging rate. Pent up demand was a source of optimism. Housing, one of the larger engines for overall economic growth was coming back at growth rates of 15-20%. Automotive had been recovering as well and companies started doubling-down on growth in their top line after several years of stagnation. Enjoying the rising tide is a good start, Website designer but growth only when the economy gives it to you isn’t a recipe for long-term success. You are a genius on the rise and most blame external forces on the decline. Being well positioned for the economic lifts and lulls is critical, but outperforming the market is where your company stands out.

Growth in a flat market? Yes. In fact, there are opportunities that exist in that environment that make it very achievable. The sheer fact that competitors may limit their investments can actually open up opportunities, but you have to be in a different mindset than those competitors. One of the example companies we will discuss had experienced a revenue decline over three consecutive years reaching an overall decline of 37%. The timing was such that the economic news covered what was actually occurring, share loss in the core of the business. Using the techniques in this series of articles this business roared back to a growth oriented business with growth rates of 19% annually and EBIT growth of 5x. The success in revenue gains was so rapid, the company reached 100% market share with its number one and number three customers and 60% with its second largest from a base of 7% share with that customer. The economic growth of the category during this period… 4%. The leading competitor was later divested as a business from a very successful publicly traded company. This is what winning looks like with the right goals, processes, organizational structure, development, and… leadership.

Investors would have been satisfied with 4% growth in line with economic factors, but the best businesses take share from others. Very few are winning right now and it comes down to the investments or lack thereof that were made to prepare companies to be winning today. The seeds are planted 18-24 months earlier. If you aren’t taking share today, you probably weren’t making the right investments 1-2 years ago. While we can’t hop in a DeLorean and go back in time, we can start now for 18-24 months from now. Some leaders feel boxed in by the lack of growth. It limits the amount that can be diverted to initiate growth plans and many companies are reducing growth investments as we speak. Will they gain share in 18-24 months or will their competitors? If they all behave in the same way, the current share-stalemate will likely continue in their category. But, what if one makes a few well positioned investments? What happens when a company from the competitive set starts to take market share? Two things, first one or more of the set are then losing share. Second, they have momentum. Momentum that takes a lot of energy to catch up with by those who decide to compete for that market share. Being in a holding pattern, waiting for the next budget cycle, etc. means you are positioned to be at risk as one of the market share donors to a growth oriented competitor.


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