I still remember a quick phone call I had with Jack where I was validating one of my new initiatives. I was totally excited about it and thought Jack would simply love it and encourage me. Jack was all smiling (I think because I couldn’t see him on the phone) and with utmost care (and without mincing words) explained why that initiative had very little chance of succeeding. The call probably lasted only ten minutes but left a lasting impression in me. A lesson that I have used multiple times with people that I mentor.
Jack’s new book is all about growing companies and what they do differently. Here is a quick interview with Jack on his new book.
Rajesh: What was the genesis of Breaking Through the Barrier?
Jack: It started with the challenges I encountered in trying to grow my own business. We had grown very quickly, and we were profitable. Actually, we were remarkably profitable. But the business was a mess. I spent most of my time apologizing, fixing mistakes and dealing with people problems. It wasn’t a lot of fun. And, when I looked around outside my business, I saw
that my predicament was painfully common. A lot of business owners seemed to get stuck at the same spot I was stuck. It was almost as if there was an invisible barrier to growth past a certain point.
Rajesh: You say the predicament is painfully common – how many businesses are actually affected by this invisible barrier?
Jack: Raj, it’s a staggering number. Of all the businesses in the United States, only five percent have annual sales of a million dollars. And if that’s not discouraging enough, only a tiny sliver, two and a half percent, ever grow past what we might think of as the Mom & Pop stage – past the
owner’s immediate span of control.
Rajesh: So, why are so few companies able to achieve significant growth?
Jack: That’s exactly what I wanted to know! And what I’ve discovered is that companies that achieve significant, or even spectacular, growth are different in specific and measurable ways from companies that just muddle along.
That’s not to say there is one and only one way to grow. There are, in fact, myriad operational,
marketing and financial strategies that can and do lead to growth. But having said that, we uncovered a handful of practices that almost always show up in growing companies that almost never show up in companies that are stuck.
Rajesh: What are they?
Jack: Well, it takes the entire book to completely answer that question, but let me give you one quick example. There are eight key growth factors, one of which is the behavior and performance of the owner. Owners of growing companies consistently do things differently than owners of companies that are languishing. One of the differences has to do with what we call the entrepreneurial hire. We asked all the owners we interviewed this question:
In the past, how likely have you been to hire someone you didn’t need for current operations but would need for future growth?
There wasn’t a lot of gray area in the answers we received. For the most part, there were two camps, owners who were strongly inclined to make the entrepreneurial hire and owners who were strongly disinclined to make the entrepreneurial hire. Owners who were strongly inclined to make the entrepreneurial hire were dramatically more likely to achieve significant growth than owners who were strongly disinclined.
Rajesh: Give us one more insight from the book.
Jack: Sure. It seems almost silly to say it, but if you want to grow, you have to sell more.
Another question we asked owners was:
On a scale of 1 – 10, how hard is it to increase sales? (1 is really easy, 10 is really hard) For this question, answers were all over the board. But after a year or so, something started to jump out. There were a bunch of folks, the majority really, who said increasing sales was excruciatingly hard, giving a rating of 8, 9, or 10. That wasn’t exactly unexpected. But there was another group who said increasing sales was relatively easy, assigning a score of 3, 2 or 1.
Virtually every owner who told us that increasing sales was relatively easy had made a practice of what we came to understand as inventing new satisfactions. Most of these companies sold what is traditionally thought of as a commodity product. But they had found a way to augment that commodity product and in doing so, they invented new customer satisfactions, which made increasing sales relatively easy. What’s most exciting is that with some hard work and ingenuity, a lot of companies can do the same thing.
Rajesh: Anything else we need to know?
Jack: Yes. Most of what holds companies back is fixable. If you’re struggling to grow, there are usually just two or three things that really stand in your way. The first task is to understand what those two or three things are and we can absolutely help with that. Based on everything we’ve learned, we’ve developed a Growth Potential Self-Assessment. The Assessment is free and takes about 10 minutes to complete. It will tell you how you and your company stack up in the eight key components of growth. You can take the Assessment at: