First in a multi-part series.
Yesterday I attended an excellent presentation by Lee Frederiksen on a piece of research conducted by Hinge Marketing and sponsored by the investment bank, McLean Group. The question they were trying to answer was why some professional services firms are able to grow in any market. A summary of their research can be found on Hinge’s web site.
This reminded me of another presentation I witnessed while I was lecturing at UMBC’s Alex Brown Center for Entrepreneurship. Norm Snyder, the founder of Conquest (since acquired by the Boeing Company) was our guest speaker and he looked back on his early years in business. Norm was the President of Conquest and when he sold this business to Boeing, revenues were greater than $80M. But for many years however, Conquest struggled as a software product company and in a thoughtful post-mortem, Norm was able to clearly articulate why the early years were so tough.
Perhaps the most insightful piece of Norm’s presentation was his analysis of his early years in business. Instead of being characterized as a “growth” company, Norm said they were a “slowth” company. So just as there is a formula for growth, there is also formula for “slowth.” According to the O’Neillsters dictionary, slowth is defined as:
1. a constrained act or process, or a manner of growing very, very slowly; gradual increase (maybe).
2. something that has grown once and has stopped or is constrained by the obvious.
1. of or denoting a business, industry, or equity security that grows achingly slowly or is expected to grow in value over a long period of time but never does: a slowth industry; a slowth stock.
1. stagnant, dormant, wheezing, coughing, sputtering.
1. growth, build, create, zoom.
Typical of any “slowth” company are the following five attributes:
1. Decide what you want to build, not what the customers need.
2. Sit in a room for years writing software.
3. Invest all of your money, including retirement savings.
4. Work with terrific people who are just like you.
5. Keep doing what you are doing and be confident that everything will get better.
We’ll look into each of these elements of “slowth” over the next few weeks.