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In Search of Sustainable Growth

Previous growth is no indicator of continued success. So Karl heads to Inc.’s GrowCo conference looking for new ideas.


We've experienced extraordinary growth over the past few years, which put us in the top 100 of the Inc. 500 last year. So why is Karl attending Inc.’s GrowCo conference this week?

Because it’s clear that we need to continue to innovate to sustain our growth going forward.  Once a company makes it into Inc. 5000 territory, they have experienced enough growth to be an established business. While still considered “small,” in many cases they are on their way to being considered a mid-size or big company.

For us, growing a small company into an established company took a bit of strategy, but most importantly it took raw horsepower – lots of work by the founders and the early-stage employees to scratch and claw for new business, combined with superior service to our customers.

Now, however, we need to do something entirely different. Future growth will require a lot more strategy and smarts and a lot less brawn, at least by the two of us (the founders).  We need to learn how to grow an organization through hiring, motivating, and managing our team, which is much different than building a firm from scratch.

So Karl is taking two full days off from running the firm and talking to clients to attend GrowCo in New Orleans. The goal is to learn from fellow attendees who have already created this type of organizational growth.

He’ll be attending the speaker sessions and hope to gain some key insights and experiences, tweeting in real-time (@karlstark) and also sharing in this space over the next few days.   On the must-see list: President Clinton’s remarks on our role in the economy, along with “The Monday Game Plan”, a series of exercises and conversations designed to help create a personal road map of actions to grow the business.

Conferences, of course, are as important for the time between sessions, where you have a chance to meet other CEOs who are experiencing similar issues.  Swapping stories and sharing experiences is an extremely effective learning tool and helps us to question some of our preconceived notions.  Plus, the networking aspect always helps.  Conferences are a great place to meet people that you can develop into mentors and mentees over the coming years.

Check out this column over the next few days as Karl shares his thoughts and insights.  You can also connect on @karlstark or

Last updated: Mar 6, 2012

KARL STARK AND BILL STEWART | Columnist | Co-founders, Avondale

Karl Stark and Bill Stewart are managing directors and co-founders of Avondale, a strategic advisory firm focused on growing companies. Avondale, based in Chicago, is a high-growth company itself and is a two-time Inc. 500 honoree.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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