Fast-Track Business Growth
by Andrew J. Sherman
Kiplinger Books, 2002; 630 pages; $29.95

"The need to stay competitive, to foster creativity and innovation, to encourage career advancement among top management, to build your brand, to respond to the challenge of overseas expansion, to strengthen the balance sheet, and to better leverage your portfolio of intellectual property may all be problems your company is facing," writes attorney and business consultant Andrew Sherman. "The right growth strategy will solve any of these problems, if it is properly formulated and implemented."

Sherman's new book, Fast-Track Business Growth, is an impressive A - Z manual on how to formulate and implement the right growth strategies. In its 600-plus pages, Fast-Track Business Growth covers all facets of corporate growth, from laying the foundation for business growth in your company to avoiding the pitfalls of unfettered or undisciplined growth.

Developing a Growth Strategy

The first part of the book, on developing a growth strategy for your company, includes chapters on defining your growth objectives, comparing internal vs. external growth strategies, and planning for business growth. Early in this section, Sherman warns executives about the common myths of corporate growth, which include the following:

  1. You must be first to market to win the game. "This is often wrong, wrong, wrong," writes Sherman. Many companies now recognize that "best beats first."
  2. Growth is the result of a conscious choice. Product success or industry demands can force growth on a company before it is prepared to handle it. The result can be disastrous.
  3. Growth is fun. It can be. It can also take a heavy emotional toll on executives and entrepreneurs and can wreak havoc on people's private lives.
  4. If you really want to grow, then follow the path of your larger competitors. "A small company is not a little big company," Sherman writes. Management structures, distribution channels, access to resources and many other features of the small company differ from big companies; the growth strategy must be adapted accordingly.

The Human and Financial Side

In part two, Sherman focuses on the human side of business growth -- how to recruit, motivate and compensate the employees and managers that will drive your company's growth. This section also includes an in-depth look at the legal challenges facing employers today. Sherman also offers guidelines for establishing a board of directors and an advisory board, as well as tips for hiring outside advisors.

Sherman's previous book -- also from Kiplinger Books -- was Raising Capital, which presented a range of possible capital sources for entrepreneurs. Sherman devotes an entire section to this issue in this book, and once again, readers will find the information clearly organized and explained.

For example, which is better: financing your business through a loan or by selling part of the business to an equity investor? In bullet point format, Sherman lays out the advantages and disadvantages of the two options. He notes, for example, that with a loan, the lender has no profit participation or management say. You don't have to keep lenders informed of all major decisions. The advantages of an equity investor, on the other hand, is 1) you can be flexible about repayment (in some cases, you have to repay a loan at the worst time in your business growth); 2) equity investors can offer valuable advice and assistance; and 3) if your business fails, you probably will not have to repay the investment.

Growth Strategies

After covering the capital requirements, Sherman lays out and explores various internal growth strategies (through mergers and acquisitions, e-commerce and international expansion) and external-growth strategies (by leveraging your intellectual growth, developing franchises, finding licensing and merchandising opportunities or building strategic alliances). A section on managing the challenges of growth -- including litigation planning and anticipating anti-trust compliance issues in case of hyperfast growth -- closes out this excellent primer.

Sidebar: Why We Like This Book

"In its breadth, insight and clarity," writes publisher Knight Kiplinger in his introduction, Fast-Track Business Growth is like an entire MBA program between the two covers of one book." We couldn't agree more. Comprehensive in its detail, but superbly organized, this book deserves to become a standard text on corporate growth.

Copyright © 2002 Soundview Executive Book Summaries