One thing all companies have in common is the need for growth. For most, it is about revenue growth and for others, it is more about impact or influence. I study growth. Well, more specifically, I study fast-growth companies. My interest goes beyond just the company. I am keen to understand the leaders with a growth-minded view of the world.
Over the last six months, I got insanely curious about growth with America's fastest growing companies. I set out to uncover the systems and strategies of the 2017 Inc 5000 companies. I began with one-on-one interviews with CEOs from Inc 5000. Let's call these CEOs the "Hyper-growth Leaders" because they have proven that growth is in their DNA.
The CEOs revealed how they made it to the hyper-growth stage without imploding. They did it consistently over the three-year span of 2013-2016. The revenues of these companies ranged from $3 million to more than $365 million without sacrificing customer satisfaction rates for the short-term gain.
I will share with you some of the insights discovered in talking to the hyper-growth who have average revenue growth of 2,731 percent. These CEOs were forced into new situations that caused them to push beyond their comfort zones.
There are three essential truths of the hyper-growth CEOs that drive their success in their market and fuel their growth.
1. Hyper-growth leaders value their people.
You might be thinking that growth has a deep focus on the metrics of growth like revenue and market share. However, the one thing that every company attributes their continued success to is their employees.
Employees are essentially catalyzing the company's expansion. If you are losing clients out the back door, you will struggle to achieve hyper-growth. Yes, I know that is common sense. The challenge is getting your teams to see it.
The people that serve, market and connect with your external world are important. The company begins to shape culture with as few as three employees. This means that leaders must be intentional about culture from the beginning.
I have had to learn this lesson the hard way. I wasted thousands by not developing the right people within my companies.
2. Hyper-growth requires leadership that inspires ownership.
All the research and interviews reveal the importance of inspiring employees to make decisions that keep up with the ever-changing pace in a company.
For the companies to grow fast, they shared how important it was for the people to feel like they were owners, not just employees. This even applies to those companies that don't have stock options and profit sharing plans (although those do help foster ownership if you can use them).
Imagine a scenario where leaders make people feel like owners and how that cultivates innovation. Another way to look at this is motivating everyone to think like an entrepreneur. When everyone -- not just the owner, CEO, and managing director -- thinks like an entrepreneur, the company is more innovative and grows faster than the average company.
In talking with Carvana's CEO Ernie Garcia, he shared how important ownership is to employees producing work that "moves the needle." They grew at 7925 percent over three years ending 2016 by getting employees to go beyond responsibility to ownership.
Change is everywhere. It is exactly why embracing the spirit of entrepreneurship and leadership inspires ownership.
For all practical purposes, the entrepreneurial spirit is equivalent to a feeling of ownership on all levels.
The entrepreneurial spirit brings agility and increases each person's capacity to accelerate their company's profitable growth.
3. Hyper-growth leaders are fast.
They are fast in many things. They develop ideas fast. They test ideas fast.
They quickly filter through all the good strategies to find the smart strategies.
A fast pace offers a competitive advantage in the markets that would otherwise take months or years to bring about. The hyper-growth leaders are fast on many dimensions.
Don Carroll is the VP of Business Development for Vantage Point Logistics who is innovating freight management for healthcare and education clients. Carroll shared with me, "We make changes in a 10-minute meeting that our competitors would take months to change. They are stuck." This allowed their growth of 3,422 percent over three years.
The hyper-growth CEOs have navigated some massive shifts in their journey to fast growth. These companies are where they are now because of their ability to serve their clients and their ability to develop employees, and they continuously develop themselves throughout the hyper-growth journey.
My journey of leadership and entrepreneurship is riddled with learning lessons like this. You may say that is necessary. I share my research and my own personal stories to help you avoid what is in your control.