For me, growth has become a bit of a conundrum in many respects. Because as humans generally, as business people and as family people, we all have different views about growth, and what it means to us at different stages of our lives. Just coming to understand what growth is, is part of the problem. Is it real? Is it imagined? Is it created? What actually is ‘growth’ for us?
And so often we hunger for it. It seems to be the thing that drives us and defines us as individuals – the fact that we’re growing, we’re developing, we’re taking on new things, new aspects of growth, whether that’s knowledge or independence, or we’re reaching some degree of maturity, is so important to us.
But in a business context, it can often mean continual expansion, sales, profit – growth in scale. And one of the things that I’ve concluded is that growth is too often defined just by a number, rather than a quality or a value. In other words, we talk about growth in age or years or length of service, or sales volume or profit or margins – it always comes down to a number. Too often people only measure growth numerically and we can become a slave to that growth as a consequence, always striving to better what we did the week, the month, or the year before.
There are too many examples I can think of where growth is forced, and we have to question ourselves whether the growth is organic or forced. I’ve spent most of my career in the automotive market and I was very shocked, but not surprised, to see that 100,000 cars were registered in this country in just one day in September. And the reason for that, quite obviously, is that manufacturers and dealers have been pre-registering vehicles in order to meet growth targets and get their bonuses. For me, that’s a prime example of an entirely forced situation. That isn’t natural demand – it’s an unnatural growth of the market. And to perpetuate that forced growth can often lead to the demise of a business, just as much as it can to an individual.
So in many respects, I think growth should be more about value generation, about valuable experiences and reaching level of maturity and expansion which is based around those principles. I think too many people miss the real value of growth, whether that’s in terms of greater belonging, greater loyalty, or creating a sense of community. Fortunately, in marketing and branding terms, we’re now hearing much more about how experiences are adding value – it’s what most brands and companies are focusing on, and it makes sense, because we as individuals, on a personal level, and also in business, should be seeking greater value in experience – that’s what ‘real growth’ is all about.