Shooting for the Stars

29.10.2014

Shooting for the Stars

“It is easier to talk about growth than actually grow” says Aaro Cantell, chairman of Kasvuryhmä initiative (Growth Group) and chairman of the board and owner of Normet Group. The nucleus of the Kasvuryhmä is a selection of growth companies and entrepreneurs who (with the support of e.g. The Federation of Finnish Technology industries, Sitra and TeamFinland) organized a kick-off yesterday and I have to admit, that it seems like a sincere attempt to walk the talk.

The timing for stepping up to the plate is probably excellent. There are faint signs of emerging hope in the market. Not all companies are struggling anymore and survival is no longer the buzz-word, growth is back in our vocabulary. The kick-off was a string of presentations by a selection of the core group, all of them prominent growth companies in their respective industries. Their leaders are icons of entrepreneurism, their stories should not be left untold, they are a source of encouragement and they are living examples of how shooting for stars can pay off. And what is best, they are attempting to inject their experiences to the next generation of growth companies – with the noble intent of again lifting Finland’s business off its knees.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that when these 15 companies each summarize their 3-4 key learning points, there is a lot of trial-and-failure, lessons-learned, luck and experience condensed into an essence which the rest of us can benefit from. All of the points were relevant even if a large number of them I would categorize as no-brainers or baseline pre-requisites which I relate to but consider them perhaps too obvious. The top 5 which resonated best in my frame of mind are summarized below.

Come up with an inspiring story, a vision and key targets (Ensto). Good stories tend to spread even if not as fast as bad news. Inspiring stories build brands and bring life to business. They generate excitement and give meaning and purpose.Just like a compelling vision, which should be easy to articulate, unique and memorable. Just like JFK’s famous ‘Man on the Moon’ speech, a classic example.

Launch and learn (3 Step IT). Contemporary R&D is about creating the minimum-viable product, fast-launching and iterating cycles of improvement to fast-track oneself across the finish-line. Rather build a process which captures feedback and revises earlier releases of the product than cement yourself into rigid and long development projects. In today’s business environment, speed is everything.

Be the game changer of your industry (Kemppi). Easier said than done, but I see this as an attitude. Be disruptive and seek strategies and solutions from outside of the box. Changing the game means you lead and others follow.

The faster the speed, the tighter the focus (Ledil). Just like in downhill skiing, as speed picks up, you need to tuck in, avoid any activity which is not directly supporting your primary objective. An aerodynamic business has no bulges, it is streamlined and there is little turbulence.

Make a revolutionary promise (UPM Raflatac). This is symmetric to inspiring story-telling and a compelling vision. When a promise is almost hard to believe, although it might be risky, it is intriguing, it represents uniqueness, it is tempting and more or less dares you to check it out.

It was interesting to hear what CEOs and chairmen of growth companies said about internationalization. The ruling was entirely in favour of going abroad – the domestic market is just too small and also many growth companies are extremely focused, which means the addressable local market is just too small. Sometimes even non-existing. Globalization in the digital age is also such a vast opportunity that growth ambitionists don’t even consider missing out from.

Sceptics might say the five key findings are anecdotal. That might be the case, but if you adjust them to your own context, you will probably find a suitable degree of applicability in each one. On the other hand, if you are genuinely ambitious and if you truly aspire to become something bigger, if you are shooting for the stars, you will say these five theses are merely a good start.

 

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Mika Tanner

Bilot Alumni