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Choose Your Business Path: Growth or Decline

June 9, 2020

Sara Schafer

As the leader of a business, you have two choices. As trends, economics and the environment change, you can adapt and capitalize on the opportunities, or you can stay the course and watch your business decline. 

The key to business growth is to avoid incremental thinking in terms of how you think about your strategy, explains Damien McLoughlin, professor of marketing at the University College Dublin in Dublin, Ireland. He spoke this year during the Alltech ONE Virtual Experience, which was held May 18-22.

In farming, or any other business, at some point you’ll face an inflection point, which is a business term for an event that significantly changes a company, industry or economy. Andy Grove, Intel's co-founder, described a strategic inflection point as an event that changes the way we think and act.

“Industries grow over a period of time,” McLoughlin explains. “The assumptions we make about an industry remain consistent over a period time. We learn the rules of the game. And we all grow together, some of us faster, some of us slower.”

Then that change happens — the inflection point. A current example would be the COVID-19 pandemic. In farming, examples include GPS guidance, electronic commodity trading, robotic milkers or rural broadband.

The seismic event occurs, then businesses either thrive or die.

“After that inflection point, all bets are off; the industry changes,” McLoughlin says. “The forces that drive that change are rarely a surprise, and the change, which appeared to be so gradual, then suddenly comes into play. And the opportunities are there for those who are ready.”

In using the book, “Seeing Around Corners” by Rita McGrath as a guide, McLoughlin provides these steps to push your business toward exponential growth.

1. Build an empathetic and united organization. Everyone on your team, from top to bottom, needs to understand they play a role in solutions. They understand the challenges the business is facing and are involved in overcoming them. 

2. Create high levels of innovation proficiency. McLoughlin reiterates innovation is a skill that must be honed before you need to use it. “Innovation is not a switch you can turn on and turn off,” he says. “You have to commit yourself to doing it over a period of time.”

3. Enhance your business’s resilience. To do this, McLoughlin suggests actually sitting down with your team and discussing the future. Look at the trends; see how your competitors are approaching the changes and brainstorm solutions. Ask: How can we prepare ourselves not to be taken by surprise? 

4. Develop a written strategy. “Many people think that strategy is big books and lots of PowerPoints,” McLoughlin says. “For me, strategy is really, really simple. It's about a leader asking a really simple question: What are the opportunities that exist in our environment, and what capabilities and resources do I have now, or can I assemble quickly, that allow me to take advantage of these opportunities?”

While these exercises take time and focus, they provide business leaders with a competitive edge. In today’s volatile environment, this type of strategic planning will pay dividends, McLoughlin says.

“We're in a time of enormous challenge,” he says. “But challenge always presents opportunities,” he says.



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