The Idea:  At some point we all are confronted with growth stall in our business or personal life.  The wine always runs dry. This sudden slow down or stop in a company’s sales growth or a collapse in creative thinking happens for a number of reasons.

A few years ago, the Corporate Executive Board conducted an evaluation of over 500 companies that suffered from a serious growth stall.  On average, their market capitalization fell by 74% and fell victim to one (or more) of three causes:

  • They didn’t respond to new, low-cost challengers, or a shift in the market.
  • They fell into the trap of not innovating quickly (or consistently) enough.
  • They walked away from or neglected their core business.

All of these pitfalls are preventable. Every downfall is the result of countless singular decisions, and it’s in these momentary decisions that a growth mindset prevents a fall. At their core, growth mindsets embody an ongoing paradox: we must all balance innovating new (exploiting “what’s next”) while building and defending our core, the core for which we are known. The winners do both simultaneously.  

Why is it so difficult to do both simultaneously?

A belief that a business’s core is saturated leads them away from what made them great.  According to a recent Harvard Business Review article called “Reigniting Growth” by Chris Zook & James Allen, companies suffer from three big blindspots: the business has become too complex with too much diversification away from what it was originally; the basics that made the business great have been put aside or forgotten; there is too much internal dysfunction within the company, even while new opportunities still exist.  

So how do you proactively defend against or rebound from a growth stall?  

  1. Owner’s Mindset.  Research has proven that, in larger companies, shareholder returns can show three times the growth when a founder is involved. Having an Owner’s Mindset is equivalent to having a growth mindset.  An Owner’s Mindset is a bias towards speed, action, risk and taking personal responsibility.  Everyone is a franchise owner and thinks like “mini-franchises.”    Does everyone think like they own the place?


  • Rediscover Why?  This involves cutting away costs and complexities as needed.  It may mean getting rid of businesses, projects, or initiatives that are not part of your core.  The emphasis needs to be on re-establishing what is truly unique about your company.  This needs to be supported by all levels of leadership and embraced by everyone.  What is your identity?

  • Think Front-Line.  The future is emerging on the fringe and reality sits at the front-line.  Do you truly understand the pressing needs of the customer and your front-line team?  Tom Peters made the term famous three decades ago, but MBWA (Management By Wandering Around) will never go out of style.  If you can’t tangibly feel and taste the problems, you are diluting yourself and don’t fully understand future risk and opportunities.  Are you spending enough time at ground zero?


Have you become captive or trapped by your own success?  Have you fallen in love with new ideas while neglecting your base business?  Has your wine run out?  Embrace the paradox of rediscovering (and innovating) your base while creating the future.   

Companies can age like wine, but it takes remembering their roots.