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Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

First published November 30, 2010

Self-Delusional Business Growth Models 

There are a number of business growth models that – to put it simply – don’t work.Within this group, there is an especially dangerous sub-set: business growth models that not only don’t work, they’re actually self-delusional – as in, they lull the executive team into thinking they have a working model that’s likely to succeed, when they in fact have quite the opposite – a growth model that’s broken.

Today and later this week I’m going to share with you the three most common self-delusional business growth models. (As you read, bear in mind that I’m not suggesting these are bad business growth models which if you work hard at you might make work: I’m saying that they are irredeemably broken business growth models, and they never succeed.)

Here’s self-delusional business growth model #1:

1. Recasting a scary big target as a highly achievable small one.
The most common version of this particularly delusional growth model goes something like this:

This is a $5bn market. We only need to capture 0.01% of the market and we’ll have $1m in revenue.

This disguises a big target ($1m in revenue growth in one year) with a teeny one (0.001%). It’s clever, and understandable: Once the big scary target is recast this way, you can queue dopamine-like warm fuzzies in the composite C-suite neurological strategic brain – “Yes, we can do that tiny thing – yay!!

Except you can’t. Because it’s not a small thing. It’s a big thing: In this case, $1m (or whatever your big number is) in new revenues. Recasting it as something smaller does nothing except leech away the highly necessary respect for, and anxiety about, hitting that big target.

There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with having BHAG’s – in fact, I strongly encourage them. But instead of pulling the self-delusional trick of redefining them down into palatable, woozy-friendly tiny terms, do the opposite: ban all redefinition and stare down your goal in it’s rawest, least palatable terms (in this case, “We need to find $1m in new revenues this year”).

If you can not only live with, but embrace your BHAG in all it bigness, you stand a chance of hitting it. Smearing vaseline on the lens not only makes no difference, it’ll actually prevent you doing the hard work necessary to hit the goal.

Tomorrow: Self-delusional business growth model II

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