THE BULL: Fly under the radar?
Each year the Australian business magazine, BRW, publishes its list of the 100 fastest growing companies in Australia. It calls this the BRW Fast 100. The criterion for inclusion, for a business, is as follows:
- Minimum revenue of A$500k pa
- Fewer than 200 full time employees
- Entry forms must be signed by an external accountant or auditor.
Companies are ranked according to average revenue growth in the prior three years.
Essentially, it is a competition that companies choose to enter. BRW don’t enter companies in it. If you don’t send in an entry form, then you won’t be ranked.
One of the interesting facts about the 2009 list is that one-third of all companies had sales of less than $5m pa. A further 27% had sales between $5m and $10m pa. This means that approximately 60% of all businesses had sales of less than $10m pa –most on the list are therefore relatively small privately-owned businesses.
Is being on a fast growth list a good thing? On the surface it might appear to be. However, what does it actually do for you? Maybe getting some kudos improves your business profile – but does it generate new business or just put a target on your back? Do your customers and the market really care? On the flipside, I’m sure your competitors like reading about your growth and what your future plans are!
Two private companies that I was previously a co-owner of would have finished in the top 25 of the Fast 100 list on at least a couple of occasions (each) had we chosen to enter it. However, the fast growth that we were enjoying at the time stretched the capability and the capacity of the businesses to the limit.
Cash was being consumed quickly to fund our expansion plans and we had little room for error. We were focused on carving out market niches under the noses of our larger, more powerful competitors. These companies totally under-estimated us and that suited us fine. The more they ignored us the better. Eventually we just cruised past them and they couldn’t do anything about it. We had momentum and they didn’t. Both these companies became the market leader in their sector. Who knows if it would have been different if we had entered the Fast 100 competition and alerted the market to our progress? I wasn’t prepared to find out.
There is great power in choosing to fly under the radar versus promoting yourself in the mainstream business media. It depends on what is important to you. It might stroke your ego to see your name in the press but make sure it has a positive influence on your business. If it doesn’t, don’t do it! Self-interest and business are not a good combination.
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, said it well “for leaders to make something great, their ambition has to be for the greatness of the work and the company, rather than for themselves. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have an ego. It means at each decision point – at each of the critical junctures when choice A would favour their ego and choice B would favour the company and the work – time and again the great leaders pick choice B. Celebrity CEOs, at those same decision points, are more likely to favour self and ego over company and work.” Sobering, isn’t it?
Have a great week!