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Ruthless Focus

Author: Tom Hall and Wally Bock

Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing

ISBN: Wally Bock

Summary:A core idea is to develop your own sources of information, beyond what you're getting in formal reports. Then trust your gut when it starts sending signals.

Ruhless Focus

ISBN 978-1608445431

Crises are part of business. As Matthew Olson and Derek van Bever pointed out in their book, Stall Points, 87 percent of companies hit stall points. Only 13 percent experience unbroken growth in revenue. The scary part of their findings was that almost 90 percent of the companies that stall never regain their earlier growth.

So you can probably expect a rough patch or two. In Ruthless Focus , Tom Hall and Wally Bock outlined different kinds of stalls.

Some stalls are almost inevitable. They happen as your solutions to the problems of one stage of growth set you up for the problems of the next stage.

Larry Greiner outlined these situations succinctly in his classic 1998 Harvard Business Review article: "Evolution and Revolution as Organizations Grow." Your job is to be aware of what's likely to happen and act swiftly and surely when it does.

Other stalls sneak up on you. They retell the story that Steve McKee told in his book, When Growth Stalls . McKee had a gut sense that things were starting to slow down, even though all the key indicators were still looking good.

His book is valuable for two things. First, he gives you the view from inside as growth starts to slow. No other book I'm aware of does this as well. And, as part of his way of dealing with the problem, he conducted some research into stalls and solutions.

Spotting this kind of stall on the horizon is hard, but not impossible. The trick is to develop your "gut sense" of the business. Get out of the office. Talk to customers and front line employees. Go to association and chamber meetings. Read the business news and the trade press.

The idea is to develop your own sources of information, beyond what you're getting in formal reports. Then trust your gut when it starts sending signals.

Many stalls are self-inflicted. This happens over and over, especially, it seems to companies that have been stock market and media darlings. Here are some things to watch for.

  • When a company starts pursuing growth at any cost, it's probably headed for trouble.
  • When a new CEO talks about "making my mark on the company" that company is usually headed for trouble sooner rather than later.
  • When a company starts moving into several different businesses it usually means they're losing focus on what made them successful in the first place.

There's a common thread in many of these situations. When the CEO gets more concerned about reputation than results, trouble cannot be far behind.