Lambo vs Lear

Plot the growth curve for your business.

Which do you want?  A Lambo or a Lear?

Slide into the Lambo.  Push start. The roar.  The rumble.  The anticipation.  Are you ready?  Stomp on the gas.  Head snapping acceleration.  Tires screaming.  You’re off.  In 2.9 secs – 100 km/hr.  Seconds later – top speed of 350.  Engine screaming.  Burning fuel at an alarming rate.  Screw efficiency.  This baby is doing all it can to just maintain top speed.  Pushing hard against a wall of air.  The end of the runway approaches alarmingly.  Foot off the gas.  The frantic rhythm of the tarmac slows as the Lambo bleeds speed. Touch the brake to slow to a stop.  Looking back.  The Lear has barely moved.  This leg of the race is won.  No contest.

Inside the Lear.  Looking out.  The Lambo screams past.  The Lear painstakingly crawls forward.  Turbines screaming, scratching and clawing to move forward. Chugging fuel at a monstrous rate.  The Lear creeps forward and begins to accelerate.  The rythm of the tarmac begins to change.  The increasing tempo hints to the acceleration building.  Far up ahead, the Lambo reaches the end of the runway.  Back in the Lear acceleration is building.  Gulping fuel like a mad man.  Then airborne.  A few minutes later at 45,000 feet, travelling at 804 km an hour.  Cruising speed.  Why is it called cruising speed?  Because at this altitude, fuel is being sipped like it is the finest champagne…… Slowly….. Jet engines are more efficient when they are going fast.  That’s right.  On a flight from New York to LA almost half of your fuel is consumed on taking off.  The rest is easy.  As for the Lambo, it will be in LA 4 days later.

Marketing is not much different.

You can create campaigns that are fast like a Lambo.  Fast to get moving.  Quick to reach maximum speed.  Then tons of resources to just keep steady.  They use the tools of activation.  Sales, offers, discounts, and urgency.  Quick to get going and hard to maintain.  I am not making this up.  There is lots of research to support this idea.  (Check out this video about the research)

You can grow doing this.  But there is a limit.  Empires are not built this way.

Our clients come to us with a predictable problem. They had success. Grew like mad. They are doing lots of stuff. But somewhere along the way: growth stopped. They’re spending resources like mad just to maintain sales. And they are afraid to take their foot off of the gas. They know it is taking all they have just to maintain where they are. Change is hard. Two days into the trip to LA… you’re getting tired of the Lambo.

Lear jet campaigns are slow to get moving.  Take lots of effort at first with little to show for it. Then they get moving and once momentum builds, they explode forward.  When they hit cruising altitude it takes much less to keep them going.  This lets you expand to other markets, take advantage of other opportunities:  build an empire.  This type of marketing is built on emotional bonding. And emotional bonding takes time.

Most businesses are unable to build this type of campaign because they become impatient.  They are addicted to the acceleration of the Lambo.  Not the slow climb of the Lear.  This impatience starts with the expectations set the day you created the plan for growth.

The plan looks like this.  The plan is to grow from $5 million to $10 million over 5 years.  Most businesses have a sales line that looks like this.

Standard growth curve
How most business plot their growth curve

Nice and steady.  Increasing sales every year by $1.6 million.  But is it steady?  The expectation for year 1 is to grow from $5 million to $6.6 million (31%).  Year 2 – 23%.  Year 3 -18%.  Accelerate fast then slow later.  Sounds like the Lamborghini, doesn’t it!

Or they do this.  To double in 3 years requires 26% a year growth.  Steady growth.  It is like this.

Growth curve for some businesses

But is that realistic.

Here is what is actually going to happen.

Growth curve for real growth
Growth Curve Reality

Does this graph look familiar?  This is how every, fast growing company on the planet’s growth trajectory looks like.  Every time.  Growth starts slow.  Hard to get rolling.  Then it picks up, then gets faster, then gets faster again and then it hits cruising speed.

This is how the growth is going to look.  Where each little quarterly improvement builds upon the last.  The rate of growth slowly increases – remember the Lear.

This is a big deal for the following reason.  Let’s say you are doing everything right.  Executing perfectly but you built your plan using scenario #1.  Here are how your actual results are going to look versus plan.  This is Year 1

Year 1 Gap in the Growth Curves

Do you stay with the plan?  Here is how you look after year 2. 

Year 2 Gap in the Growth Curves

Two years of missed goals and not even close.  This is when business owners give up. Change the plan. Try something else. Right when they are about to take off.

Year 3 Growth Curve

You need a plan that has appropriate expectations in the early years and is ready when explosive growth is about to happen.  You do that by slowly increasing the rate of growth.

Growth is hard.  That is why most businesses fail to achieve massive, sustainable, long term growth. 

But here is the fun part.  Did you notice the shape of the last chart? See what happens in year 4?  That’s when the Lear lights the afterburners while the Lamborghini is 500 miles from the starting point, stopped for gas and a new set of tires. Year 4 is when Empires emerge.

Growth Curves Four Years Later

Here is what is going to happen in Year 4.  You spent 3 years working hard and in the 3rd year things really started to happen.  By year 3 you doubled your business.  But the fun has just started.  In year 4 you explode.  In Year 4 you double again.  Your business is now 4x the size it was when you started.  What took 3 years – now happens in a year. 

That is if you planned for it.  That is, if you laid the right foundation, built the right plan, and stuck to the plan. 

Lambos look sexy, make lots of noise, and provide a thrill.  But the path to massive success is to build a Lear.

Stephen Semple

The Wizard of Strategy
Stephen always sees the world through the eyes of your customers. His Four Strategic Marketing Decisions give you a lens to filter all marketing opportunities. Stephen’s articles and videos highlight the impact of marketing on your small business.