How to Lead when Company Growth has Stalled

When Growth StallsHave you had the privilege of leading a team while your company was experiencing rapid growth? What about the challenge of leading when growth has stalled? If you’ve experienced both, you know that maintaining perspective and staying focused on your vision is critical.

But if you’re faced with the challenge of leading a team through stalled growth you need deeper insights. Fortunately, Steve Woodruff and I will be welcoming Steve McKee as our Guest Host this week at Leadership Chat. Steve is President and Co-Founder of McKee Wallwork Cleveland, a company that was recognized by Inc. 500 back in 2003 as one of the fastest growing private companies in America based on its five-year growth results, only to find itself in decline the following year.

Yes, they went straight from five years of rapid growth to decline, and didn’t know what to do.

Steve’s difficult experience turned out to be a boon for all of us. His company decided to research two important questions:

1. Which companies experience stalled growth? (virtually all at some point, including those who’ve experienced lofty growth)

2. What are the factors that cause stalled growth?

As Steve summarized, “Our research has turned our understanding of stalled growth—and our approach to turning it around—literally inside out. We have found that regardless of what’s happening outside an enterprise, it’s what’s inside that counts.”

Steve and his company identified seven factors that lead to stalled growth:

External Forces:

  1. Economic upheavals
  2. Aggressive competition
  3. Changing industry dynamics

What Steve and his company found most surprising about external forces through their research is how often these forces actually catch company leaders off-guard.

Internal Factors:

  1. Lack of consensus among the management team
  2. Loss of focus
  3. Loss of nerve
  4. Marketing inconsistency

Steve describes these internal factors as “subtle and highly destructive” and says, “All four are psychological, all are capable of ruining companies from the inside out, and all are preventable—if you know what to look for.”

McKee went on to write, “When Growth Stalls: How It Happens, Why You’re Stuck and What to Do About It” and is a columnist. He will be sharing his insights on the How? Why? and What to do about it? at #LeadershipChat tomorrow evening at 8:00 pm Eastern Time on Twitter. Join me and my Co-Host Steve Woodruff as we dive into this critical and timely business issue!


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  1. Lisa this sounds like a very interesting discussion! And it seems that a loss of focus plays a role in both the internal and external dynamics that a business operates under. Can’t wait for tomorrow night!
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    • Mack, I think you’re right about the loss of focus. What struck me is how easy it is for that to happen in an environment of growth where you have so many opportunities and begin “chasing” all of them. So glad to know you’ll be joining us tomorrow evening – see you then!

  2. Greg Hartle says:

    Excellent topic. I’ve had the (un)fortunate opportunity to work for/with two great companies that experienced incredible growth only to stall almost overnight. In both instances, there were two main challenges…

    1) Losing focus of core competencies and dabbling in areas beyond the unique ability of the organization.

    2) Building too large of an infrastructure in an attempt to keep up with rapid expansion and growth.

    Thankfully the leadership team in both cases were able to creatively adapt and find solutions for overcoming the challenges.

    It appears that Steve has done excellent research in understanding and adopting strategies for identifying this challenge and steps to take to overcome it. Happy that he’s willing to share so we all benefit.

    Keep up the great group of guest hosts, Lisa!

    • Greg,

      I’m sorry you went through this, yet I appreciate you sharing your own experience here. The fact that it happened to you almost overnight is fascinating to hear. I very much hope you’ll join us for LeadershipChat tomorrow night – you’ve been missed and your experience/insights are always incredibly valuable! Thanks for the comment, Greg!


  1. […] How to Lead When Company Growth Stalls (Lisa […]

  2. […] that can lead to stalled growth (my co-host, Lisa Petrilli, lists them out in her blog post, titled How to Lead when Company Growth has Stalled). We’ll be talking about those during the Twitter chat tonight (Tuesday, Feb. 21, 8 pm ET […]

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