GUEST: Jonathan David Lewis, author of Brand vs. Wild and Strategy Director at McKee Wallwork + Co
If you’ve ever been faced with a period of stagnation, it can be taxing trying to figure out what went wrong and why others are able to scale quickly when you’re stalling out.
We sat down with Jonathan David Lewis, author of Brand vs. Wild: Building Resilient Brands for Harsh Business Environments, and Strategy Director at McKee Wallwork + Co, to talk about what keeps companies from achieving B2B growth and to shed some light on why.
The 7 Growth Disruptors
As Strategy Director, Jonathan specializes in helping stalled, stuck or stale brands achieve growth. That niche came about when McKee Wallwork + Co experienced heavy turnover, shortly after making Inc. 500’s fastest growing companies list. They wanted to know why some companies experience sustainable growth, while others stall. So, they embarked on a research project.
15 years and 150 C-suite interviews later, McKee Wallwork + Co has found that there are seven key factors that affect growth in businesses. The first three are external, and can’t be controlled:
- The economy.
- Technological disruption.
The last four are internal, and should serve as early warning signs to identify to help yourself avoid commoditization, Jonathan says:
- Lack of alignment among leadership.
- Lack of focus in the marketplace.
- Loss of nerve.
“If you can identify some of these bad habits that are beginning to creep up, usually when growth is slowing, you can begin to intervene and get back to growth, get back to internal health,” Jonathan said.
The first thing to recognize when experiencing disruption, Jonathan says, is that external factors don’t play as big of a role as you think. “What really, truly separates those that can succeed and change and disrupt themselves and become relevant again, and those that can’t, is the internal dynamic.”
Facing disruption is like being lost in the wilderness. First, you need to stop and ask yourself what you have to work with. “You become emotional when things start going the wrong direction…you begin to make short-term, often poor decisions,” Jonathan said.
Then, you need to orient yourself to what truly is going on. Once you have the truth, you can get to work. Jonathan boils this down to two recommendations:
- Enter the danger. Look it in the eye and face the…
- Kind truth. Truth isn’t enough, because you can wreck house and scare people. Kindness is impotent without the truth.
“If you’re willing to enter the danger with the kind truth, you’d be amazed at what companies and teams and people are able to get through,” Jonathan said.
B2B Organizations: Big vs. Small
Is there a difference between how big and small B2B organizations act and react to growth disruption?
According to Jonathan, companies of all sizes face the same problem with seeing the truth of the situation – most are incapable of being honest or facing the reality. “It usually takes external circumstances to humble us,” Jonathan said.
What sets organizations apart, is their ability to cope with the situation, once they’ve been humbled. Smaller organizations tend to move quicker, as the logistics of making substantial changes in large companies is harder to execute.
What is Most Effective When Someone is Trying to Sell You?
We like to ask our podcast guests this question. Here’s how Jonathan answered:
“The biggest thing to me is relevance, because I can’t tell you how much I receive that really is irrelevant. Somehow I’m on the list because I’m breathing and I’m a company Relevance is everything. If there’s an email, it’s not just about ‘Here’s this new product.’ Give me something. Give me some insight Give me something that’s going to help me that’s relevant to my problem. You have to do some work, you have to learn about me.”
In every episode of the B2B Revenue Executive Experience, we try to pull one nugget of wisdom from our guests that they would impart on a sales professional. Here’s this one:
“Empathy. Listen. We’re so focused on selling, we’re so focused on hitting numbers and there’s so many more numbers around us to look at and measure. It’s so easy to forget to listen and have a little bit of empathy.”
This post is based on a podcast interview with Jonathan David Lewis, author of Brand vs. Wild: Building Resilient Brands for Harsh Business Environments, and Strategy Director at McKee Wallwork + Co. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to the B2B Revenue Executive Experience.
If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.