What the best growth strategies have in common

What do the best growth strategies have in common? 

Is it that they’re focused, differentiated, competitor-crushing ideas? A can’t miss plan that will return 10x in shareholder value? What about a highly researched analytics model that makes it a sure thing? 


Ok, then what about a strong core service offering and a happy customer base dying to buy your next thing? Limitless funding?


Alright fine. Then what?

The best growth strategies are all simple. Napkin simple. 

Napkin simple?

Proof is in the napkin right? Amazon’s strategy fits nicely on a cocktail napkin. Think you could draw this? I bet you could.

Amazon growth strategy on a napkin

What about the strategy Apple used to come back from the brink? When Steve returned he put Apple’s entire strategy in a simple 2×2. Done. Drinks anyone?

Apple growth strategy on a napkin

My favorite though is Bob Iger’s. When he became CEO of Disney he created a long list of priorities to return Disney to glory. His mentor on the board said he could have three. 

So for the next 15 years here’s what he wrote on his napkin:

  1. Prioritze Original Content
  2. Embrace Technology
  3. Use parks to develop lasting customer relationships

After acquiring Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, rolling out Disney+ and bringing the magic back to Disneyland he nearly 10x’d Disney’s stock price. That was a good napkin. 

Strategy for the rest of us

Look if you’re not much of an artist like Jeff or Steve you can write your strategy like Bob. A lot of us out there call this defining your “strategic pillars.”

Strategic pillars are the few, very clear ways a company is going to achieve its future ambitions.

Most companies have strategic pillars. The best-performing companies have 3-4. Poorer performing companies have many more.  

“ We can do anything we want, but not everything we want.” 

– David Allen

It has to be simple so that everyone (including Mickey and Minnie) can remember it, and more importantly execute it. 

Do you know your company’s strategic pillars? 

If not, that’s OK. The good news is you can help develop them. Write some down and share with your boss or a colleague at lunch. Most napkins end up in the trash anyway but that’s not the point. (If you want to know why, check out this post on why new business strategies fail)

Think brainstorming corporate strategy could make for a memorable 1:1 with your manager? I do. 

And if you’re not sure if you’re that strategic – I think you might be. Want to know how I know?

Published by brianhquinn

I write a weekly post to help you grow professionally, elevate your career and Become an "A" Player.