A question of attitude: how high-growth companies think differently

High-growth companies think differently. They face exactly the same operating conditions as their competitors, confronted with identical challenges and opportunities, but our research suggests the Trailblazers bring a unique mindset to their marketplaces. This attitude – open, confident and proactive – is a crucial ingredient in their success.

Trailblazer High Growth

Some 56% of the Trailblazers expect their sales to grow by at least 20% over the next 12 months (a further 23% predict growth of 10-19%); 44% are very confident about the prospects for their business, against only 5% of companies that have grown more slowly.

This optimism isn’t simply a product of the strong growth the Trailblazers have already achieved – and it certainly isn’t blind faith. Rather, their upbeat outlook reflects their determination to exploit every possible opportunity – and to focus on the challenges where they feel they can assert control, rather than allowing themselves to become passive victims of the broader environment.

Purposefully proactive

It isn’t that the Trailblazers do not recognise potential threats, from Brexit to the likelihood of a slowing economy; like all businesses, they are concerned about these headwinds. But where they differ from lower-growth rivals is in their focus on the problems they can proactively confront.

For example, almost a quarter see increasing competition as a major threat for the next three years; having established innovative, market-leading positions, what concerns them is maintaining their lead. More than a fifth of the Trailblazers say not investing in technology would be a major threat.

This proactivity also manifests itself in the Trailblazers’ sense of ambition. Some 37% expect to acquire new clients in new markets over the next three years, compared to only 26% of the lower-growth cohort. Moreover, they have clear plans for achieving their goals, rather than simply expecting the marketplace to provide: while their slower-growth rivals are more likely to hope that stronger economic conditions will give them a boost, the Trailblazers are fixed on seizing the initiative for themselves.

For example, these faster-growing businesses are significantly more likely to be intent on realising opportunities through investment in technology, accessing additional finance and attracting new talent. More than a third stress the importance of implementing a strategy for growth.

Open to collaboration

The Trailblazers also believe in the power of collaboration. Confident in their own abilities and secure in the success they have achieved to date, they are open to advice from a broad range of sources. Rather than insisting on total control, they’re eager to learn and recognise they do not have the monopoly on good ideas.

These fast-growing companies are strikingly more open to working with allies such as business mentors, corporate advisers, non-executive directors and other potential contributors. Some 27% of high-growth businesses strongly agree their leadership makes productive use of non-executives and external advice, against just 9% of the lower-growth cohort.

The Trailblazers also recognise the potential of alliance – in all its forms. Among all the businesses in our research, similar numbers have completed some form of merger and acquisition (M&A) activity over the past three years, but the Trailblazers are much more likely to have engaged in other types of collaborative venture, and to plan to do so again. Some 31% of the Trailblazers see themselves entering a joint venture with another business over the next three years, compared to only 19% of slower-growth businesses. Twice as many expect to invest in another firm – a strategy that may give the Trailblazers access to new skills, for example, or the opportunity to test out new markets without full-scale investment on the ground.

Equipped for success

All these attributes are significant factors in the achievements already made by our Trailblazers – and offer the promise of further advantage in the years to come. In the future, these fast-growing companies will face the same issues as their competitors in volatile and uncertain market conditions – but the way they think means they start from a position of strength.

Confident, proactive and open-minded businesses aren’t guaranteed success. But our research suggests these attitudes are invariably key ingredients for those companies that achieve it. On mindset and character, the Trailblazers show the way.

Meet the Trailblazers: Our research into Britain’s high-growth companies

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