Down/Up: Building a Strategy of Cyclical Growth

In honor of Father’s Day, a piece loosely inspired by Robert Kiyosaki’s thought-provoking book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. What can these two different approaches to growth teach us about the nature of business—specifically, the nature of strategic planning for growth?

Two similar sons face compellingly different situations: their dads, one rich, one poor, each has a very approach to teaching their son about success. The poor father secures a job for his son, the other father gives his son the money he needs to start a business. It’s a quandary with deep implications for marketing agencies in Orange County that deal with strategic planning.

A few years later, even though they started off differently, both sons have become owners of their own tech company. They’ve both grown a lot, with companies of roughly the same size. Sadly, as can happen, the economy takes a downturn and both companies suffer. When the companies were successful, it was hard to tell them apart; but now with the two companies in trouble, a dramatic difference starts to show.

The son who was given the money he needed to succeed freaks out. “I’ve lost everything!” he says, and feels that this is the end. How can he rebuild all the work that he’s done? Will his father give him money again? It will be so embarrassing to ask him, but he can’t see another way

The son who got a job and had to grow his business from the ground up with his own funds was equally upset—at first. But almost immediately, he was able to think of the next step. He had to cut clients, make other tough decisions, but he made them. In a way, it was back to square one, but in another way, he had learned from all that he had done. In no time, he had grown back to the size he was before the troubles; soon, his company was even more successful.

Not all growth is the same.

The son who was given a boost by his father obviously grew quickly at first. This type of growth is pushed, or sped up when compared to the more organic growth of the son who got a job, made connections, saved up, learned from his different positions, and finally made his own business. This type of growth usually takes longer, sometimes a lot longer; and yet benefit of slow growth can’t be overstated. Slow—or organic—growth may be so useful because it more closely resembles the cyclical growth that can be seen everywhere, from the stock market to the seasonal ups and downs in sales that small businesses experience. You’re given more opportunity to learn how to succeed, but also how to fail.

Plan for cyclical growth

For strategic planning for your brand, the two sons can stand as useful guideposts to the kind of growth you should seek. Say you’ve had your business for a while and out of nowhere you’re given a million dollars to spend on the business as you see fit. You could pay for a big million-dollar ad campaign, which may give you a 500% spike in business. But after that, what? Without the necessary planning to sustain that growth, it’s likely that just as quickly business would plummet, with a final result possibly worse than when you’d begun. Because growth is cyclical, planning should be cyclical, too. As you put money and effort into growth, don’t forget to put effort into thinking about the troughs.

The son of the poor dad, whose business grew organically, success and failure were experienced first-hand, and he therefore knew them as a part of him. The son for whom success was a gift, success, and therefore failure, too, were foreign to him, making him less equipped to successfully cope with the troughs in the life of his business. As a marketing agency in Orange county, we’ve learned that strategic planning for growth should mean strategic planning for cyclical growth.

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