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Many companies with tons of cash and solid franchises, like IBM and Procter & Gamble, can't seem to turn their advantages into steady, strong growth. Meanwhile, firms with no greater edge, like Dell and Paychex, rake in years of double-digit annual expansion. Michael Treacy thinks he knows what's up. The co-author of bestselling The Discipline of Market Leaders: Choose Your Customers, Narrow Your Focus, Dominate Your Market (Perseus Publishing, $15) compared 80 firms that had steady double-digit growth the last 15 years with 50 slower growers. He found fast growers did five things: retained their customer base, gained market share, exploited market position, penetrated adjacent markets and invested in new lines of business.
In Double-Digit Growth: How Great Companies Achieve It-No Matter What (Portfolio, $27.95), Treacy proclaims that it's nothing but a cop-out to lay the blame for slow growth on a bad economy, weak markets, fickle consumers or anything but poor planning and execution. And he makes a good case for it, showing how companies in so-called mature industries manage to grow rapidly by keeping what's theirs and stealing from competitors. Many of Treacy's tips will work well for entrepreneurs, especially his advice to carefully analyze the fastest-growing segments of your market and then try to focus your efforts on them.
Is business like mountain climbing? probably as much as it's like football or physics or any of the other activities it's been compared to. One thing's for sure: Mountain climbing makes great reading. In Upward Bound: Nine Original Accounts of How Business Leaders Reached Their Summits (Crown Business, $24), Wharton professor of management Michael Useem, journalist Jerry Useem and investor Paul Asel have assembled riveting essays about how scaling dangerous peaks offers business lessons. You'll thrill to tales of avalanches and blizzards-and, if you learn a few lessons about planning, leadership and risk evaluation, so much the better.
By Michael Treacy
By Michael Useem
Mark Henricks is Entrepreneur's "Smart Moves" columnist.