Paths to Growth
Insurgent companies don’t have size on their side, but they’re nimble and fast. They’re at war with their industry on behalf of underserved or emerging customers. They have a deep understanding of what those customers need and deliver it with speed. These companies also want the benefits of size—market leadership, advantages over their competitors and a scale that helps them learn and improve—because they know that will help them serve their customers even better.
The Default Path
As companies grow, they usually follow a default path, moving from insurgency to incumbency. At first, this is a dream come true. They become the leaders of their industry and the benefits of their newfound size allow them to reap a disproportionate share of its rewards. But this success comes at a cost: the gradual, imperceptible loss of Founder’s Mentality. Complexity grows. Their metabolism slows. They become vulnerable to forces — which we call the winds — that cause their growth to stall.
The Journey North
Companies do not have to travel the default path, ultimately trading away their insurgency for a doomed stint in incumbency. If they know the predictable dangers they face and how to avoid them, growing companies can resist the winds that blow them off course. They can maintain their Founder’s Mentality and gain the benefits of size: They can become scale insurgents. Even incumbents that have already stalled out — or sunk into struggling bureaucracy — can recover their Founder’s Mentality.