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How to Grow When Markets Don't Paperback – November 1, 2004

4.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this shrewdly titled volume for today's tough economy, global strategy consultants Slywotsky (The Art of Profitability) and Wise analyze companies in mature markets that have managed to achieve significant growth without venturing outside their industry, manipulating their financial statements or acquiring dot-coms. Their chief insight is that established companies with experience in their field have, aside from their core business, a wealth of hidden assets-customer contacts, technical expertise, efficient business models-that they can exploit to grow new businesses. Take John Deere, which studied the growth in home ownership (and consequently in the residential landscaping market) and decided to graft its trusted brand name and expertise in agricultural equipment onto a significant growth market. Clarke American took an apparently waning business-check printing-and morphed it into a customer services firm for large banks. By building on intangible assets like brand recognition, knowledge of the customer and distribution channels, these companies transformed themselves into growth centers for new products and services. The authors gloss over many of the problems that hamper blue chip companies seeking growth, however-e.g., market attrition, declining cash flow, recalcitrant middle managers and stodgy tradition-and fail to note that many of the corporations they cite here fall into current growth industries like personal banking, health care and home ownership. Nevertheless, the book does take an imaginative look at the possibilities open to mature companies looking to rejuvenate themselves.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"If one's business is stagnant, the authors' bold vision may offer a viable path away from the tar pits of extinction."

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Business Plus (November 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446692700
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446692700
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,595,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on April 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a fan of Slywotzky. I believe he is one of the best in the area of Strategy. This book, however, has been a real disappointment for me.
The argument in the book is that, in mature economies/markets, many firms have come to a point where growth by traditional means is no longer feasible. That is, firms have to think of means other than new product innovation, M&A, international expansion and pricing. The most clever route to growth, the authors say, is "demand innovation", i.e. to find out new revenue generation areas which were not thought of by your company or by your customers before. In order to do that, i.e. to create a new-generation demand, you must first consider your hidden assets and second analyze your customers. When you find areas of friction in your customers' processes and when you can use your hiden assets to improve those processes, you are into next-generation demand.
The idea sounds excellent. In fact, it is excellent. However the method suggested for working out new demand areas is not new at all. First of all, the hidden assets concepts is ver much like the "core competencies" as put forward by Hamel&Prahalad in "Competing for the Future". It is exactly the same theme. Moreover, eliminating the customers'/clients' frictions is also not a very new idea. You can find a much more elaborate and admirable version of this idea in McGrath&MacMillan's "The Entrepreneurial Mindset". This latter work is a million times better as regards the robustness of the methodology.
So, the whole book, in a nutshell, boils down to two suggestions:
1. Study your B2B client's internal processes and see if you can make them outsource some of their sub-processes to your company so that you "innovate" a revenue area which was not thought before (at least by you).
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Format: Hardcover
I am very cynical about business books. I typically read two or three chapters and then put them down. Frankly, I think most of them are junk. They state the obvious about age-old management problems. They also tend to be obsessively focused on the internal dynamics and structure of a company.
I took a chance with this book after hearing Mr. Slywotzky on the radio and realizing that I still had a decent balance on an Amazon gift certificate. As the owner/operator of a small wire manufacturing company, the messages about the problems of commoditization and global overcapacity hit home with me. My company has always focused on staying in niche businesses that were not quite large enough to be of interest to larger manufacturers. It worked well for literally decades until about a year and a half ago when we found that a certain "small" product line was not too small to escape the attention of some mainland Chinese businesses. After taking a 60% gross margin haircut (Ouch!!!) to retain the business, I started to become very scared.
At this same time in another product line, we began manufacturing some equipment to more easily dispense an oscillated wire product. We luckily decided to lease this machine rather than sell it, and it has become a lynchpin in our ability to establish and maintain a dominant position in this market. As this machinery has evolved, it also became the rough outline of a business model that I continue to try to pursue. This book is a very good refinement of my rough idea plus a lot more. I intend to try to use the authors' ideas to think about a new product line that has some disruptive elements to it(yes, I think that Clayton Chritensen is worthwhile, too).
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Format: Hardcover
Given that the US economy continues to sputter along and the
opportunities for growth in many industries remain scarce, I think that
this book is should be on every manager's "to read" list for its fresh
point of view on the issue of how to grow a large, mature business.
Slywotzky and Wise' argument that in today's economic climate
traditional product innovation supported by global expansion and
acquisitions will no longer be sufficient for most companies runs
against traditional growth thinking but struck a chord with me.
They go on to offer valuable guidance, supported by a variety of
compelling and fresh examples, on how companies in mature industries can
find new growth by identifying customer "higher order needs" that
represent new opportunities and then using their "hidden assets" to meet
these needs profitably.
The book also departs from many other management/strategy books in
addressing head-on the organizational challenges associated with making
new growth concepts work in large companies. I found the description of
organizational barriers to growth hauntingly familiar and the
prescriptions on how to work around them practical and well-grounded in
the real world experiences of the companies profiled.
If I have any criticism of the book, it is that I would have liked to
have seen more discussion around shorter-term growth tactics. The
authors do devote a chapter to this topic, with some interesting
examples of ways to pursue higher order growth right now, but in today's
environment, the importance of short-term improvement can't be
All in all, Slywotzky and Wise have come up with thought-provoking
manifesto for finding a path to growth amid a stagnant economy.
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