Your (brief) moment in the sun.
Common responses of executives going through the Maturation Phase:
“It’s time our company grew up.”
“The loyalty of our customers continues to grow.”
“We are outgrowing our internal systems.”
Maturation is when a company attempts to leave the teenage years to become an adult. Early Maturation is when Acceleration has begun to cool, and you begin the hard work of laying the foundation of long-term scalability and sustainability. Later on in the same phase it will feel like you’ve really hit your stride and come into your own…but it won’t last forever.
Make hay while the sun shines.
The Maturation Phase is where organizations begin to harvest what they’ve sown. They tend to demonstrate healthy growth, achieving their business and marketing objectives and enhancing their competitive differentiation. They’re increasingly profitable and see customer loyalty continue to grow, even as they embark on uncharted territory such as entering new markets or exploring adjacent categories.
That said, the Maturation Phase is like those late teenage years, during which a gangly youngster traverses some heady physical and psychological changes. Organizations in the early stages of this phase tend to feel the pain of outgrowing their internal systems (or the lack thereof) while those further along are better coordinated, operating more like well-oiled machines.
This is a time for building. Building profitability, of course, but also building brand equity. You may have been successful to date without really giving much thought to your brand, but now it’s time to codify it, knowing that (according to The Economist) brands account for more than 30% of companies’ market value. The stronger you make yours the better you’ll perform—and the better you’ll be positioned for the inevitable onset of the Saturation Phase.
Codify your culture as well. You can’t know the name of everyone who works for you forever. You need internal cultural institutions to ensure that what you’ve built doesn’t begin to crumble from within. Especially as you invest in the systems and procedures required to manage an increasingly complex organization. The last thing you want to become is a bureaucracy.
Importantly, make hay while the sun shines. If you’re not profitable, stop everything and figure out why. If you are, invest wisely in systems, processes, people, and customer satisfaction. Build reputational equity. Build competitive hedges. Build customer loyalty. Build cash reserves. Build knowhow. And enjoy every minute of it.
Become who you were designed to be.
Forces at Work
You’ll want to pay close attention to every variable: internal, external, and even beyond your industry. Staff will need TLC as they shift from an anti-establishment culture to now being part of “the man,” and you’ll need to keep a close eye on competitors and customers as they mature, too. “Role Model” brands from other categories can provide important cues on how to operate as a brand that’s come of age.
Amidst all the change, it’s important not to lose sight of who you are and why you’re doing this. Your team will need constant reminding, because they’re probably not the same team you had a year or two ago. Core truths and cultural anchors that you’re sick of talking about are brand new – and vital – to your team.
Mature companies fight off mature competitors, hire mature employees, serve customers with mature expectations…and have a mature plan to do so. Now’s the time to move past bar napkins and start committing real dollars and real discipline to how you develop, build, and market your brand—both inside and out.
Take the 5-minute diagnostic.
Growing up ain’t easy.
We’ve coached hundreds of firms through rocky transitions like those from Acceleration to Maturation, and we know what to look out for. The climb is better with a good sherpa.
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