Building a growth strategy is a series of nibbles and bites. A bite is a big move, where you are raising the bar and driving for results. A nibble, on the other hand, is about dipping your toe in the water, assessing whether something is likely to work and discovering the best way forward.

There are four alternative approaches you can pursue:

  1. No nibbles, no bites. This may be possible in some highly regulated industries, such as the water industry, but is unlikely to generate real growth for most companies. Instead, you are simply perfecting what you’ve always done.
  2. All nibbles, no bites. These companies are forever trying new things but lack the confidence to make big, strategic moves. As a result they may simply follow rather than lead the market. For example, ITV has struggled to transform its business model in response to its falling advertising revenues, which have resulted from the explosion in TV and alternative media channels and the growth in subscription TV services.
  3. All bites, no nibbles. This is a high-risk strategy that may work but can lead to big losses if you get it wrong. When I worked for Boots, for example, the CEO, Steve Russell, wanted to establish a broader ‘wellbeing’ strategy. Instead of testing his ideas, Steve decided to take some big bites in wellbeing services, including laser eye surgery, massage treatments and dentistry. Unfortunately these investments didn’t pay off and the company subsequently wrote-off £100 million.
  4. Mix of bites and nibbles. This is the ideal approach, but you need to get the balance right. Most organisations cannot take more than half a dozen big bites or less at any one time. It is essential that priorities are made and, while the big bites are taken, a series of nibbles on the next set of big ideas are also made.

What’s your focus for growth? Nibbles, bites or neither?

© Stuart Cross 2009. All rights reserved.