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“Strategic Management of Growth Companies” – A New Program for Future Leaders

March 30, 2011

This blog describes a new program I created for the Harvard Extension School called Strategic Management of Growth Companies (http://www.extension.harvard.edu/courses/23550) . This program, offered Tuesday evenings during the Fall Semester, prepares aspiring leaders to manage growth – typically in companies with $5M to $200M in revenue and annual growth of 50% or more. I teach participants about decisions in four critical areas:

– Strategy
– Execution
– People
– Cash

The curriculum, described below, is a combination of case studies, simulations, role play exercises and guest lectures designed around the unique challenges of growth companies. Perhaps the best feature of the program has been the shared experiences and spirited debates among future leaders, business partners and others interested in growth companies.

Growth Company Challenges

Growth companies are the engine of our economy. No longer startups, these private companies are defining new markets, creating new jobs, and building value through innovation and disruption. Massachusetts is home to nearly two hundred Inc 5000 companies, including Carbonite, eClinical Works, Second Wind, and Zipcar. Sustained growth, however, creates a unique set of management challenges. Many would-be growth companies stall as their business models mature and they outgrow the processes and teams responsible for their early successes (Why “Growth” Companies Stop Growing). Often these companies are acquired before they reach their full potential.

Course Design

Strategic Management of Growth Companies is designed to address theses issues and to help more companies make the successful journey from $10M in revenues to $100M and beyond. Readings draw from respected growth management experts including Clay Christensen, Jim Collins, Orit Gadiesh, Geoffrey Moore, Verne Harnish, Patrick Lencioni and Bill Sahlman. The program includes 15 sessions as described below:

Part I: Growth Strategy. The first four sessions address managing growth, market opportunity analysis, market selection and new product launch. Case studies include Linden Lab, Black Duck Software, HubSpot and Apple.  Tim Yeaton, CEO of Black Duck Software, was a guest speaker this year.

Tim Yeaton (CEO, Black Duck Software)

Part II: Execution. The next three sessions focus on execution planning, sales and distribution management, and go-to-market tactics. Participants assess ZipCar’s business model, develop a distribution plan for Mercado and manage the go-to-market strategy of MM Orthopedics, a business simulation, through 8 quarters of growth.

Part III: People.Three sessions are devoted to the topics of building teams, scaling the organization and implementing change. Participants discuss founder transition issues at Socaba, Meg Whitman’s impact on eBay as a new CEO, and decisions to implement change at Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. David Patrick, former CEO of Ximian and currently CEO of Apperian, visited the class in March to talk about the 10 Things The New CEO Needs To Do.

David Patrick (CEO, Apperian) and the 2011 SMGC Class

Part IV: Cash. The next four sessions focus on financing growth, managing a board of directors, growth through acquisition, and exit strategy. Case studies include Aspen Aerogels, eClinical Works, and Nantucket Nectars. Omar Hussain, CEO of Imprivata, discussed his approach to managing successful board meetings and Steve O’Leary, founder of investment banking firm Aeris Partners, will shares his insights on exit strategy.

Omar Hussain (CEO, Imprivata)


Part V:Success. The final session will evaluate and contrast the growth company leadership strategies of Howard Shultz, Meg Whitman and Steve Jobs.

* * * * * * * *

This course will be offered again in the 2012 Fall Semester.  Please spread the word about this course to future leaders, business partners and others with a passion about growth companies. The pilot program has been a terrific experience for the class, our guest speakers and me.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Wyatt Kumfer permalink
    July 7, 2012 1:13 pm

    Hi there, just wanted to tell you, I enjoyed this blog post. It was practical. Keep on posting!

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