Hello, Today’s Growth listeners. Welcome to the genesis of Today’s Growth: Growing Business Today, bringing you the guide and the guide maps needed to get your business up and to the right. Growing business today is interesting. It’s interesting because going back two hundred years, a thousand years, growing a business says you’re in a perpetual fight against something called entropy. Entropy says that anything man made or God made is built to go from order to disorder. Business, it seems like it’s like a two step with entropy. It’s a couple steps forward, sometimes three steps back, one step forward, sometimes a half a step back, but the bottom line is there is definitely digital footprints out there, working business models out there, maps and guides out there that, if overlaid on top of an existing business…
I like to say all the time that we can grow any business in any industry at any time, and I mean that. We currently have 660 revenue-generating websites, we’re 660 for 660, we’ve never lost one. They all grow, and I like to say that we can grow any business at any time, because business and growing a business does follow certain fundamentals. You do need a guide map. You do need to know what works today, not what worked 3 years ago… Where, in dog years that’s like 20 years ago. The world is changing, the web is changing, business modalities are changing, techniques are changing; so what grows business today?
What I want to explore in this first ever episode of Today’s Growth is, how do we fight entropy? Well, lucky for us, there are road maps. There are what I call Digital Footprints, which is the name of our annual conferences. There are definite maps or pathways that have gone before us, that show us techniques that can be used to grow a business today, tomorrow, 10 years from now… It really doesn’t matter; so I thought it would be great to kick-start Today’s Growth with something historical, something case-study-based; and I was kind of digging through some meetings we’ve had, some talks I have given of what would be a great opener for a podcast.
I didn’t have to think too long. Something jumped out at me. I did a chapter in a book with Brian Tracy a couple years ago. Drafting off Brian Tracy, that book put me into the best-selling author Hall of Fame, only because every book Brian Tracy writes goes in the best-selling author Hall of Fame, basically; but more importantly, with a couple hundred authors competing under this one publishing brand, I received Author of the Year for a 10-page chapter so …
What I’d like to do on this first episode is talk about what went into those 10 pages. What was so phenomenal that a couple hundred authors watched me receive an award for author of the year? Bottom line is, I’m going to title this episode Stacking S-Curves because that’s the title of the chapter that garnered some pretty decent recognition; so here’s something pretty cool. This is all based on a true story that happened in 1968 to one of the largest companies in the world. The story goes something like this, and it’s based on absolute truth of step by step, what went down, and how did it finish.
Picture this: It’s 1968 and a gentleman walks into the sales office, and for the past, roughly, dozen years he notices that on his desk there is always a hot steaming cup of coffee at about 9:00-9:15 in the morning, and there is always about a half-an-inch-thick sales report, showing the growth of the company the 30 days prior; and so this gentleman walks into the office one day and there is his hot steaming cup of coffee, but he looks down and he notices two things that are starting to really catch his breath. Number one, there’s no sales report packet. There’s nothing. As a matter of fact, when he looks up to try to get eye contact with someone about where’s the sales report, he realizes, of the 40 to 50 people in the office, he’s the only one there.
His first thought is, “Is it Sunday?” but then he sees the cup of coffee and he realizes, “No, it’s not Sunday. It’s definitely Monday.” There’s a coffee there but there should also be a sales report, so he’s kind of looking around the office. He does hear some noise, and by the copy machine around the corner there’s a girl there that, for a minute, just a brief second, peeks around the corner, makes eye contact with the gentleman and then she quickly kind of goes back into the cubby hole by the copy machine; and he can tell by that glance something is wrong, so his heart starts to race a little bit. What he’s thinking is, “Either we bought out another company, we just got bought out, something’s wrong with our stock…” and again, this is one of the largest companies in the world.
This lady then does come out of the cubbyhole, walks up to him and says, “You know, you might want to go to conference room B,” and so the gentleman grabs his cup of coffee, makes the slow walk down the hallway to conference room B, and the closer he gets to conference room B, the more he realized there is a very loud noise. It almost sounds like a rumble or a fight: Something’s going on inside conference room B. If he was nervous before, he’s kind of starting to panic at this point; so when he gets to the conference room B, he knocks on the door, and the president of Corning Cookware open the door and says, “You might want to have a seat. We’re in a little bit of trouble.”
The gentleman takes a seat as the head of sales for Corning Cookware, and as the story plays out, I’ve got this pretty close to right on, the gentleman sits down, and the president starts to explain, now that everybody’s there, that, even though they’ve gone close to 30 years, with every month, same store sales for their product line of glass cookware, they’ve got some very discerning reports that show that not only have some stores not grown in the last 60 days, but it looks like they may only have 7 to 12 months left of cash reserves, and they might be going out of business. Corning was staring death in the face called entropy, and the fact that even though they went three decades with seemingly no competition, growth-growth-growth-growth-growth, in a literally hairpin turn, they were staring the face of going out of business full force.
What happened is the president held a meeting with all of management and said, “We’ve got obviously a dire situation here. We’ve got 30 days to figure out what we’re going to do,” and so they had about an hour-long meeting, and they were coming to no conclusions whatsoever… Then someone had the idea, “I have a better idea. I think we need to go to the 300 fabricators that make our cookware and ask these guys and these women the exact same questions you’re asking management.”
They went into their big fabrication facility, they put up a scaffold in about an hour, climbed a couple stories of scaffolding and said, “We’re not going to mince any words here, we’re in trouble. We’ve got 7 to 12 months of payroll left, and what we’d like to present to you is a question. We need to know what else can this equipment make, nights and weekends, that wouldn’t cost us any extra money, wouldn’t cost us any extra time outside of working after 9 to 5 and on weekends. Meaning no exploratory, no research and development, no extra time. What do you guys know as fabricators, some of you have been here for a decades, you have to have some ideas in your minds of what else this equipment can make, because we have to come up with a new product line really quick.”
That was the meeting. They gave the fabricators 30 days to come up with 10 different things. Well, 30 days go by and one of the foremen in the shop presented a plan, that had 10 items that that equipment could make nights and weekends with the same people, and the 3rd or 4th one down on the list was something called “fiber optic cable,” and one of the management team members in the meeting, a month after the original meeting, held up this little strand of fiber optic cable, because the fabricators were going to assume that some of the management did not know what fiber optic was. They held up this little 6-inch piece of glass, little, looks like spaghetti, and he goes, “What is fiber optic cable?”
Well, the rest is history. Nineteen months later, Corning was the number one manufacturer of fiber optic cable in the world; and the reason Corning went from one of the biggest companies in the world in glass cookware to near bankruptcy, to number one in the world in a completely different industry, is because they stepped back and asked their business what is now known as “the Legacy Question,” which is this: “What else can we make, nights and weekends, that would not cost us any extra time or money?”
Since this case study has come out, this has since been published in Harvard Business Review and many other journals, it’s been discussed by Jack Welch and many other people. Jack Welch has used this technique, which is called Stacking S-curves, which I’ll explain in a second, to take GE from a roughly 2-revenue-stream company of two to 4-billion market cap, to a 14-revenue-stream company with a 40-billion-dollar market cap, in 11 to 13 years; and so the concept is, I want to back up a little bit, Corning asked their company the Legacy Question, and the Legacy Question which any person, any entrepreneur, any single mom, any business, big or small, can ask themselves at any time: “What else can we do or make nights and weekends that wouldn’t cost us or take us any extra time or money that could bring a 2nd or 3rd revenue stream into our household or our business?”
I want to drop back a little bit and look at this from the angle that Jack Welch used to look at this, when he was at GE. When Jack Welch would look at the business, he was in perpetual research and development mode. He was in perpetual mode of, “Hey, entropy is real, the current revenue streams we currently have at some point are going to die and go backwards. At some point they’re going to flatline, die, and go backwards fast;” and so he was in continual pursuit of, “What is our next revenue stream?”
Now, as of right now, it’s the first week of 2016, and if I’m not mistaken, I believe the company Yahoo, the search engine, I believe 85% of that company’s asset value is in a small investment they made in Alibaba. Their current value as a company, as a search engine, is only 15% of their overall net worth as a company; so Yahoo was diligent, putting their money and their assets in different places, to make sure they were fighting entropy; and luckily they did, because obviously, Google has been eating their lunch and diminished their value as a search engine.
I want to bring this back to the title of this podcast, is “Stacking S-curves.” I want everybody listening to this to look at their household as the letter S. Your household has an income. It is what it is, either you have a job or you own a small business… Whatever it is, it is. One person making money, two… Maybe you’ve got all 3 kids working with you, but it is what it is. It has what’s called an early adoption, when you started that business, or that job, then there’s a mature phase, maybe you’re in middle management; but the reality is we’re all mortal. At some point we can only breathe so many breaths. We can only get so many bosses that say, “Yep, one more raise for you, Henry,” but the reality is at some point that income has to stop. It’s not maybe, it’s going to stop; so every household can ask themselves the question: “Well, what else can we do nights and weekends that wouldn’t cost any extra time or money,” and there’s a million options.
You could do alternative investments. You could start rental property. You could do Avon, or Mary Kay, or something on the side… There’s hundreds, if not thousands of options. Now let’s go to a business owner. Business owners absolutely have to ask themselves this question. I love bridging this over to gold mining, which I’ll do in a second, but let’s look at the letter S again: A business usually has one core product that’s 60 to 80% of its revenue. That product had an early adoption phase, that’s the bottom of a letter S, early adoption. Then it usually had some form of hyper growth where it’s growing quickly, that’s the middle part of the letter S; but at some point that main product line…
Imagine you’re in the buggy whip business. I bet you the people in the buggy whip business in 1880 thought their income was secure. Well, I don’t know too many people in the buggy whip business anymore. The reality is, entropy happened and automobiles came and there’s very few buggy whip manufacturers. Are you with me?
Bottom line is, every business has to get honest with themselves and understand the first step of all success is to stop lying to yourself; so I need you to step back and look at your business from an analytical standpoint and say, “Is this current revenue stream going to be around forever?” That’s the key word, forever. No, it’s not; so start seeing… While you have time, energy and money, what is another S-curve, what is another letter S, another revenue stream where we can start toying with it, messing with it, testing with it, while we have energy and time, so we don’t have to wait till we’re about to die like Corning and stack on top?
That’s the letter S and it’s about stacking S-curves. I think I’ve got a video somewhere on kencourtright.com which has got a 10 to 15-minute video clip that shows the actual physical letter S’s stacking on top. You guys can check that out; but stacking S-curves is mission critical in any business. Some of you know our current business, Today’s Growth Consultant and Income Store, two different companies. We have 660 revenue streams online, all completely independent of each other; so we are big proponents in making sure that we’re diversified. We’re always staying on the cutting-edge, everything is timely and relevant; and when we see one of these S’s, one of these revenue streams dying, we either put it to death or find a way to resurrect it, or remove it from our portfolio in some capacity by selling it off; but the reality is, we are hypersensitive to these S-curves.
Now, let’s bridge over to gold mining. If anybody’s ever seen the show Gold Rush, if anybody’s ever even thought about gold mining or if you haven’t, just understand this one concept: Most gold miners don’t just lick their finger, stick it in the air and go, “Oh, the wind’s blowing West, let’s go East. Start digging a hole right here.” They don’t do that. They dig test holes. They literally auger down X amount of feet, get the bedrock, lift up the dirt, they pan the dirt and see if there’s any gold flakes in that test pilot hole.
I want you to imagine everybody on this call, collectively worldwide, is a gold miner. We’re all a collective company of X amount of people gold mining, and all of a sudden it came down from corporate that in northwest Colorado we did a test hole and found a vein of gold. Everybody get there in a week, we brought all our equipment and we started digging for gold; and sure enough we started hitting gold. Could you imagine any successful gold mining company moving 100% of their equipment, 100% of their employees to that location and digging for gold? It would never happen, and the reason is, every successful gold mining company, diamond mining company, anybody that truly mines the Earth has X amount of their assets, say 80%, mining that vein of gold; and then 20% of their assets, their people, their equipment are in other parts of the country, digging test holes so that when, not if, that vein of gold is gone, meaning it’s physically gone from the Earth, they’re going to move on to the next best test hole.
I would like to challenge everybody on this call to look at your current day job income as a vein of gold. I want you to look at your current small business income as a vein of gold. Your current product selling, say, on Amazon or Etsy, or whatever, as a vein of gold. Your current big business with your two main product lines as a vein of gold. Do you have 100% of your assets, time, energy and money digging that vein of gold, or do you have 20% of your assets, time, energy and money digging test pilot holes, or launching small S-curves and testing the markets perpetually in pursuit of what assets that you currently have that could play well in other veins, or other categories, or other verticals, if you will? There’s so many case studies of this.
You can take the website WebMD. WebMD, as of last year, as a single website, made 532 million dollars in advertising revenue. Can you imagine? This website’s 19-20 years old, it’s got around 500 doctors writing content. You have to imagine, in the two decades they’ve been around, they certainly didn’t just rely on putting ads on the top of a website. They’ve tried ads, they’ve tried generating leads, they’ve tried this, they’ve tried that; they’re in constant pursuit of the next revenue stream, the next platform that could add more value to their readers, so that’s kind of the concept of today’s podcast is, this podcast is called Stacking S-curves with a subtitle, Digging for Gold.
To kind of summarize this in a couple bullet points: Number one, do you look at your current revenue stream as a forever revenue stream? Have you ever given thought to, “Wow,” this revenue stream, whether it’s my job, whether it’s my small business, whether it’s our big company with 500 to 5000 employees, as a forever type of thing? Do you actually, really believe what you’re currently doing today is going to be around in 10-20-30-40-50-60 years, so I’ll plant a little seed with you if you think it might be.
Now, even if you think, you’re in insurance, it’s going to be around for hundreds of years, I’ll throw something at you. In the last 7 years, according to Bill Gates, there’s been more inventions than in the history of the world. It is early part of 2016 at the time of this recording. For the last 6 years in a row, every single day for 6 years in a row, 24% of all searches put into the Google search bar are for the first time, so I’ll say that again, I paused for dramatic effect. Every single day, one 4th of every search put into the Google search bar, Google has never seen it before. The world is changing now that the world is equipped with information. My wife and I just got back from 8 days in Cuba. Cuba got internet 19 months ago. That country, that island which is bigger than the size of Florida, just realized there is information out there. That is one aggressive island or country salivating for information.
In the last 15 years, our world has been equipped with tablets and satellite internet. There is more smart people, measured by Masters degree, in India than the United States has people. The world is changing, entropy is real. Entropy says everything is breaking down. That means your business is breaking down, your body’s breaking down, your vehicle’s breaking down, life is continually breaking down; so today, on Today’s Growth, we are providing the guide that is me, Ken Courtright, and the guide map, which is Stacking S-curves, as a nugget that people can take with them, study, and put into practice. Wishing you all the best of luck, signing off from my first ever podcast, Ken Courtright. Take care.