Early in my career, I was fortunate to be part of the management team of Tycer Fultz Bellack, one of the first Silicon Valley ad agencies focused on the emerging high technology industry. From the late seventies through the mid-eighties we racked up year after year of thirty and forty percent revenue growth–pretty heady stuff in those days before the internet boom. We were the classic small, self-funded business that succeeded in our own corner of the world. And, as we did, we had to overcome many of the same challenges that every growing faces. We ultimately sold our business to BBDO which is part of a publicly traded holding company called Omnicom. That sounds a lot like the script that many entrepreneurs would like to write for themselves.
We understood the fundamental truth that every healthy business has to grow. Growth is important for a lot of reasons. In almost every business, customers like doing business with the “hot” company. Employees believe that working for a fast-growing company looks good on their resume. You therefore get more than your share of the best customers and the best employees when you’re growing faster than your competitors. Growth helps you keep good people by offering them a career path and the opportunity to do interesting new things. Focusing on growth, keeps your business vital.
Like health, growth should be the product of doing a lot of other things well. Focusing on growth at any cost and by any means is like putting your business on steroids. It might help in the short term but before long its destructive effects start to show through.
After much discussion, we identified four core values for Tycer Fultz Bellack. They were, in order of importance, quality, service, profit and growth. It may seem odd that a fast growing business in the go-go Silicon Valley put growth last among its chosen virtues. However the decision was made because we wanted to communicate to the whole company that we would build a solid foundation for long-term growth by doing great work, being of service to our clients and our team, and running a sound business.
As I said, we had a good long run. We created a business that not only survived but it thrived over a number of years and we created a broad community of good people who work together to this day. We did it by managing our growth rather than letting the desire for growth manage us.