Luke Johnson on delivering growth

Under the spotlight with the Marketing Society 9th February 2011

If all entrepreneurs are as relaxed and as comfortable in their skins as Luke Johnson then I wish I had been born with whatever gene entrepreneurs are gifted with. Apparently though something like 90% of us are corporate ‘cowards’ , according to Luke Johnson and we are more comfortable having someone else as our boss!

Once I came to terms with my now much lower self esteem, I was able to listen to how Luke Johnson made his various businesses such successes and a fortune along the way. Our aim was of course to discover his secret for achieving growth in business and in particular accelerated growth. Naturally he was coy about the idea that there could be any particular secret, although he did explain that he worked backwards from turnover and concentrated on getting the structural basics right.

But surely there had to be more to it and under the gentle probing of marketing author, Alan Mitchell, I gleaned the following nuggets, perhaps nothing earth-shatteringly new but instructional nevertheless; firstly it would seem that you need to kiss a lot of frogs until you find your prince in business dealings or as Luke Johnson put it, before you could land the whale – not all his enterprises were the success that Pizza Express, Strada etc were and there were failures along the way – there needs to be an acceptance that some failure is the price of ultimate success – perseverance was key.

Secondly it was clear that he preferred to take an idea or business either in its infancy or its potential unfulfilled and then grow it – rather than start from scratch – which takes time and ‘is a lot more difficult for someone as lazy as me!’ Next and certainly no surprise here, you need the right people around you to deliver growth and the difference between big corporates and companies more imbued with an entrepreneurial spirit is the different cultural approach, the latter more able to move with agility, the former encumbered by process or complacency (which is why the big media and content providers were caught napping by the then minnow that was Google – talk about growth that’s some big fish now, albeit not Luke’s ‘catch of the day’!)

When pushed a little more, Luke Johnson said that the most important thing, as far as he was concerned, was to understand your competitors businesses as well as you know your own.
But for me, my favourite thought and perhaps the most apt for an audience of marketers, was his idea of ‘creating something out of nothing’ it’s what brilliant marketers do best and is at the heart of any inspired innovation.

So what are about danger signals, what can get in the way of growth – a few simple pointers were offered by Luke Johnson; interestingly and something he touched on quite early – don’t confuse switching with ‘real ‘growth, something alluded to previously which is that process can stand in the way of growth and finally that growth can only be bought at a reasonable price.

And what was his closing tit-bit, perhaps he divulged the real secret after all – he left us with the thought that he wished he had been even more ambitious!

‘Ambition’ – the key driver for growth.

Andrew Orbell, Meteorite

This entry was posted in Business Strategy, Innovate, Timing & Agility. Bookmark the permalink.

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