Fifteen Percent Growth

In keeping with the “business policies are great and obviously apply to everything” idea, I decided to apply another business principle to my life. Over the past couple months, I’ve worked to achieve at least fifteen percent growth per year.

Everyone who has earned an MBA is taught to believe the only way a company can survive is to maintain steady growth; as the saying goes, “Grow or die.” This is true if, for the time being, you ignore the myriad number of small businesses that have existed for decades without sustaining any significant amount of growth, maintaining a small and thriving business and steady customer base without needing to increase staff, office size, or profits. Like the hot dog joint that has operated in my home town for the past thirty years: the place is always busy and the guy who runs it makes a decent living, is able to pay his staff a decent wage, and appears happy all the time. In other words, according to the business growth principle, he is a business failure and his little enterprise is doomed to die. Sure, it may take another fifty or a hundred years, but the growth principle guarantees his business will not last forever.

The fifteen percent growth number may seem arbitrary, but it is not. It is based on solid principles: The average company (once again ignoring all those businesses that thrive by not growing at all) grows about two to five percent a year. The ambitious company sets a goal to grow by ten percent a year to stay ahead. In order to pull in front of the ambitious company, his competitor assigns a goal to grow by twelve percent. Therefore the smart company strives to grow by fifteen percent to stay abreast of everyone.

So, I figured, I could stave off death by growing fifteen percent per year. To achieve my growth goal, I analyzed my situation and how I could apply the growth principle to it. I’m about five-foot-seven, or sixty-seven inches tall. Fifteen percent growth would require me to extend my height another ten inches; I figure morning stretches could gain me a quarter inch or so, and thick heels and lifts another three, leaving me six-and-three-quarters inches short of my goal. Stilts could make up that amount, but then I figured, I’m artificially adding height to my body, creating the illusion of growth, not actual growth.

I could, however, add girth. I weigh about two hundred pounds, so I could grow fifteen percent by adding thirty pounds more. To do this, I created a “growth diet,” my normal diet plus a daily addition of a plate of cheesy steak fries, a bag of chips, and a half-dozen donuts. I reached my target weight within two weeks.

While I did notice my pants became tighter at my waist, I could still fit into them, so I figured I didn’t actually grow by fifteen percent. My waist is normally thirty-six inches and I only added one inch to my girth. To meet my goal, I’d need to add a total of fifteen percent, or four-and-a-half more waistline inches. A quick calculation later, I saw I’d need to add one-hundred-thirty-five more pounds. I stepped up the growth diet, doubling the portions of cheesy fries, chips, and donuts.

After adding fifty more pounds, I began to feel lightheaded, I started having heart palpitations, and I reacted sluggishly to changes in my environment. I found it difficult to lift things of considerable weight, like the plate of fries, the box of donuts, or my arms. I also found that I could not add more pounds unless I kept increasing my food intake. But, as I learned from business growth principles, continued growth would result in slower reactions to market conditions, more difficulty maintaining established work routines, and more effort to continue growth.

So, I increased my calorie intake accordingly. Then, I had two simultaneous strokes and a heart attack. It was at this point I figured I was experiencing the same symptoms businesses do when they are in a economic slump, and realized, like those companies, I’d need to shed unnecessary dead weight to survive my personal recession. The doctors agreed.

I’m back down to two hundred pounds, a net growth of zero. I decided that I, like the hot dog joint in my hometown, do not need to grow to thrive. However, I do not consider my ordeal a total waste; I’m declaring the experience as a business loss and taking a healthy deduction in next year’s taxes.