Result Blog
Mahesh Kumar, CEO Result
2017.11.22 - 5 min read
Overnight Success is a Myth
How Apple and Starbucks proved it's never too late.
Gazelles aren't built in a day, so why are so many CEOs obsessed with instant and explosive growth? We look at two huge examples to prove you need the beans to survive a long haul if you want to see the fruit of your efforts.
Steve Jobs once told graduates at Stanford that they should find their passion and work on it. This seemed like a departure from his own career journey; Steve Jobs was never known as somebody who was passionate about technology, which doesn't make his success with Apple easy to explain.

So should it really be the case that we all ignore our own best impulses to follow our passion, and just focus on long-term steady growth?

Another pearl of wisdom from Jobs was his now famous quote "If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time". Example after example exists of the truth behind this quote.

Businesses can explode onto the scene in a flash of well-marketed glory, but that doesn't really tell us the whole story behind the years of hard work that have gone into getting the project up to speed. So is giving up and moving on to the next exciting project the right thing to do when explosive and immediate growth doesn't seem to be on the agenda? There's plenty of evidence to suggest that doing exactly the opposite is the right thing to do.
Success doesn't necessarily follow any kind
of linear growth
In a study for the US Small Business Administration titled High-Impact Firms: Gazelles Revisited, it's reported that on average, the companies accounting for almost all private sector employment and revenue growth are 25 years old, and represent between just 2 and 3 percent of all firms. Does this report seriously suggest you might be kept waiting almost three decades to achieve overnight success?
When Steve Jobs said overnight success can take forever, inspirational meme stocks shot up by 8640%
Of course, it's clear that success doesn't necessarily follow any kind of linear growth rule, and the exact metrics all depend on your own precise definition of 'success'. Over time you can edge towards reaching a critical mass of people who'll go on to spread the word about your product or service, but what about those wilderness years where you're plugging away in the background without results, rewards, or recognition?

The best thing to do in these situations is to take hope and encouragement from strong existing examples. Less than 25 years in business without scaling up can mean you've got plenty more time to make it work. 25 years or more without scaling up doesn't mean it's over; Apple launched the iPod in the company's 25th year in business.

Starbucks opened its first store in Seattle's Pike Place Market in 1971, trying out a range of different business approaches in the 16 years it took for them to grow to 17 stores by 1987. The company was simply supplying coffee to restaurants and bars throughout the Seattle area for years before Howard Schultz joined and began tinkering with the direction of travel.
Teenage businesses are still capable
of explosive growth
It wasn't until 13 years after the company's foundation that Schultz managed to convince the founders of Starbucks to test the coffee house concept in their hometown. Is it even possible to imagine Starbucks in operation for over a decade without serving a single latte?

The lesson here is that teenage businesses are still capable of explosive growth, and that motivation can come from knowing there's way more effort involved in what everyone else sees as an overnight success.
Love the grind: Howard Schultz's growth strategy took over 10 years to filter into 'overnight success'.

This piece was brought to you by the team at Result, a global ecosystem for growth and innovation within digital.

Result works with helping you unlock growth as an extension of your team. We advise, open our network, and even interim manage your operations in new markets to ensure you avoid costly mistakes when growing really fast.

We build growth and innovation labs that are high in strategy, speed and impact. Our typical Growth Lab creates culture change, helps find new revenues, positions you as a thought leader in a new segment and more.

We've expanded over 300 companies in dozens of markets, helping unlock enterprise innovation in 30 different industries to date.
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