There’s plenty of snake-oil salesmen out there plying their trade with the dream of being the next Apple, Starbucks or Nike. “Follow my five-step silver-bullet, magic, secret formula” they claim, “become the next multi-billion enterprise.” Total baloney. For once can we look at the facts.
First, precious few become part of the uber-elite of billion-dollar businesses. Maybe a fraction of a fraction of a percent of businesses that start up. To be precise it is 20,000:1 or 0.00005.
Second, the stories of Apple and Starbucks ae not the stories of an overnight success.
Apple started in 1976. On its 25th anniversary, it still only had 9,600 staff when it released the iPod in 2001. That’s when the phenomenal growth started. It now has 115,000 staff (2016).
Likewise, Starbucks had relatively modest early growth compared with what people like to think. In fact, its growth story is almost identical to Apple’s. Launching in 1971 it took 20 years to get to 100 stores. By its 25th anniversary it was at 1,000. Now it has 24,000 stores and 238,000 staff (2016).
Nike, set up in 1964, tells an almost identical story. Going public in 1980, it now has revenues of $30b and 62,000 staff (2016).
So, I put it that the overnight success implied by so many business growth gurus is a myth. However, there is a very positive side to this story. Most successes are not overnight; most come at about 20-25 years. So if you haven’t made it yet, you still have time.
Most ‘successes’ literally cruise along the runway gaining speed and momentum till they find the inflection point, the place where they suddenly and rapidly take-off. There is still hope for most businesses that feel like they are banging along the runway without finding the sonic boom they aspire to!