The importance of growth

June 30, 2018

Another insight from Sebastian (there have been many): the importance of growth.

I was visiting the Bay Area for one reason or another in 2010 or 2011, and Sebastian told me he was thinking about switching jobs. I asked why; his reply: "The place isn't growing". I remember it because it seemed like such an odd comment compared to the stock gripes about bosses, hours, or better opportunities elsewhere.

But I've come to realize it's a great insight.

You really want to work in a growing company. Growth means new hiring, more sales, more investment. Investors see increasing stock prices, the press gets interesting stories, and politicians get jobs and tax revenue. It's really hard to overstate how much growth drives everything. Sheryl Sandberg said to get on a rocket ship, and this is what she meant; if you want rapid career advancement, a growing company is where you'll get it.

Growth means smiles at work.

Over in slow/no-growth land, things aren't so happy. Rather than growing revenue, the focus becomes cost containment. We all know how fun that is, especially when those "costs" are salaries, or free drinks in the refrigerator. With fewer jobs and promotions available, work changes from a shared struggle, where everyone wants to win together, to a zero-sum "destroy the competition" mindset (even if they're your colleagues); that's a lot less fun and it's also a breeding ground for backstabbing and bad politics. Things feel scarce; there's never enough to go around.

The effect is even more pronounced when entire industries are growing. Ask someone how it feels working at Amazon vs. a tobacco company. See what they say.

If I have kids some day, I'm going to make sure they work in a growing field, or at least a growing company. I think growth is one of the strongest predictors of all sorts of consequential things, everything from whether an industry pays well, to whether or not someone is happy with their work.

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