Business as usual is never business as usual these days. We are almost too used to, too numb to, the tsunami of interruptions, disruption and distractions that crash over us on a daily basis. Operating in a relentlessly noisy, unforgivingly transparent and intensely competitive environment makes it hard to see what is business-as-usual versus business challenging; what’s the shrapnel you shrug off versus an inflection point that’s vital to manage through.

Inflection points are critical junctures in the growth trajectory of your business. They require proactive management. It’s important that you harness them. Not get caught in them. Whether they seem threatening, or they are harbingers of opportunity.

At first you may just feel them. Revenue flattens. Your competition gets good reviews. Teams lack energy. Things feel passive. Margin erodes. Pipeline shrinks. Realizing your potential seems further away. Or maybe things are looking up. R&D is consistently prolific. Sales are unexpectedly ahead of plan. New and different kinds of customers are buying from you. There’s an urgent need to build out staff and infrastructure. What’s next suddenly seems right in front of you.

So what it is an inflection point? It’s a turning point. When a confluence of events conspires to help you. Or hurt you. Or there’s a lack of events. Which leaves you untethered and unsure of what to do and what to invest in next to meet growth goals.

If an inflection point is allowed to run its course it may well derail your aspirations or undermine naturally unfolding success. Early identification and treatment is paramount. In order to proactively and productively leverage these turning points, it’s very helpful to define the magnitude and type of inflection point that you’re dealing with.

Keen inflection point awareness and disciplined diagnostics can help define and pinpoint the nature of what you and your business are facing. Negative inflection points that are likely barriers to success include:

•“Speed Bumps”: subtle hiccups that re-occur relatively frequently. They usually are similar in nature and causality, do not derail the business, but prevent smooth growth patterns and the ability to mature as planned. These “speed bumps” are often operational.

• “Pot Holes”: these are less frequent but can cause fundamental damage to the business and its trajectory. Competitive pressures, poor customer experiences, and product underperformance often define these inflection points. The deeper these “pot holes” are the deeper the trouble and damage done.

• “Cliff Bands”: this inflection point is often a tragic surprise. While business-as-usual seems underway, complacency, inertia, out-datedness, politics or talent gaps might be putting you in the position of having a major business disruption and sudden decline in momentum that will be difficult to recover from without a significant shift in direction.

Positive inflection points are equally important to identify and leverage. They can be particularly vital in helping define future focus, understanding how to scale and when to capitalize on market forces. Positive inflection points of note include:

  • “Runaway Ramps”: business is growing at an unexpected and unprecedented rate. It is very easy to go with this flow for obvious reasons. But logic says this is unsustainable. It is critical to understand the positive forces involved and make institutional adjustments so that these growth factors are harnessed for more managed and realistic growth.
  • “False Signaling”: the business is experiencing superb reputational reviews. Which creates the expectation that strong sales and margin returns will result. This usually occurs during periods of moderate growth. Passively expecting the business to accelerate solely as a result of reputational advantage is a false premise. Actively connecting advantageous imagery to strategic action at this inflection point is imperative.

Owners and leaders of rapidly maturing businesses and brands need to be on the lookout for inflection points - pro-actively with discipline and a commitment to address them. This means establishing “inflection point” protocols that are an integral part of strategic business, brand, marketing and sales planning. A suggested structure includes:

  1. Inflection point awareness training.
  2. Quarterly inflection point analysis sessions.
  3. Application of inflection point typology to current situations.
  4. Selection of inflection points deserving of attention.
  5. Deployment of a task for to manage corrective or pro-active action plans.

In almost all cases, inflection points of note deserve serious strategic attention. Core to addressing them almost always means reaffirming the aspirations of the business and it’s leadership, course-correcting and aligning business, brand, marketing and sales strategy, and rebalancing go-to-market investments to achieve growth goals.

By Paul S. Allen - Chairman, Allen & Gerritsen and Executive Director, Primal, A&G

To set up a time to talk about your inflection points please contact Scott Sneath, Primal, A&G Managing Director at ssneath@a-g.com or 857 300 2108