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Most successful companies eventually face a crisis that we call stall-out—a sudden large drop in revenue and profit growth. Stall-out occurs when the growth engine that powered a company to success stops working. This rarely happens because the business model has suddenly become obsolete—a common misconception. Rather, when we talk to executives about the symptoms of stall-out, the reasons remain the same. We’ve lost touch with customers. We’re drowning in process and PowerPoint. We have no shortage of opportunities, but somehow we can no longer act decisively. What was once such a high-energy ride now feels like trying to pilot a plane with no thrust and unresponsive controls.

Yes, stall-out can be overcome. Most companies with sustainable growth share attitudes and behaviors: (1) They view themselves as business insurgents, fighting in behalf of underserved customers; (2) they have an obsession with the front line, where the business meets the customer; and (3) they foster a mindset that includes a deep sense of responsibility for how resources are used and for long-term results. Because these qualities are most vibrant in companies led by bold, ambitious founders, we call them “the founder’s mentality.” 


Any leadership team can harness the revitalizing effects of the founder’s mentality. In some cases, a once dominant mindset has been lost over time and may need to be rebuilt from a few vestiges. But these three qualities can help any company restart its growth engine by removing gunk and complexity that has built up over the years, inhibiting the clean execution of strategy.



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