Close this search box.
Close this search box.

How to Accelerate Profitable Growth to Drive Shareholder Value Creation

A recent study of publicly traded mid-market companies revealed a group of 500 companies that outperformed their peers over the last three years on both top- and bottom-line growth. This select group of “Profitable Growers” delivered cumulative shareholder returns of 109% over the three-year period in the form of dividends and share appreciation, compared to just 38% for “Low Profit Growers” and only 53% for “Cost Cutters.”

The Profitable Growers cohort covers a range of industries and included leading mid-market companies such as Boulder Brands, Acuity Brands, Polaris, AO Smith and Manitex. The Keystone Group, a Chicago-based management consulting boutique that conducted the analysis, delved deeper into understanding these Profitable Growers’ growth agendas. Digging into publicly available information, including analyst presentations, annual reports, and news releases, Keystone was able to identify 10 strategic best practices that these Profitable Growers employed.

“Success has as much to do with what you choose not to do as what you choose to pursue.”

These successful strategies for accelerating profitable growth included: Gaining a proprietary understanding of future demand, rigorously sizing growth platforms, capitalizing on close-to-core adjacencies, leveraging industry tailwinds, defining a clear reason for being, investing in brand health, building flexible cost structures, implementing demand-driven innovation, aligning the organization for growth, and, having a clearly defined growth agenda. The best practices these companies employed to accelerate profitable growth were industry agnostic. There is a lot to be learned from studying these profitable growers.

Here are 5 key takeaways.

  1. Create a clear Growth Agenda and focus on no more than three to four growth initiatives at a time. Success has as much to do with what you choose not to do as what you choose to pursue. A good growth agenda clearly identifies where the company is going to play and where they are not going to play.
  1. Invest in proprietary demand insights and predictive analytics. It is also important to invest to understand your consumer, customer, industry and competition in a way that your competition does not. It is critically important to invest time to understand not just what your customer’s current needs are, but also how their future needs are going to evolve.
  1. Align with industry tailwinds. The best growth strategies identify emerging trends and align their growth agenda to take advantage of these key trends. Tailwinds may include macro-economic changes, demographic changes, technology breakthroughs, shifts in global demand, etc.
  1. Ensure the company has a distinct reason for being. Too many companies do not have a clear point of differentiation. They are caught in no-man’s land and therefore do not have a unique value proposition to customers. Make sure you have a clear definition of your target customer and clearly articulate your unique value proposition vis-à-vis the competition.
  1. Build flexibility into your operating model. Many of the profitable growers we studied had done an excellent job of building flexibility into their supply chains and manufacturing networks, as well as into their product development processes, so that they could react quickly to changes in demand.

These five suggestions can help improve your company’s growth trajectory. Emulating the playbooks of successful Profitable Growers can help your company deliver sustainable improvements in shareholder returns. The key is not just growing, but making sure you are growing more profitably than your peer set.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.