Venturing On To The Devil's Playground

Geoff Smith Portrait

BY Geoff Smith

POSTED ON NOVEMBER 12, 2011

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The Lunacy, Or Wisdom, Of Growth Targets.

You tell me.At EllisDon, we have never set revenue growth targets. We don't even make revenue projections in our Annual Business Plan. I have always believed that chasing volume is a dangerous game. Margins get cut, assumptions get stretched, corners get cut, as everyone chases the 'top line'. A company that puts growth before clients, quality or profits is like a muscle bound beach dude who can't read. And if you execute the first three, growth is the inevitable result.

You don't need to search hard for examples. Look at Toyota, perhaps. Very aggressive market share targets get set, quality is compromised (allegedly), disaster ensues. (We just took our Toyota in because of a persistent rattle. They told us it was covered as part of an 'unannounced recall'. How can you have a recall without telling anyone?)

Now I'm wondering if EllisDon needs to take out a gym membership. I'm wondering if a fear of pushing for growth encourages complacency or even cowardice, a failure to challenge the imagination or the status quo, an unwillingness to venture out from our comfort zone.

The world is changing, fast. Size matters. EllisDon needs to be able to compete in multiple markets, and to tackle the most complex projects as well as the smaller ones. In a globalized world, is it now a truism that if it is not our goal to dominate, then we are by default agreeing to be dominated?

Last year, EllisDon completed $2.5 billion in volume. Ten years ago I would have thought that number unachievable. Now I have been rethinking EllisDon as a $4 billion company over the next 30-36 months. This is more than some arbitrary challenge. If we want to be an outstanding and fully independent company, this is probably the 'girth' required.

Either by acquisition or growth, EllisDon needs to set and achieve significant growth targets without compromising any other standard (Or ever forgetting Toyota). That's what I'm thinking today.