This post was co-authored with Matthew P. Manary, Ph.D. Candidate, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University.
In addition to studying product-market strategies for company growth, I have also been asking CMOs how they use a set of “firm boundary” strategies to grow. In response to the question to “Allocate 100 points to reflect how your firm will grow during the next 12 months,” The CMO Survey™ (August-2012) reports that the majority (68.9%) of growth is expected to be organic or from within the firm’s own boundary, 12.9% from partnerships (ranging from alliances to joint ventures), 12.2% from acquisitions, and 6.1% from licensing arrangements. Organic growth gives the firm more control because growth activities happen within the firm boundaries. It does not go to the “market” for goods or services and therefore does not have to manage a partnership or licensing agreement. It also does not extend the firm’s boundary (sometimes called a “hierarchy”) to include a new firm which gives more control, but is also more expensive and may dilute the firm’s focus. At the same time, organic growth is potentially more costly because the firm must learn to do things that potential partners or acquisition targets have already mastered.
Results show that organic, partnership, and licensing growth activities have not changed significantly in the last four years of The CMO Survey™, despite minor fluctuations. The use of acquisitions as a growth strategy, however, has steadily increased. Figure 1 shows this progression from 8.8% in February 2009 to 12.2% in August 2012. There may be many reasons for this—companies have cash on hand or can get low-cost loans to make acquisitions, acquisition targets are cheaper, or firms are engaging in riskier growth (new markets and new offerings). The latter appears to be true based on data from The CMO Survey™ as I noted in an earlier blog. (more…)