Growth companies are always the place to be. However it depends where they are on the growth wave. Companies ride the wave up, then it crests, then it falls. Every company is somewhere on the growth wave. The only question is, are they on the way up, or the way down? Knowing this makes all the difference whether you are a worker, partner or investor.
To make my point let me share some examples.
Apple (AAPL) is the first. In the 1990’s Apple was not a rapidly growing success story. They had computers like the Mac, but their growth was not stellar. Then in the late 90’s they came up with their first growth wave, the iPod. The iPod changed the direction of the entire company.
Then before that growth wave crested and fell, they created the next growth wave, the iPhone, and then the next, the iPad. So Apple was growth company through the 2000’s.
However we haven’t seen anything new in the last few years from Apple. That means the growth company has slowed. It won’t start its growth engines again until it creates new products or new categories.
So Apple is a great illustration of the course of a company on the growth wave. They created several and they continued to grow. Until they stopped creating the next wave, then they stopped being a growth company.
AT&T (T) is another great example of a company transforming and creating the next several growth waves. However, they are a bit more complex than Apple.
AT&T was a growth company through the 1990’s. It rode the growth wave and looked very strong. Then it lost its way, crested on the wave, and started a rapid drop.
It eventually spun off the AT&T Wireless business. It sold off the cable television business to Comcast ($CMCST). Then it lost its consumers to the “Baby Bells.” What was left after a few short years was a much smaller and weaker and dying business services companies.
That’s when SBC, the Baby Bell from San Antonio Texas acquired AT&T and took the name. At the same time SBC also acquired BellSouth and Cingular. That changed everything.
SBC executives now ran AT&T. Over the next several years they did a great job of integrating all these companies into the new AT&T. They updated the image and shined up the tired old brand.
Today AT&T is one of the fastest growing industry giants. This is a huge success story. Sure there were bumps in the road, but after the acquisitions they started a new growth wave which they are still riding today.
The local phone business and the long distance business days were numbered. Sure they are still around, but they are not the growth parts of the business.
Today the growth parts of AT&T business are wireless with AT&T Mobility (previously Cingular), broadband, television with IPTV and new services like wireless security and home automation, wireless healthcare, wireless automotive, and helping other industries use wireless to meet the future.
So AT&T is a company who continues to ride wave after wave. They don’t wait for the first wave to crest and fall. Instead they continue to introduce new waves to the mix. AT&T continues to grow.
Motorola is another example. Motorola was the first, best and biggest in the handset business, for generations. Then they missed the move from analog network to digital. Nokia (NOK) took over the lead for the next decade.
Motorola, which had been riding their multi-decade long wave up, had crested and was now on the downside of the wave. Finally after years they came up with the Razr. This should have been the beginning of their recovery.
Instead the Razr was a one hit wonder. It was a wave they rode up, then when they had nothing to replace it with, Motorola started to fall once again. Then the company was a mess for years to come.
Finally Motorola got together with Verizon and marketed the Droid wireless phone. This kept them alive. Then the company split up. They were eventually acquired by Google (GOOG) not long ago. Now Lenovo wants them.
I hope they can ride the growth wave once again, but who knows what the future of Motorola is at this point.
Apple, AT&T and Motorola are just three examples of the wave. It’s important when choosing a company to work with, partner with or invest in, to find one that is on the growth side of the wave.
Unfortunately most people just look at the brand name and the products in the market today and that is simply not enough. Sometimes it takes a bit of time for reality to catch up and bite you in the rear end.
Choosing the right company on the growth side of the wave is always a much better place to be, hands down.