Want Hypergrowth? Grab A Hockey Stick!

As outlined in numerous posts on this site, there are MANY steps that we can take to create a solid future for ourselves and our family.

One step we haven’t covered much, relates to the selection of industries (or companies) we might want to jump into, to apply our skills and abilities – for maximum payoff!

Why is this important? Well, as relates to customers and revenue, some industries or companies are:

  • In decline or contraction
  • Fairly stagnant with little to no growth
  • Growing
  • Destined for hypergrowth!

Have you ever heard the term “hockey stick” used in business?

In business terms, there is slow growth (sales) projected in the beginning. Then, when significant adoption (of the product or service) takes place things shoot up exponentially. This depicts an industry or company that is projecting hypergrowth. THAT, would be an industry or company to target, in terms of career opportunities!

Thanks to Providence, I was fortunate enough to have latched on to 2 up-and-coming (at the time) technologies within the telecommunications industry that are perfect examples of hockey sticks (I mean hypergrowth).

  • Cellular (Mobile) Communications
  • The Internet

Back in 1989 when my wife was pregnant with our first child (Ian), we lived in South Portland, ME. I was working in the pulp and paper industry (the growth in that industry had long since passed). And, because we couldn’t afford what we really wanted for our (now growing) family, I put my resume out all across America. There were NO LIMITS.

Thanks to a GREAT placement agency that I was working with at the time I had several interviews, in the course of just a couple of weeks, in New England, Detroit and Atlanta.

I cannot seem to recall the companies or industries I interviewed with in the former 2 locations, but the Atlanta-based opportunity involved working for a cellular communications company. At that time, most of society did NOT have a cell phone. In fact most people had not even seen one, in-person. Those that I had seen were in brief cases owned by the elite few.

Never-the-less, as young and naive as I was (at 25) I knew that this “thing” was going to be big. So, we packed up my Firebird with our luggage and drove to our new life in Atlanta. The goal of the drive down: beat the moving truck so that we had a place to unload our stuff. You see, we had NO IDEA where we were going to live. Remember, there was no Internet (for the general public) back in 1989. So, there was not much we could do for investigation, in advance. So, we just winged it and everything worked out just fine (although, there is a story to it, perhaps for another time).

We are now in Atlanta and I arrive on my first day at the new job. My boss (I hope he reads this post 🙂 ) stopped by my desk and drops off (with a thump) a 3-4″ stack of 11X17 computer paper. It contained the code for the cellular billing system. As I recall, he says: “There is a problem with the tax calculation. Fix it.

My inner dialog goes crazy: OK – No honeymoon here. The ultimate test has begun. I better fix this, or I’ll be heading back to Maine. Failure is NOT an option. Let’s get to work. After, a change of underwear 🙂

The good news: the code was in COBOL, which a mere human can read. And, since I was experienced with COBOL, I was able to navigate around pretty well. However, this was complex cellular telephone billing stuff which I had never seen: I was pretty much clueless.

Fortunately, after a handful of days of debugging I found the problem, fixed it and implemented the solution. We were now correctly billing our customers for the tax on the use of their cell phone. Phew!

Not long afterwards, the company rolled out voicemail. Yep, there was a time when there was no such thing for cell phones.

Now, picture this…At the time, we had people pulling cellular telephone usage data directly off of cellular switches (computers that process cellular calls) which were strewn across the country, placing it on magnetic tape and shipping them overnight to our headquarters. We’d then load up the mag-tapes on a tape drive to read and process the data. But, to-date, it was ALL call data.

My task was to identify and cull-out the voice-mail usage data so that we could bill it at a different rate. After many days, which included arriving at work by 4am (because I couldn’t sleep, trying to figure this out. And, I was stressed-out because the product manager was breathing down my neck as he wanted to recognize the revenue from the new service they had launched weeks ago) I figured it out, and we implemented.

You’d think that the product manager would have let us (IT) know that this was coming so “just maybe” we could have prepared for this BEFORE the product launch. Such is often not the case and you just have to deal with it 🙂

After an unforgettable time in cellular, I then found myself working for a company whose business was: The Internet. This was at a time (1995) when most of society did NOT have an email address. And, if they did, it was only good “inside” the company in which they worked. Things were “just beginning” to open up to the wild wild west: the new frontier called the Internet.

In summary, I can tell you that this was the most rewarding aspect of my career. It was an experience similar to my years in cellular: times 100. Talk about rapid growth! There was no end in sight (for a long time) with too numerous tales to tell (in this post).

So, what are some of the benefits of latching on to a hockey stick (a hypergrowth industry or company)?

In the beginning (which can last several years) things happen rapidly. EXTREMELY RAPIDLY. Over time, the leaders and key players who are able to adapt, get in lock-step with the rhythm of the business and aid in its growth and scalability – in fact, they DRIVE ITS GROWTH!

The ongoing objective becomes: Make “things” happen more and more quickly and efficiently, every single day! But, NEVER do ANYTHING that would slow things down. Heaven forbid 🙂

An apt phrase that best described our task: CONSTANTLY change-out the wheels on a train that is flying down the tracks. And, do so without stopping, slowing down, damaging the cargo, or losing our limbs.

Exciting times.

For example: It was not uncommon to be assigned large, complex and very risky projects that you had no right doing (e.g., no experience). The reality is, however, that NO-ONE had experience doing it, because it hadn’t been done before – EVER! So, if you could put a good fog on a mirror, you were assigned. If you came through (time and time again) you gravitated to the top of the heap. If you did not, you were simply left behind in the dust.

Best of all, there are some common things that are often experienced in hypergrowth industries and companies, which include:

  • Personal and professional growth – Due to the velocity of the industry or company, you cannot help but grow in MANY aspects of your personal and professional life. This includes: on-the-job training and experience, juggling family and career demands. And, rapid acceleration up the corporate ladder (if you are one of the people described above).
  • Mergers and acquisitions – Your company is bought by, or buys, another. Closing the deal is just the beginning. Now, it becomes time to make two companies operate as one. You want to be right in the middle of this!
  • Stay bonuses – If you are a key player (that is, you go WAY, WAY, WAY above and beyond the call of duty and tenaciously get things done) upper-management wants to make sure you stick around. Stick around through the period of rapid growth; through the completion of a merger or acquisition, etc. So, they offer “handsome” packages that make it more than worthwhile to hang on.
  • Employee stock purchase plans – Like many (publicly traded) companies, as an employee you can acquire their stock at a discount. And, when doing so for a hypergrowth company your prospects “can be” much higher for a rewarding payout!

So many reasons to latch on to a hockey stick. And, I’m sure I’ve left some out…

Yes, you can eke out a fine career and salary from industries and companies that are NOT projecting hypergrowth. If, however, you want to take things to the next level (to rapidly accelerate your career and compensation) consider the hockey stick.

Areas of hypergrowth have typically involved technology-related companies. My personal experience certainly proves that out. And, further, to couple that with healthcare, I’d suggest you have a winning combination.

In closing, there is no silver bullet (no one thing to do) to ensure a solid future for you and your family.

Bottom-line: You must press forward on ALL fronts. You might ask: “What are “ALL these fronts?” Well, I’ve written enough for now. But, you can learn more in the series of posts introduced as: Mind Like Water.

All the best!

p.s. Sorry hockey fans. While I reference my favorite sport, this post has nothing to do with my experience playing hockey. Perhaps there’ll be a future post on that 🙂

3 thoughts on “Want Hypergrowth? Grab A Hockey Stick!

  1. Patrick says:

    Great post Craig! Enjoyed recollecting some of the fun times we spent together. 🙂

  2. […] outlined in a prior post (Want Hypergrowh? Grab a hockey stick!) Cindy and I left Maine, back in 1989, for a lucrative career opportunity. What I didn’t […]

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