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200% growth? A not so crazy boldness!

Why should start-ups be the only ones allowed to imagine their future?


On March 26th, the French Fédération des SCOP de la Communication and the Groupement des métiers de l'Imprimerie together with l'Institut du Développement et d'Expertise du Plurimédia organized the “Excellence and diversification, keys to a transformed graphic industry” conference. The French printing industry has been in recession for more than 10 years: 5% yearly volume decline and 1.3% price erosion in 2013. Tens of businesses are closing every year under the pressure of the domestic and international competition (Spain, Germany, Eastern Europe…), the processes digitilisation and the dematerialization.

In this context, is asking “What prevents you from growing at 200, 300% in the next 3 to 5 years?” not a cheap provocation?

The SMB managers at the conference widely shared their constraints (regulatory, fiscal, competitive, financial and human).

Others, such as Jessie Gelly (with Tag&Play’s NFC technology) and Christophe Delabre (luxury printing with Point44, presented technological innovations in disruption with classical printing.

However a number of speakers said that their concern with preserving their company from disappearance did not allow them even to dream of such growth rates.

As it turns out in a number of declining markets, companies can grow profitably if their market share is relatively small, which is precisely the case in the French printing business that is made up of 3,500 sites. And if each industry is specific, this ability to find growth relays within and outside of the incumbents markets is real – including in times of crisis!

The question we raised and the following debate revealed the fact that most often business leaders are driven to adopt defensive tactics – such as delaying the investment in a new offset printer for lack of visibility of the orders bookings – without allowing themselves to strategically rethink their company…before it is too late.


With a GDP growth of 1.3% in the Eurozone and 0.9% in France in 2015 (Source: The Economist), the horizon is bleak for our business and economical leaders. Some industry sectors handle it better, the digital data protection services are growing strongly, but the environment is not favorable for double-digit growth fantasies.

Only counter-example, the tens of companies that are created and turn to Business Angels all over the country to help them to make their foray into the market. Many of these start-ups appear in sectors reputedly saturated or unattractive because dominated by large groups: street food, luxury perfumes, nano-technologies, taxis, outdoor hotels, electrical vehicles…

The contrast is striking between these entrepreneurs who involve themselves professionally and personally in the creation of new companies, with the purpose of creating value and jobs by the dozens, and the business leaders who fight tooth and nail to maintain or decrease their sales the least possible.

Both are confronted with risks, but their reading of the word is so different!

When meeting them, one realizes that the latter are so tied up in the nets of the operations and daily management of their company that they do not allow themselves – like of start-up managers – to imagine the success of their business. Obviously the conditions are different, a new venture does not have to worry of keeping the jobs who have been in the company for 20 say 30 years, but they do not forbid the boldness to think in terms of growth.

It is not about making a clean slate of human and material realities, but rather to give oneself again the right to think and behave as an opportunity creator rather than as a manager of constraints, worried about the exposures.


The debate with the printers showed that few are those of have take the attitude of a start-up creator, entering the printing market and seeking to carve out a robust position.

The underlying approach to the “What prevents you from growing at 200, 300% in the next 3 to 5 years?” question is to adopt a different perspective. This attitude allow to redefine the target markets by the unstated customer needs rather than by the offers and demands, as they are today or were in the past century. This logically leads to seek solutions that are innovative in terms of business model, usages or technologies by questioning the habits and the norms, and by getting inspiration from other trades and markets.

The process is to build a business plan with the same creative agility as a new comer into the market who wants to innovate. For instance, the adoption of a Blue Ocean strategy by looking not to create a new offset printing shop but to serve new mass communication needs with a physical support. However two pitfalls must be carefully avoided: “re-inventing the wheel” (with yesterday’s answers) and “missing the point” (being disconnected from the original purpose).

This behavior is very different from the classical ones: it allows to do what the start-ups call a “pivot” in a “lean” approach, a fast strategic reorientation after a market trial. Hence the purpose of the printer is no more to find a way to print more 4-colour sheets to amortise the last press bought, but to create a new space in the communication eco-system undergoing a digital transformation.

It is not in contradiction, but is complements it to develop a strategic vision of the business that is stimulating for the shareholders, the employees and the customers.


Leaders of established companies have, contrary to the start-up creators, little time to think about their double-digit growth. In addition their experience has not always allowed them to live through themselves the specific approach of building a business around an innovation of usage, process, technology, business model, go-to-market, marketing…

The support to strategic and operational change management by professionals experienced in innovation is necessary to imagine and lead the transformation of the company, building upon its history and its DNA to reinvent itself with an ambitious growth strategy. This collaborative process of borderless enterprise is the hallmark of responsible and ambitious managers.

A company – should it be 10, 20, 50 years older or more – has as much the right as a start-up to imagine its future, to grow despite a tough environment, to create value for its customers, shareholders, employers, society.

Tomorrow’s leader must allow himself/herself to give life to her/his boldness and find the right support!

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