If a business is able to grow beyond the Wonder and Blunder stages in its life-cycle, it will next come to the Thunder stage. The impact companies have in this stage is similar to a Midwestern thunderstorm, with its flashes, crashes, wind, and rain. The impact may be felt worldwide or may be on a local basis. No matter what the scope of the market area is, the company does make a difference, and cannot be ignored.
Many of these companies are ones that are studied, benchmarked, and copied by others. Larger ones may become household names like Apple, Microsoft, Toyota, Lowes, or Exxon. Large or small, the businesses make a lasting impact in the world around them. They may even change how people live and the products they demand. The explosion of personal computers, tablets, and smartphones are good examples of this.
Companies in this stage are defined with a strong culture. They have strong demand for their product and can command a good price for it. They may be able to determine what customers they want to work with. They also may be able to make a difference for the long-term and become a wonderful place to work for their employees.
The challenge to a company in this stage is how do they remain a “Thunder” force? Just like a thunderstorm will dissipate when the conditions are not conducive, companies or products can also fade away. In the past three years consider some of the large companies that have gone out of business: Hollywood Video, Circuit City, Borders Book Stores, Ultimate Electronics, Fashion Bug, and Hostess. These are all companies that we all assumed would always be there.
Navigation in the Thunder stage is just as important as it is in any other business growth stage. There is a tendency to become complacent in this stage since the company has “arrived;” however, that is just the recipe for failure. The best companies that stay a Thunder force will spend a lot of resources improving existing products or delivery service methods, or expanding into new ones that fit their business model. A good example is the constant improvement Apple makes with its products. We have watched a company once irrelevant, and noted for its school computers; expand its reach into a high quality product that competes with personal computers in many homes. They have begun the use of Apps instead of programs and have established the tablet and smartphone benchmarks with their iPad and iPhone. Now, Apple is setting its sights on TV and changing the way you receive your cable or satellite channels.
Succession planning of key personnel and products is also important. A law firm may be one of the best in its area, but if they have key attorneys who leave or pass away, it can devastate a firm who has not properly planned. If a manufacturer like Hostess does not place its company on firm financial footing, it may not have the resources to continue in the future. If a company, who may be at the top of their class, fails to recognize a trend that is moving away from the industry, they will not remain a force for long. Note how many blacksmiths and buggy whip manufacturers are around today. Long-term vision is important to remaining in this stage.
It takes proper navigation, succession planning, and continual development for a company to continue to make a lot of thunder for the long-term.