Stretch – Unlock the power of less
About this time last year, I was recommended a book called Stretch which was written by Scott Sonenshein, who (for those who don’t know) is an award-winning writer and the go to consultant for many Fortune 500 companies, including Microsoft and AT&T.
Scott, throughout the book challenges the thinking that the key to success in business is to get more: more money, more time, bigger budgets and larger teams. Scott instead argues that in fact the businesses that have the most success are the ones that he categories as ‘stretches’ or in other words the ones that embrace the resources they already have.
This approach he believes is the secret to success as by ‘stretching’ the resources we already have, it frees us up to find creative and productive ways to solves problems, innovate and engage our work more thoroughly rather than exhausting ourselves in the pursuit of more.
Whilst reading the book, I thought Scott’s insights were fascinating and found myself book marking pages and scribbling down notes, however rewind 12 months, in a booming economy it was hard not to go against Scott’s teaching’s and adopt a ‘chasing mindset.’
The fallout we have seen from COVID19 would imply many executives felt the same.
As soon as the full impact of the COVID19 pandemic became apparent, I quickly revisited Stretch as it was becoming apparent that no longer would Scott’s teachings be categorised as ‘another business success theory’ but in fact would become an almost ‘survival guide’ for many businesses as they would be forced to revaluate their strategy and use what (if any) resources they had left at their disposal.
Whilst there are many different key lessons throughout the book and a number of great examples, the one that stuck out to me the most was the story of Dick Yuengling Jr.
Dick took over his family’s brewery business in 1985, which at the time was a ‘struggling family enterprise’ that faced tough competition from 3 main players that controlled 70% of the market share. Dick rejected the traditional approaches of smaller breweries at the time, which was to either to sell and admit defeat to the larger players or grow rapidly through acquisition. Instead Dick adopted the strategy of finding better ways to work with what he had.
He built awareness by tapping into his company’s rich but underutilized history, limited sales to only a handful of regions (which created a scene of scarcity which drove demand) and reused all materials where possible to drive down costs.
Dicks company grew into America’s largest domestically owned beer producer and ironically ended up acquiring the Stroh company which was one of the 3 larger players that threatened Dick’s success in the beginning after they had become weighed down by huge amounts of debt due to their endless pursuit of acquiring brands so they could become ‘as big as they could get.’
Dick’s story is a testament to Scott’s theory around stretching and serves as a great reminder that better use of resources = getting better results - a strategy that many businesses must adopt to ensure success in today’s world.