Inspired by Slow and Steady Growers

We featured three very different companies and industries this week: Hanes Brands/Champion (apparel), Scott Electronics (contract manufacturing), and Shenandoah Growers (produce farming). While completely different in size and business model, they share at least two things in common. First, all three are growing. But, more interestingly, all three are not overnight successes. They are slow and steady growers. And, each successfully deployed their own unique growth strategy.

Let's first take a closer look at Hanes Brands, specifically, Champion. We originally found this story from The Motley Fool via Timothy Green. Now, we shouldn't ignore or downplay Hanes 6% growth of organic sales. There's nothing shabby about that. But clearly, Champion is the real star of the past year growing revenue 50% from about $1 billion in 2017 to $1.36 billion in 2018. How did they do it? Ultimately, it comes down to well executed strategic marketing. According to a recent LinkedIn post from Joel Hereth, Champion's success can be attributed to three factors: distribution diversification, smart use of influencers (2 examples), and capitalizes on the vintage / retro fashion trend. (Champion is no longer just athletic wear. It has transitioned from the gym to the street clothes.) Champion is able to sell its custom athletic wear directly to consumers while also distributing its other products through retailer. Their brilliant use of strategic partnerships and strong social influencers like their collaboration with Virgil Abloh’s Off-White x Champion, Vetements and Supreme. Does Champion influence this overall trend or are they clever followers? That answer may not matter in the short term. In the long term, though, this will be a key question to determine their chances of future growth success. And, let's not forget. Champion has been around since the label was founded 1919. They are the epitome of slow burn success.

Our next slow and steady grower is an actual grower, organic produce farmer Shenandoah Growers. Shenandoah earns a fair amount of press but we learned of them in the recent coverage from Thomas Heath as they continue to grow. The remarkable point about Shenandoah is their long term approach to growth which may be best described as: if you build it, they will grow. The company added new growing facilities steadily and expanded distribution regionally accordingly. Part of the growth strategy was innovation and investment in technology while still relying on tried and true methods. (See additional coverage in Produce Grower.) The company successfully deployed automated greenhouses, LED vertical grow rooms in strategically valuable locations throughout the country. 20 employees to over 1,200. High crop yields (often 25% or more), recycled rainwater, they also create their own nitrogen. (More details in Supply Chain Digital.)

Lastly, consider Scott Electronics' 25 year history of steady growth from a recent story in by Mike Cote Back in 2002, while its US employees feared layoffs, the company invested in a low cost production facility in Mexico. But that didn't mean growth in the US stopped. In fact, this counterintuitive move demonstrated a strong commitment to customers that needed a lower cost solution. That dedication actually helped drive new business and allowing value add services (like R&D) to be performed in New Hampshire. In fact, the company has never had a US Layoff and has grown to 166 employees. (Check out additional references in New Hampshire Business.)

It's not flashy and rarely makes the big headlines, but a careful slow and steady approach to growth is no less inspiring. This is especially true if you are building a business for the long term and not just looking for quick hit and run.