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257: Karen Walker: CEO Secrets to Sustainable Business Growth

Leaders Of Transformation | Leadership Development | Conscious Business | Global Transformation

Release Date: 07/01/2019

Karen Walker is an executive coach, consultant, speaker and author focused on helping senior leaders create internal strategies that support their organizations’ external growth. Decades ago, Karen helped lead the (then) fastest growing - and fastest to $1 billion in revenue - company in American history: Compaq Computer. After working at Compaq for fourteen years, with annual revenues growing to $15 billion, she left to begin her consultancy.

Karen now serves as an executive advisor, coach and consultant to CEOs and senior organization leaders looking to grow their companies — with outcomes including IPOs, acquisitions, market share increases, and dramatic leadership development. Karen’s work has enabled sustained growth in a multitude of companies, including startups, Inc. 500 and Fortune 500 firms.

Karen’s new book, No Dumbing Down: A No-Nonsense Guide for CEOs on Organization Growth teaches a company’s senior-most leaders how to do a job only they can do: aligning the organization’s internal and external strategies for profitable, sustainable growth using 5 key strategies.

Why do leaders need this guidance? The problem is misunderstanding what it takes to grow. When most companies try to grow, they invariably over focus on sales and revenue-growth — at the expense of making sure they’ve aligned the infrastructure needed to support that growth.

The result? Sales outpace the company’s ability to fulfill its promises. Suddenly, product quality drops; employees get overwhelmed by rework; customers grow dissatisfied as commitments are missed; firefighting becomes the norm; top people run for the exits; and the company’s reputation tanks.

In today’s conversation, Karen shares the story of Compaq, and outlines the 5 strategies covered in her book, designed to help senior leaders avoid the common pitfalls of organizational growth. As an experienced hyper-growth leader herself, she offers finer distinctions that every leader and entrepreneur can learn from in order to go from startup to grownup in an efficient and sustainable manner.

Key Takeaways

  1. In a hyper-growth company you really see the interdependence within the team – it’s about optimizing the whole vs maximizing any one function.
  2. A team can only perform at the level of the lowest performing member.
  3. ‘A’ players can carry a team for a while but eventually they will leave.
  4. There’s a responsibility of senior leadership to ensure they are aligned internally and able to scale.
  5. You have to set aside time in your calendar where you clear your mind and just think.
  6. Grow or die - there is no steady state in the world. If you’re in steady state, you’re actually in decline.
  7. It’s not just what is done, it’s how it’s done, because that’s what is sustainable over the long term.
  8. Not all problems have to be solved, and not all problems have to be solved by you.


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