New to Big by David Kidder and Christina Wallace

August 21, 2019

Book Review by Andy Ghillyer

According to the Small Business Administration, eighty percent of new businesses don’t make it past their first year. Those that do make it and continue to grow, focus on developing policies and procedures in pursuit of operational efficiency and long-term viability. Once you reach that ‘legacy company’ stage, the need for survival is replaced with the need for quarter-on-quarter growth.

For authors David Kidder and Christina Wallace, that change comes with its own issues. In their new book New to Big: How Companies Can Create Like Entrepreneurs, Invest Like VCs, and Install a Permanent Operating System for Growth, they examine how big bureaucratic businesses can still discover new opportunities that and grow them into bigger businesses.

Buy Your Way In

One established option is to buy your way into a new opportunity by investing or purchasing outright. A new startup may have enough of a lead in the market to make an outright purchase more expedient, but you then face the challenge of assimilating that new company into your established corporate culture.

Growth Operating System

What if there was an established blueprint you could follow that would combine the tools, systems, and mind-sets of an entrepreneurial venture with the leverage of an established business? Kidder and Wallace’s book offers precisely that.

The foundation of the Growth OS is the conviction that “world-altering businesses…can be discovered and scaled in a methodical way.” Instead of counting on continuous incremental improvement (Kaizen) and operational excellence, established businesses can achieve market-leading innovation by thinking like venture capitalists (VCs) and planning to launch $50 million businesses as a core component of their long-term business strategies.

This, the authors argue, requires a dramatically different perspective. Instead of looking internally at leaner operations within your existing lines of business, or potential synergies between existing divisions, New to Big companies must focus on customer problems. Startups do this with a level of passion and attention to detail that most big businesses cannot match. The Growth OS addresses that.

Much of the mechanics of the Growth OS involves behaving like the over-optimistic and highly enthusiastic founders that VCs see every day. Ask your customers directly about their pain points rather than just observing their behavior through focus groups. Treat those pain points as problems to be fixed rather than projects to be investigated, and then commit to action plans to fix them.

With examples as diverse as GE, TD Ameritrade, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the authors present a compelling proposition for big businesses to revisit their history and start operating as much smaller ones.

New to Big argues that long-term growth requires a balance of operational efficiency and entrepreneurial vision. With a comprehensive set of tools, systems, and examples, the authors map out a clear path for big businesses to identify and grow new opportunities with the same dexterity as new startups.


Andy Ghillyer

Andy Ghillyer is a Contributing Writer at Soundview. He lives in Tampa, FL where he specializes in writing for the B2B and academic markets while raising a growing menagerie of cats and dogs. His other reviews are here.


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