This article is the third in a series based on Rocket: Eight Lessons to Secure Infinite Growth, which tells the stories of 16 business leaders who created iconic brands. The book, by Michael Silverstein, Dylan Bolden, Rune Jacobsen, and Rohan Sajdeh, is available now.
Every successful company starts with a dream. This is what drives its founders. But there are far more dreamers than there are apostle companies—those rare and valuable businesses whose fanatical customers follow them, promote them, and propel them to infinite growth. Why is this? It’s because apostle companies are led by people who have not only dared to dream but also dared to act. These entrepreneurs do not know all the answers, but they are not inhibited by fear or a desire to protect the status quo. They are prepared to lose everything for a chance at the big win. When confronted with risk, they bet boldly—they take giant leaps.
In our work with companies around the world, we have encountered many companies that started with next to nothing but their founder’s dreams. After a series of giant leaps—redefining their markets, deeply understanding the latent needs of consumers, and providing highly differentiated products—they have grown into leaders in their markets and created fortunes for their founders and early investors. The founders were not motivated solely by profit or wealth. They were guided by a deep commitment to other people—their customers, of course, but also their employees and suppliers—as they took a series of leaps toward their destination.
In the course of our research for the latest book from The Boston Consulting Group, Rocket: Eight Lessons to Secure Infinite Growth, we looked at two companies that took some successful giant leaps: Mercadona, a Spanish company that began as a butcher shop and now ranks among Europe’s largest, most profitable, and fastest-growing grocery retailers, and Natura Cosméticos, a Brazilian company that now ranks as one of the world’s most profitable cosmetics companies.
Mercadona’s progress got under way when Juan Roig, the company’s main shareholder and chief executive, opted to make a series of bold bets. His major insight was to treat the customer as el jefe—the boss. This is not just another way of saying that the customer is king. From Mercadona’s perspective, the king is a distant figure, whereas the boss is an immediate and commanding presence, with powerful emotions that need to be listened and responded to. Many bosses, as conceived by Mercadona, are female. The name of the business stems from the words for market and woman in the local Spanish dialect of Valencia (the Mediterranean port where the company was founded): merca and dona.
You ignore the boss at your peril. As Roig explained, “Our ‘bosses’…have been the guiding light of the decisions we have taken, because every step has fulfilled our commitment to prescribing the best solution for them to put together their total shopping with the highest quality at the lowest possible price.”
Likewise, Natura Cosméticos has put customers—100 million Brazilian women—at the center of its focus. But one of the company’s great insights was to convert some of these customers into sales consultants. Let’s look at the various giant leaps it took on its way to become one of Brazil’s corporate champions, delivering annual revenues in excess of $3.1 billion.