A few weekends ago I had the chance to join a Digital "unconference" in Athens, Greece, hosted by WPP Digital. An unconference is a relatively new format in which a group of diverse people go somewhere isolated and create discussion forums for anything they would like to talk about. One of those discussion leaders was Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP group and my ultimate boss. As expected, the other discussion leaders stayed away from his designated time slot.
Sorrell is always a pleasure to listen to at events. He is remarkably candid and smart as hell on a wide variety of topics. One topic he covered particularly stuck in my mind. In answering a question about the company's growth in China, he discussed its overall culture and society. Sorrell said that, "The Chinese government's number one goal is to maintain social harmony...and it believes it must keep up a high growth rate of 7% to 8% in order to keep this stability." Anything more could make its economy overheat, anything less and their could be angry, unemployed men stirring up trouble.
This challenge of growth makes a lot of sense. We see it in our own company, digital and relationship marketing agency, Bridge Worldwide. As an executive at the firm for four years, I have seen how growth can be the cure and cover for many ills. Growth allows us to hire and promote often, we are able to splurge on added benefits, and people tend to focus on getting the work done rather than engaging in political plotting. Luckily, we've had double-digital growth for several years, and we've had remarkable stability in our own little society. But we are carefully watching the economy and client spending. Like China, we are susceptible to market conditions no matter how hard we work.
The challenge to grow clearly drives improvement both in national economies and small businesses. It offers both the incentives of success, and teaches us to avoid the pitfalls of stagnation. So at the same time we're watching costs carefully, we must double down our investment in growth and figure out new ways to win.
UPDATE: China's growth is falling significantly. Good for the price of oil. Bad for its stabilization.