Dunigan O'Keeffe: The Founder's Mentality 100—How Tomorrow's Leaders Tackle the Challenges of Growth



High-growth companies face a number of opportunities and challenges as they seek to become scale insurgents. Dunigan O’Keeffe, a partner in Bain's Strategy practice, discusses three specific challenges that high-growth companies face and explains how Bain’s initiative, the Founder’s Mentality 100, helps rapidly expanding companies become the next generation of global growth leaders.

Read the transcript below.

DUNIGAN O'KEEFFE: At Bain and Company, from our inception, we've been focused on partnering with high-growth companies to help them redefine their industry. And over the past couple of years, as we spend more time thinking about Founder's Mentality, we've developed a sharper understanding of both the opportunities and challenges faced by high-growth companies hoping to reach the level of becoming what we call a scale insurgent.

There are three specific challenges which are particularly acute for these type of companies. The first is just the challenge of speed. Oftentimes, these companies are working in markets that are very dynamic. The pace of change in the customer behaviors, the pace of change of competitor responses, sometimes regulation, is very rapid. And that puts a high premium on how quickly leadership teams can notice what's happening in the market and take decisions.

The second challenge is one of talent. Oftentimes, these companies go through an explosive growth period, where they actually don't have the people already in place to handle that growth. Suddenly, they have to figure out about how they add to their capacity, to deliver upon the capabilities they need to be successful. This presents a huge challenge in thinking about how you develop a culture that attracts and retains and develops talent at the pace that you need to keep up with your growth ambitions.

The third challenge we've noticed is often that these companies, when they're at their highest growth phase, are founder-led. And that presents a unique set of challenges of how you balance the energy and drive that a founder can bring, with the need to broaden the leadership model to include more people to get to the next level of growth. And the interesting thing is that while these challenges are very unique for companies in a high-growth phase, too frequently these companies are looking at big, established incumbents for the model of how to address this.

And that's the exact wrong place to look. These are large, complex businesses, struggling with complexity. And often the Fortune 500 is not actually the set of companies you want to look for to figure out how your company is going to go from 1x today to 100x tomorrow. So what we're doing with the Founder's Mentality 100 is committing to our mission, and trying to develop partnerships with 100 companies to help them on this journey, from high-growth, moderate-sized company, to a true scale insurgent in the industry who's redefining the rules of the game.

One of the key platforms for achieving this is what we call the Founder's Mentality 100 Forums. Every couple of months we bring together founders and CEOs, 10 to 20 of them, in a room, to really roll up our sleeves and talk about both the opportunities for growth, but more critically, how to address the challenges. This is a wonderful session where we're bringing our own perspectives from working with these clients, but also having individual founders and CEOs share their own thoughts and reflections about what's required, and really challenge them to put the foundations in place for future growth.

Through this Founder's Mentality 100 initiative, or what we call FM100, we believe that we will be helping companies over the next several years become the next generation of growth leaders globally, and thereby meeting Bain and Company's mission to help our clients redefine their industry.

Learn more about the Founder's Mentality 100 >