This is the first in a monthly column called When Growth Stalls that will look at why businesses and brands struggle and how they can overcome their obstacles and resume growth. Steve McKee is the president of McKee Wallwork + Co., an advertising agency that specializes in working with stalled, stuck and stale brands. The company was recognized by Advertising Age as 2015 Southwest Small Agency of the Year. McKee is also the author of “When Growth Stalls” and “Power Branding.”

There’s no question that conditions continue to be somewhat anemic out there. The recovery has been more resuscitation than resurgence and it’s hard to run fast when your breathing is shallow. That said, ‘It’s the economy, stupid” is too-easy of a refrain we may use to shirk responsibility for our results. Even if it is the economy, it’s not really the economy. It’s us.

I believe there’s a clear but unappreciated distinction between using an unfortunate marketplace dynamic (the state of the economy included) as an excuse versus leveraging it as a strategy. (read more…)

The naming of Jack Dorsey this week as Twitter’s permanent CEO brings closure to the last quarter of leadership limbo. It allows the organization to begin moving forward, reinventing itself and its platform (perhaps even allowing us all more than 140 characters to express our deepest thoughts). It also offers several important and enduring lessons for organizations and leaders alike.

Lesson 1: Be careful what you wish for.

What organization doesn’t want highly engaged customers? What executive doesn’t secretly fantasize about a committed fan base? Who doesn’t wish they could get into their customers heads and get their feedback at the drop of a hat? But as we know from any number of fairy tales, when wishes are granted, they generally come with some baggage and at least a few surprises.

Twitter’s customers (and probably yours too) enjoy nearly effortless access to information and the ability to broadcast their reactions, experiences, opinions and advice — all day, every day, in an exponential fashion. (read more…)

There is a large contingent of travel enthusiasts (not all of them ex-hippies) who’ve enjoyed a long-standing romance with the iconic VW bus. Some of them have owned a model of the van for decades; even a former neighbor of mine, now in his retirement years, still fondly reminisces about driving across country in his youth “to find himself” and reluctantly back home again.

I once knew a family that was so obsessed with their Volkswagen bus that they did everything possible to keep it running. Some 20 years into the relationship, however, the bus gave up and announced that the romance was over by catching fire while the owners were driving it across a bridge on a busy city street. The divorce papers were served and the family sadly accepted that there was no chance for reconciliation.

With the recent crisis of integrity, culture and leadership at Volkswagen, fans of the brand like the family I knew might be left with only distant memories of their favorite VW model. (read more…)

Volatile equities markets, rising interest rates, international turmoil and instability, unstable monetary exchanges, shrinking resources, changing employee values — all of these factors seem to be creating the “perfect storm” threatening markets and the free enterprise system.

If ever there was a time for government and organizations to be resilient, its now. But how can organizations enhance resilience? Let’s look at the most current recommendations from the finest minds.

Residing within the National Academies in Washington, D.C., is the Institute of Medicine. IOM is a nongovernmental think tank that brings together the finest minds in the country to offer collective opinions on the pressing issues facing the country and the world. Recently, IOM was asked to provide guidance on how organizations can best weather the storms of adversity, economic downturn, and shrinking resources. According to the IOM report, organizations should prepare for adversity by developing an organizational culture of resilience.

An organizational culture of resilience may be thought of as a climate or general atmosphere within a group, organization, or community which fosters resilience in the wake of adversity. (read more…)

While the millennial generation continues to enter the workforce in ever growing numbers, employers are confronted with another workforce challenge from the other end of the employee spectrum: the “silver tsunami” — that wave of maturing associates either preparing to exit the workforce or making the decision to extend their careers.

This development is creating challenges for employers and employees alike. Employers are faced with helping employees retire without losing valuable institutional knowledge, as well as supporting and accommodating workers who choose to remain in the workforce. Employees who chose to extend their careers may want to continue to expand their skills or find ways to share their knowledge with younger colleagues.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2022, more than 25% of U.S. workers will be 55 years old or older, up from 14% in 2002. And according to AARP, nearly 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age every day. (read more…)