Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Private Businesses, Part I

This course focuses on the common growth challenges faced by existing private businesses when they attempt to grow substantially.

About The Course

Most entrepreneurship courses focus on how to start a business. Few focus on the next big entrepreneurial inflection point: how do you successfully grow an existing private business? This is the focus of this Course. It is based on the instructor's research and thirty years of real-world experience advising private growth companies. 

This Course will challenge how you think about growth; give you tools to help you plan for growth, assess the preconditions to grow, and manage the risks of growth. You will study stories of how five different private businesses faced their growth challenges. 

Growth, if not properly managed, can overwhelm a business, destroying value and in many cases even causing the business to fail. However, the research shows that every growth business faces common challenges. You can learn from others' experience—you do not have to "reinvent the wheel".

The Course format is case based. Each case tells a compelling story. You will learn from Julie Allinson, Susan Fellers, Dave Lindsey, Parik Laxinarayan and Eric Barger. In addition, each week, we will discuss a different content theme. In Weeks and 2 and 5, you will engage in Workshops where you will be asked to use and apply the Course tools and concepts to create growth strategies for two different real-life businesses. You will have the opportunity to create a Course Community of fellow-students to learn from each other as the Course progresses. 

You will learn about the: "3 Myths of Growth"; the "Truth About Growth";  why growth is like "Mother Nature"; the "Gas Pedal" approach to growth; the all important "4 Ps" of how to grow; and how to scale a business strategically.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?
    Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor.
  • How will I learn in this Course?

    This Course is based on the principle that one learns by doing. There are required and optional readings. You will be asked to apply concepts discussed in the videos and readings in Workshop exercises, and if you choose to join a Course Community, you will learn from each other.

  • What resources will I need for this Course?

    None. The Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia is providing this Course for free because of its mission to positively impact society. Darden Business Publishing will provide all required Course reading for free.

  • Why is this Course important?

    Growing private businesses is in many parts of the world a major job creator and a key route to building a better life for oneself and one's family. In effect, this Course is about the pursuit of hopes and dreams. I think doing business is much more than just about making money. Doing business is the primary way many people achieve their hopes and dreams to provide a better life for themselves and their families. And in doing so, building a business can also create value for employees, customers, and society.

  • What is the coolest thing I'll learn if I take this Course?

    By bringing real-life business growth stories and challenges to you, this Course will teach you a different way to think about business growth and an appreciation for how managing risks and constant learning and improvement are critical to business success. You will also acquire tools, such as the 4 Ps in Week 2, that can help you manage your life.


Recommended Background

The only prerequisite for this Course is an interest in learning about how privately-owned entrepreneurial businesses grow. The following people will find this course helpful: students at all levels, private business owners, managers of private businesses, employees of private businesses, and people interested in growth, economic development, and job creation.