The three factors that separate fast-growing companies from the rest

In Pinsent Masons' exclusive survey of 400 of Europe’s fastest-growing companies, we reveal what sets them apart from their slower-moving rivals

While Europe’s fastest-growing companies are both large and small, found in disparate industries and geographies, and pursue different business models, new research from Pinsent Masons reveals they share common characteristics. In particular, these businesses, so crucial to Europe’s economy, share three traits that drive their success

1. Collaboration brings opportunity

Europe’s fastest-growing companies almost universally share a belief in the power of collaboration. They are excited about looking beyond their own boundaries for new sources of opportunity and growth. That could encompass traditional modes of collaboration such as M&A activity, but fast-growing businesses are increasingly looking at a broader range of options as they seek out access to new skills, tools and technologies. For example, Pinsent Masons' research suggests 40% of fast-growing companies regard alliances and joint ventures as one of the top three drivers of their growth over the past three years. Meanwhile, minority stakes are proving vital for the majority of fast-growing companies – 82% say they have entered into this type of alliance in the past three years.

2. Innovation speeds growth

Europe’s fastest-growing companies are convinced that innovation holds the key to unlocking new opportunity. For example, Pinsent Masons’ research shows 58% of these businesses regard technology as a top-three driver of their growth in the years ahead. Not all of these companies are to be found in the technology sector by any means, but all recognise that technology and innovation can be powerful enablers of growth. They are also investing heavily in product and service development, R&D and operational efficiency.

3. Purpose proves powerful

Europe’s fastest-growing companies have a sense of purpose: they are driven by broader motivations than the desire to add sales or increase profitability simply for their own sake. 

At some of these businesses, social purpose is an important element of this story, with executives keen to pursue ethical or environmental goals, for example. But in most cases, these businesses possess a collective spirit: they are non-hierarchical, with all employees working together towards a clear vision of what the company hopes to achieve. Pinsent Masons’ research reveals that 32% of Europe’s fastest-growing companies think a sense of collective purpose is one of the two most important features of their corporate culture.

In aggregate, these three characteristics of a fast-growing company provide a powerful recipe for success. The businesses in Pinsent Masons’ research have many other qualities and attributes, of course, but all share these core features – and it is these drivers that underpin the growth they have achieved to date.

For other companies aspiring to increased growth – as well as stakeholders such as policymakers and business advisers – Pinsent Masons' research therefore provides crucial intelligence. It suggests the secret sauce of business success can be boiled down to three essential ingredients: collaboration, innovation and sense of purpose. Putting these core elements in place will provide the foundations for higher levels of future growth.