Grow or Die: A ‘Freaky’ Concept

By Jim Ristow, AVB

Over the past few weeks, I have been working with the AVB Leadership Team to help define, understand and ultimately instill the core values of this organization.

One of those core values I am thinking about is “grow or die.” The concept, simply defined, is this: If we do not continuously evolve and push ourselves to grow as an organization and as independent retailers, we will become stagnant and ultimately cease to exist.

Nothing in nature survives if it stays stagnant. Plants, vegetables, fruits, trees — they are either growing or they’re dying. The same holds true for us all. When we stop growing, we begin to slowly die.

The scariest thing about this, though, is that nobody intends to stop growing or evolving. What’s more likely to happen is that most of us unknowingly fall into the same trap — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But I prefer to think in these terms: If something is working, make it better! If your current results are less than spectacular, improve them. If your success rate is as high as it can be, find a way to duplicate that success in other areas of your business or your personal life.

If there is a part of your life where you want to grow (think mastering a difficult skill; becoming a better leader; taking your business in a whole new direction), let’s be honest: It will never happen if you continue to do the exact same things you are doing today.

If you want to accomplish big things — things that really matter — you need to be continually growing, as an organization, as a business and most importantly, as individuals.  

Watching the NBA finals last month (Yes! My Milwaukee Bucks are the champs!) was remarkably illustrative of the grow-or-die principle, as embodied in the epic transformation of Giannis Antetokounmpo, better known as “The Greek Freak.” The story of Giannis’s journey to the NBA is well known by most, but I still find it worth noting how intentional Giannis was (and is) about constantly growing.

His incredible work ethic coupled with his desire to constantly improve is what transformed him in just a few short years from a skinny kid hustling trinkets on the streets of Athens into arguably the best basketball player on the planet. Giannis didn’t even pick up a basketball until he was 12. He had to learn and master every aspect of his game from, and with, next to nothing.

Fast forward six years and he enters the NBA as a raw bundle of unformed potential, occasionally showing flashes of the greatness to come through his sheer will to grow and improve.

The team had to literally lock him out of the gym, or the guy would have never stopped practicing, training and mastering his unpolished skills. In so doing, he added 45 pounds of solid muscle and became unstoppable. Talk about growing!

In 2017, after winning his first of two consecutive MVP awards, he was asked what it was like to be the league’s most valuable player. His response was telling (and I’m paraphrasing here): “Don’t call me the MVP; I am not the most valuable player. I won’t feel like the MVP until I win a championship.”

His desire to elevate his game even further was evident in one of his first comments hours after winning the championship: “Now it’s time to get back to work so we can win many more.”

Not unlike Giannis, it is not in our DNA here at AVB to rest on our laurels and become complacent. We plan on growing and elevating our game to yet another level.

Growing is an intentional pursuit. You too need to be deliberate about making changes and pushing yourself to constantly grow. If you do, the next “Greek Freak” could be you!

Jim Ristow is CEO of AVB Inc., the operational arm of BrandSource, a $22 billion-plus merchandising and marketing co-op for independent home goods retailers.