MASC™ & The Secrets of High Growth Businesses

MASC™ Strategic Alignment & The Secrets Of High Growth Businesses

MASC™ Strategic Alignment & The Secrets of High Growth Businesses

MASC™ Strategic Alignment is a simple business model and road map based on the findings of many 00’s of business growth projects.

The simple truth is most businesses do not enjoy consistent, sustainable profitable growth throughout their lifetime. If they did there would be far fewer business than we have today and the business world would be dominated by huge corporations mostly established decades ago. In reality businesses come and go all the time, large and small. 

Start up failure rates in the UK are at an all time high with 55% of businesses failing within 5 years and 70% within 10 years. We also see a constant stream of large companies struggling to survive and eventually either being consumed by acquisition or simply closing. All this is happening withiin the UK which has one of the strongest economies in the World.

Whilst not necessarily failing completely, most businesses will experience periods of stagnation or decline, often lasting for extended periods. There is also what is commonly described as the ‘Glass Ceiling’ phenomenon, the idea that businesses simply hit a level at which they are no longer competent to go beyond.

The reasons given for business growth problems are many and in the UK topping the list of barriers to growth are issues like the UK tax system, lack of bank lending, too much red tape, energy costs, poor cash flow and the inability to raise investment finance. Our experience however suggests that whilst these are no doubt important factors, they are also pretty much a level playing field for all UK businesses, so why do some succeed in attaining growth while others don’t?


Having now worked on business growth projects with over 1000 SME businesses over the last 25 years we have clearly identified the three key components that we believe will ultimately determine a business’s growth potential.

The three key components we have identified are:


It’s very clear that most businesses will stop growing when they reach the limitations of their leaders and that a business is only ever likely to achieve a level of growth that its leader is capable of taking it to.

As a result we focus our services and our skills on working directly with business leaders to ensure they are not the limiting factor on the growth of their business but are instead the driving force behind its and their own success.

The Pillars of Growth 

We found that there are four core pillars of business competency needed to create the sound foundations of a high growth business.

The four pillars are Market Opportunity, Ambition, Strategy & Capability, or MASC for short.

These MASC pillars need to be suitably formed, robust and strategically aligned with each other in order to stimulate and support growth.
We use the development of these four pillars as our road map towards creating high growth and their strategic alignment a critical destination.
We call this journey attaining MASC™ Strategic Alignment (see details below)

High Growth Attributes

We have identified that there are nine common characteristics and behaviours of high growth businesses that enable them to maximise their growth potential and which differentiate them from low growth businesses.

We have taken these nine attributes and developed them into a series of training and coaching modules that support business leaders in attaining these qualities for themselves and their business.

We call these The 9 High Growth Shifts.

Most of all we see huge gaps between the business’s own perception of their capabilities in these four areas and the actual reality.

MASC™ Strategic Alignment

From the evaluation of over 400 business growth consultancy projects we have created the MASC™ Strategic Alignment model.
MASC™ is an acronym for: Market, Ambition, Strategy & Capability.
It is in these four key areas that we see a lack of leadership, management skills and market knowledge causing growth problems.

These four key elements have proven time after time to be the four pillars of growth that any business needs to create sustainable business growth. Not only do each of these four pillars need to be a strength in its own right, but all four pillars also need to be Strategically Aligned. The MASC model explains the required strengths needed in each pillar and provides a simple but holistic benchmark against which a business can be evaluated and then developed into one capable of delivering high growth.

In brief MASC™ is:

The MASC™ Strategic Alignment Road MapMARKET

There has to be a fully understood, well researched and evaluated accessible, substantial and sustainable MARKET opportunity for your product or service with no insurmountable barriers to entry.


The business needs to have a strong AMBITION including; committed and passionate leadership with an empowering and shared vision to achieve realistic goals and objectives for the business.


There has to be a clear STRATEGY to give a compelling customer proposition (to the specified target customer(s) types), an effective route to market, distinct market positioning and a competitive advantage to enable the business to attract customers, compete and win.


The business has to have the right core CAPABILITY in terms of products, prices, people, processes, costs and cash to take the market opportunity, deliver the strategy to a high standard, make profit and to meet the ambitions of the business.

Within each of these four areas there is a detailed checklist of criteria that needs to be checked, understood and acted on in order for the business to achieve strong profitable growth. If any one of these criteria are missing or broken this is capable of preventing the business achieving its true potential. The MASC™ Business Growth Strategy Process systematically checks, evaluates and creates solutions to ensure all these are in place and working correctly.


Having all the right component parts in place for your business isn’t quite the same as having them all working effectively together. MASC Strategic Alignment is the process of aligning the four key pillars of a business (Market, Ambition, Strategy, Capability) in order to achieve its true growth potential.

Indeed one of the most common reasons for a business underperforming is what we call Strategic Misalignment, that is to say when some of the pillars (or sub components of a pillar) of the business are either misaligned internally or misaligned with the market place.

There are many ways this can occur and in every case the misalignment will be detracting from the performance of the business to one degree or another, in severe cases the misalignment can be enough to eventually destroy the business.

Here are just some obvious, but nevertheless very common forms of misalignment resulting in poor business growth or decline.

Market Misalignment

  • Market: The market itself is suffering due to changes in the economy or other factors outside of the business’s control.
  • Ambition: The goals and objectives of the business cannot be supported by the chosen market.
  • Strategy: The business is unaware of new competitor activity and is not responding strategically to this threat.
  • Capability: The business has lost touch with its market place and is trying to sell a product or service which no longer meets the market requirements e.g. specification or technology out of date, production methods no longer cost effective or of high enough quality, lead times too long etc.

Ambition Misalignment

  • Market: The aspirations of the business are not well founded on the actual market situation.
  • Ambition: There is conflict of ambition between two or more shareholders / Directors or between the required business goals and the personal objectives of the MD or owner.
  • Strategy: The vision and goals of the business have no clear strategy for achieving them, they are simply a wish list.
  • Capability: The Directors of the business are trying to achieve something that the business is simply not yet capable of achieving.

Strategy Misalignment

  • Market: The business is targeting a market that is not substantial, sustainable or viable enough to achieve its ambitions.
  • Ambition: The current strategies being adopted by the business will simply not achieve the goals of the business.
  • Strategy: There is no clear competitive strategy, compelling customer proposition or distinctive market positioning strategy for how the business will compete and win against its competitors.
  • Capability: The chosen strategy is not capable of being implemented successfully by the current capability of the business.

Capability Misalignment

  • Market: The people in the business responsible for determining products, services and price are out of touch with the market, and don’t fully understand the customer needs or the competitor offerings.
  • Ambition: The leaders / senior managers of the business are not fully aware of the limitations of the business’s capabilities and are asking for more than can be delivered without further investment or changes to operations.
  • Strategy: The strategy of the business requires the delivery of a product, service or marketing / sales type capability that does not currently exist as they have specified.
  • Capability: There is poor communication between different departments or key individuals in the business causing conflict, errors, waste, employee confusion and dissatisfaction.

These are just some of the many examples where MASC™ misalignment causes businesses to under perform. It is very common for businesses to have multiple misalignment issues.


A detailed explanation of MASC™ Strategic Alignment can be found in the book ‘An Introduction to MASC™ Strategic Alignment – Lessons in Creating High Growth’ this is available directly from us or from Amazon>>