How Did We Grow 5000% in 5 Years?

My company, The1stMovement has the rare distinction of having grown over 5000% in our first 5 years. Additionally, we’ve made the Inc. 500 “Fastest Growing private companies in America” list three years in a row.  Often, people would ask me “how DID you do it?” For a long time, I found this hard to answer.

In time, I discovered my confusion lay not with the answer, but the question.  “How DID you do it?”  Past tense.  That implies our growth is a completed goal.  Finished.  That didn’t make sense to me.  Growth is, by definition, never finished or complete.

Growth is a process. It is a process now; it was a process 5 years ago- even when we didn’t even know it.  Ergo, the fact that The1stMovement has grown 5000% is really nothing more than a snapshot of our company 5 years in.  Growing our company isn’t something we did, it’s something we do.

So let me re-phrase the question: how did DO we grow our company?


Now, that’s a question I can answer.


First of all, there are five prerequisites for growth.  Your company must first meet this criteria before you think about growth of this kind

  1. Your product (or service) fulfills a demand.  If no one’s buying what you’re selling, growth isn’t an option.
  2. Your products are better than your competitors’.  Quality is and always will be the hallmark of success.
  3. You have a profitable business model.  This means your company generates enough income not only to cover its expenses, but to turn a profit.  Where there is no profit, there is only stagnancy.
  4. You are in a growing market.  Think of a big plant in a shrinking pot.
  5. You are an Owner/ Investor first, a Builder/ Creator second.  There are many types of entrepreneurs.  But to grow your business, you must bypass the idea of being the sole creator/builder of your company. Think owning and investing in your business first.

With those 5 ingredients, we can talk about how we grow.  It’s with a 4-step, iterative process.




As Steve Jobs once said, “only the ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”


At the outset of every new opportunity, just like when we began this company, we free our imaginations.  We dream with reckless abandon– regardless of limits, restrictions, gravity, or common sense.  We just look into the night sky, pick out a star, and aim at it.  I started the company because I believe we can transform how the world does advertising.  Call me a dreamer, call me crazy– that’s the ultimate compliment you could give me.




With this goal in place, we sell what we envision.  As Simon Sinek says, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”  That’s because “why” someone buys something is more important than “what” they actually buy.  “Why” is your customer’s inner need.  When their “why” meets your “what,” you’re in business.


“Walk the walk and talk the talk.” If you don’t deliver what you promise your customers, you will always eventually fail. As Walter Landor says, “products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.”  Your brand promise is what you promise your customers when they buy your products/services.  You must work hard to deliver your promise, and their trust, day after day, week after week, and month after month.



There was a chinese proverb that says, “before you can multiply, you must first learn to divide.” A good leader must learn to share, to “let go,” and to realize the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Only through teamwork, and knowing it’s ok to take a smaller share of a bigger pie, can you can archive true partnership.  That’s developing “win-win” relationship with your employees, your vendors, and your customers.


From here, the cycle starts over.  With your new partners, you DREAM BIGGER.  Then, pitch your vision.  And so on.  And on.  And on and on…  Remember: growth is not a destination; it is a process.  The goals you achieve are really just the mile markers along the way.


5000% in 5 years.  It’s strange when I look back on it.  Stranger to me yet, and far more wonderful, is when I look forward.  Where will The1stMovement be in another five years?  Ten?  Twenty?

Also see the presentation I did for the Hong Kong University of Technology & Science here

Ming Chan

As founded and CEO of The1stMovement, Ming was named as one of the "Top 10 Asian Entrepreneurs" by Inc. Magazine, and has led the agency to numerous accolades including 3-time Inc. 500 "Fastest Growing Private Companies in America", 3-time "Best Places to work in LA", and 5000% growth in 5 years with his passion for innovation and company culture. Follow @mingAtT1M