A Biotech Startup Becomes A Global Leader

Watch an interview with GENEWIZ founders Steve Sun and Amy Liao (3:46 min)

“Instead of two of us, we have a team of leaders working together to grow the business.”

Read: Evolution is a Discipline: an Interview with Steve Sun, CEO, GENEWIZ


How does an enterprise leadership team precisely identify and resolve, one after the next, primary constraints to delivering customer value across a portfolio of businesses?

Executive Summary

GENEWIZ is Growth River’s oldest client. The relationship began 13 years ago with business coaching for two scientists in a lab. GENEWIZ is now a global leader in genomics services. For several years it has garnered best workplace and fastest growing company awards in New Jersey.

We’ve applied all of our services with GENEWIZ. Here we’ll focus on a service for high performing teams, The Quarterly Performance Review.


Key distinction:  The Primary Constraint to Delivering Customer Value.

In any business there is always only one primary constraint to delivering customer value. Resolving it is the the highest return investment in that business’ performance.

Featured Frameworks:

The Business Triangle℠

The Enterprise Map℠

The Four Arguments For Competitive Advantage


Within a single business, investing to resolve the primary constraint to delivering value to customers is a relatively simple conversation. Each business leader uses The Business Triangle to model their business and identify their primary constraint. Resolving that constraint is the strategic priority for that business.

Yet, in an enterprise, complexity grows. Resources are allocated across a portfolio of businesses and functions. Investments need to be clarified and prioritized. The goal is to identify single investments that resolve two or more constraints simultaneously. For example, if IT is a problem for two more businesses, an larger investment in the IT capability across the enterprise may be warranted.

In fact, and this occurred at GENEWIZ, a major investment in IT was essential to ensure long-term competitive advantage.

GENEWIZ, like all Growth River clients, structure this leadership team conversation with The Enterprise Map. It arrays businesses against functions. (Enterprise maps are proprietary. This is a generic example.) Note that there are businesses arrayed along the left column. Across the top are the develop, sell, deliver and support capabilities needed across the business to create value.

This is an extremely powerful diagram for leaders and top teams to clarify role and set priorities across the enterprise. There are several exercises that can be run against this map to answer questions about investment/divestment, short-term and long-term capability investment and budgeting priorities, among others.

For more on how to model your business and enterprise with these frameworks, watch this video.

Top leadership teams conduct Quarterly Performance Reviews to locate primary constraints, and to prioritize investments to resolve them — using the shared language and analysis of these two frameworks.

This approach derails the politics and conflict that can and do emerge when senior leaders compete for resources.

It also calls all senior leaders to be accountable for playing two roles. One, their role as a business or function leader, and two, rising above parochial interests of those roles to stand in the shoes of the enterprise leader, and be accountable for enterprise strategy.

Hence, in a Quarterly Performance Review, the entire leadership team aligns around answers to critical questions like:

  • What suite of investments will maximize performance across the enterprise?
  • What logic governs this conversation so that competitive advantage, not politics, frames the approach?
  • How do investments in functional capabilities to resolve business constraints across the portfolio today ensure long-term competitive advantage?

Cautionary tale: In our experience, only well-developed and high performing teams are able to effectively engage in a Quarterly Performance Review. These are teams that have engaged with the Seven Principles For Team Effectiveness℠.

The Journey To Higher Performance

Quarterly Performance Review Meeting

The goal for a Quarterly Performance Review Meeting is for all business leaders and function leaders to account for the past 90 days, and describe their strategy for the next 90 days. There is a laser-focus on primary constraints.

To compare apples to apples, everyone applies the same logic, distinctions and frameworks:

For each business, a list of 9 key questions are answered, including:

  1. Where was the primary constraint in your business? Which functional capability?
  2. Where is the current primary constraint now?
  3. How will your investment create competitive advantage?

Based on strategies proposed, leaders make Compelling Requests to one another, and corresponding commitments are made in response. Clear accountabilities are set.

Requests for resources and other actions are prioritized. These define the current scope of enterprise strategy, and create a performance dashboard for the organization.

  • Recalibration of accountabilities and final call authority (refining the system-of-roles).
  • Evaluation of ROI on current business strategy investments.
  • Identification of current primary constraints in each business, and associated investments/requests to resolve them.
  • Alignment of function strategy with business strategy (and associated investments).
  • Alignment of business and function leaders with enterprise strategy.

GENEWIZ has grown 40% annually for the last five years in an industry growing at less than 10% — without outside investment.