Growth is what every brand needs, but why? Growth for the sake of growth does not result in good strategy or smart decision making. In fact, it often leads to diluted focus and lackluster results.

The end is what should dictate the start and determine the pace of the race. It is critical to determine and crystallize the desired outcome in the minds of all stakeholders. That understanding is the building block of both the route-to-market and the go-to-market strategy.

To illustrate the concept, the fictional company Meat4Me just went through its second round of funding. Its product is an early entrant in the meat on-the-go protein market. Sarah, its founder, views herself as a serial entrepreneur. The product is in about 100 Whole Foods stores and is doing well. It is time to expand and drive more distribution. Her desired outcome: a successful and lucrative exit.

In another fictional example, Rachael’s father retired last year and asked her to take over his business. Named after her great grandmother, Eleanor’s Artisan Sauces has been a recognizable brand in the Bay Area for more than 35 years. Rachael always worked with her dad as often as she could, and loved how proud he was of the products they produced. She knew the brand had legs and she believed it could extend its reach. Her desired outcome: a company that she could pass on to her kids that would also make her dad proud.

Does growth mean the same for these two companies? Of course not. But if they started simply with a desire to grow, their strategies might be very similar. This is why it is vital to begin at the end.

Sarah wants a successful exit. A good strategy for Meat4Me will likely focus on driving top line and ACV, and creating a national brand. It will probably target large national specialty retailers, and will undoubtedly have her investing some of her recent funding into slotting and aggressive promotions to drive trials and awareness.

Rachael wants to be careful. She has no new sources of funding and doesn’t want to push her plant past its capacity. The right strategy for Eleanor’s Sauces likely starts by leveraging the buzz around artisan products. Placing a focus on gaining distribution in Southern California and the Pacific Northwest, the hope would be to obtain a few independent specialty retail chains in each market. The best strategy most likely will not include paying for slotting or being aggressive with demos and promotions. It might require Rachael to hire a broker in each region. Mostly, it would be a plan developed to support sustainable and affordable growth.

These two examples are on opposite ends of a continuum, but illustrate just how different the route-to-market and go-to-market strategy can be when a company starts by looking at the end.

Good strategy and smart decision making start with the end in mind. The finish line is what should guide the channels pursued, the distribution model utilized and geography targeted. It should also frame the customers solicited, the sales structure constructed and the trade plan followed.

Leaders of emerging food brand should take the time to identify and articulate their end goals, then build the strategy that will deliver those results. Growth should be a means to an end, and that end is the desired outcome.