8 Steps to Sustainable Growth in the Tech Companies
July 14, 2021 •Mike Rose
Tech companies have a tendency to experience rapid growth. There’s a group of early adopters who buy in immediately.
Unfortunately, to experience sustainable growth, you need to have more customers than the early adoption crowd.
So the question becomes, how do you overcome the growth plateau and start experiencing sustainable growth?
The process on how to scale in the tech space outlined below works with the understanding that you have a product that will actually serve your customers. If you have a vaporware that looks good but adds no real value or functionality to the customers, the process below won’t work. When you prioritize the needs of the customer, revenue becomes an unavoidable bi-product.
If you don’t have a great product or aren’t sure exactly what your customers would need, start by conducting market research. Understand the problem your potential customers would need you to solve. Then make an offering that solves the problem.
1) Craft a Vision
The idea of crafting a vision sounds a bit fluffy. From personal experience, I’ve spoken with CEOs of fast-growing tech companies where they literally said the mission of the company was to make as much revenue as possible. Not every single company has a vision of a better world.
Those companies won’t sustainably grow for a few reasons.
- The company has no purpose. People all seek meaning in their lives. When the only purpose of a companies existence is to make more money so they can continue to make more money, the company will never provide purpose in the lives of their employees.
- They can’t retain talent. If everyone is searching for meaning in their work, and your company provides no purpose to live into, people will leave.
At the time this is written, it’s predicted that 40% of American workers are going to change careers in the next twelve months. Why? They had a moment where COVID showed them their lives weren’t everything they thought it was. Now they are seeking new opportunities to find meaning in their work. Provide purpose for your employees or you will have a revolving door of new hires.
- A Vision provides Clarity. The larger your company becomes, the more you will need to delegate decisions and control. When you cast a clear vision of the company, your employees can ask themselves “Does this choice move the company towards the vision?” When you provide a guideline for them to reflect on, you can have confidence that your employees will make the right decisions to move the company forward.
If you see the value of crafting a vision for your company, start by identifying the problem in the world you set out to solve. Reflect on what life would look like if that problem no longer existed. Now here’s a framework for crafting a vision.
“At (Company Name), we seek to help (Potentia Customer) eliminate/overcome (The Problem) so that (What the world would look like if the problem didn’t exist).”
Here’s an example.
At Scalewithyou.io, we seek to help rapidly growing companies overcome the common obstacles to continued growth so they can continue to serve their employees and customers well.
In the book, ROE Powers ROI, I refer to the CEO as the Chief Vision Officer. To have the continuous growth you desire, there has to be a visionary that casts a vision that others can buy into.
If you want to successfully scale the company, it needs to be a company worth buying into. A vision is the way you get sustainable buy-in from employees and customers. If you don’t have a company vision, you need to develop one immediately.
2) Establish Stable Cash-Flow
In the early stages of the business, it’s difficult to think about long-term success when you are more concerned about ensuring you have enough revenue to make it to the end of the quarter.
If you are still in the early stages, find or hire people that naturally have the company vision ingrained in them. At this point, it’s unlikely you have fantastic processes or enough people to cover every single job.
People will wear multiple hats. You will have to figure out new processes on the fly. That’s why people bought into the vision are crucial. They will go the extra mile because they believe in the cause and in the work you are trying to accomplish.
The main focus at this stage should be ensuring you know the customers and that you have a product-market fit. Especially in an early stage, find early adopters that will become your evangelists and develop a strong relationship with them. Make the perfect product for them. They will go tell their friends.
With a strong product-market fit, people bought into the vision, and a group of loyal customers, you can likely start having a more stable cash flow.
Stable cash flow for most companies will look like consistently hitting revenue targets that indicate $1M annually recurring revenue (ARR).
3) Position the Brand
Once you have established the vision of the company, you need to have marketing to support the evangelizing of the vision. In reality, brand positioning should work in tandem with establishing a positive cash flow.
The goal of your brand positioning is to become associated in the mind of your target audience as the solution to the problem you identified in your vision. Your brand positioning should flow out of the vision you want to achieve.
With the brand positioning in mind, it’s crucial you develop a brand message that directly speaks to the audience. The temptation with many tech companies is to talk about your technical prowess and advanced digital infrastructure. People don’t buy technical. They buy solutions to problems. The brand message should use the same language your customers use.
If you aren’t quite sure how to exactly communicate your ideas, lean towards a 5th to 7th-grade reading level. The average American has a 7th-grade reading level. If you can create copy engaging to your target audience, but accessible to anyone, you’ve hit a sweet spot difficult to achieve.
As you establish your most trusted early adopters, you can ensure that the brand messaging and positioning resonate well with the intended audience. These early adopters can function as a testing audience to ensure you are crafting a brand that will help you achieve your vision.
It’s imperative you do this step early. Small businesses have an easier time pivoting. If you create a message that doesn’t resonate well, you will have fewer challenges changing the message. Once you have started to grow exponentially, it’s incredibly difficult to change the brand position you hold in someone’s mind.
This should be a priority for your company from $0 to $1M ARR. Additionally, it’s advisable to review your brand message and guidelines quarterly.
4) Marketing Strategy
Now that you know who you are trying to position your company as in the marketplace, you need to start implementing marketing strategies that will spread the message.
For most companies, it’s best to start with an inbound/demand generation marketing approach. By developing high-quality content with the intent to educate, you start attracting customers that are actively researching products like yours.
After you have started to build out the content for your inbound marketing strategy, you may want to also consider implementing account-based marketing. Considering many technology companies are in the B2B space, have an ongoing relationship with their customers, and have a larger deal size, account-based marketing (ABM) could prove a sustainable strategy for many scaling tech companies.
With ABM, you develop a target account list of your potential best-fit customers. The idea is to focus your efforts on the customers you know you’d have the most success with and are most likely to close. ABM is a bit more expensive when it comes to the technology required for a comprehensive ABM strategy but has shown to improve marketing ROI year-over-year.
You should focus on developing a marketing strategy immediately. Ideally, you would start to build a foundational playbook of what works for your business from $0-$1M. After $1M, you would want to start incorporating more experimentation as the tactics that got you to$1M likely won’t be the same tactics that get you to $5M.
5) Duplicate Your Visionary
You have a clear vision, a stable cash flow, and a brand to engage customers. The easiest way to double revenue is for the visionary leader to hire another person that can start speaking on their behalf.
If you’re a visionary founder, that idea sounds terrifying. In reality, it’s a baby step towards further delegation down the road. If you can start to delegate decisions to a single individual, you will have an easier time as you start to delegate more and more decisions as the company scales.
The reason duplicating the visionary works incredibly well is most, if not all, of the decisions at this point have needed the approval of the visionary founder. When you find someone that thinks in the same way as the visionary founder and can start to make decisions on their behalf, you have eliminated the bottleneck of one decision-maker. The company can start moving forward faster and continue to propel its own growth.
This fix isn’t permanent by any means, but this step is the next step if you have started to plateau.
Duplicating the Visionary should come shortly after you surpass $1M or start to experience your first growth plateau.
6) Identify Your Process Best-Practices
Duplicating the visionary will also eventually plateau. When the company can start to feel that plateau coming, they need to bring in someone that thinks completely differently from the visionary founder. You need someone who thinks in step-by-step processes.
When you are getting started, a lack of processes is typical. A process is simply an agreed-upon best practice for doing a task. When you haven’t ever done a task, you can’t create an effective process.
With that said, one of the main arguments for implementing processes is that the company will lose the agility of a start-up. Your processes become the foundation you can grow from. Without the processes in place, you can’t start to impact the companies growth systematically.
Processes result in scalability because you can teach people a process.
When you hire someone that thinks in processes, they can start to move through the company to understand what processes are naturally starting to form. They can work with each department to document the processes as they naturally are.
If you want to ensure efficiency, have your operations co-worker walk through every step of the customer journey. If they can understand the steps involved from awareness to off-boarding, they start to know where there are gaps in the process and the areas that need improvement.
Once they have identified all of the processes as they are, they can start to identify the gaps in the process and start to make improvements immediately.
You may wonder why you would wait this long to formalize your process. In reality, processes naturally form. Everyone has their own processes for doing something. At this stage, your departments may only be one or two people. Implementing processes when most of the time you have single people departments isn’t very needed.
You implement processes so that as you add new hires, people have a playbook they can use to know what success looks like in their job. When everyone in the organization knows their part to play and what success looks like for their role, the organization will grow.
You should look to start identifying processes as your company continues to grow its employee count, or after you start to experience a second growth plateau.
7) Operationalize the Vision
With documented processes, you’ll likely need tools to ensure process efficiency. You’ll need to operationalize your vision by implementing the right technology.
Almost every technology company will need the following tech to scale properly. Below is the technology you need to implement to effectively scale your business.
- A Customer Relationship Management Software- Goodbye spreadsheets of customer data! Keep your data clean, organized, and easily accessible. A CRM will become your organization’s one source of truth for everything customer-related.
- Marketing Automation- People expect speed. When they request a demo on your website, they need a calendar link and meeting confirmation in less than a minute. That’s where you can use marketing automation.
- Sales Pipeline Organization- You need the ability to visualize your sales pipeline. If you see a deal has been stuck in the agreement stage for 30 days, you need to get that deal unstuck and won. Tech to help you see your pipeline will help you know where to focus.
- A Ticketing System- You’re in tech. Things will break. You need a streamlined way to ensure your support people can handle the requests as they come and keep existing customers in the know. A ticketing system will help.
Based on the specific processes involved in your business, you may need additional technology. For example, if you have a long and complex onboarding process, you may consider implementing learning management software to help educate your new customers on how to use your tool.
Look at each step of your process and ask yourself if some software would help you further streamline your processes.
Lastly, cloud-based technology is essential in the wake of remote work. When you implement technology that ensures your can operationalize your processes and enable your employees to work from anyway, you ensure your company can continue to scale no matter the situation.
The implementation of technology for continued scaling should happen in the stage between $1M and $5M.
8) Continuous Improvement and Goal Setting
After you have started to implement processes to equip you to start scaling, you need to constantly focus on trying to break your processes. If you can identify weaknesses in your own processes and start improving them before they can hurt your business, you will ensure you have continues business growth.
With the vision in place, and processes to live out the vision, it becomes the job of the business leaders to continually identifying areas of opportunity. As you start to capture more and more market share, there are two methods you can take for growing your business.
- You can focus on your current market. If you focus on your current market, you ensure you have the best products and services to serve this market as effectively as possible. The thought processes here is to find a select number of customers and serve them so well they never consider leaving.
- Start expanding in adjacent markets. If you serve your existing customers incredibly well, but you’ve noticed they are lacking a solution in another area of their business that you could create a solution for, then you may consider expanding your offerings into that adjacent market.
If you expand into an adjacent market, you can continue to serve your existing customers even better, while also starting to serve a new market previously inaccessible.
Regardless of what you choose, you need to ensure that your business planning always aligns with the initial vision of your business.
Start Scaling Today
After reading over this blog, you likely have an idea of where your business lies. After you have identified the stage you are in, take the first step towards improvement today.
If you need a company vision, schedule a leadership off-site today.
If you have a couple of deals you can’t close, take action today to understand how you could close those deals and improve your cash flow.
If you have an unclear brand message, schedule time with your leadership or marketing team to clarify your message.
If you don’t have a strategy for positioning your brand in the market, meet with your leadership and marketing team to develop a marketing strategy for this next quarter.
If your growth has plateaued, hire someone to duplicate the visionary, or to start documenting processes.
If you need to make processes more efficient, implement the right technology.
If your growth has plateaued with processes in place, identify the areas of improvement or bring in consultants to help you optimize each step of your processes.
Whatever you need to do to start scaling your business, take that first step today. If you’d like help implementing sustainable growth, please schedule a call today.
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