I was recently invited to speak at a tech entrepreneurs’ lunch.
In the audience were entrepreneurs just starting out sitting alongside those a number of years in who had successfully navigated the stages of early growth to something more sustainable. We were also lucky enough to hear research presented by Cameron Research Group on key growth inflection points for SMBs.
There were a number of insights gained through the research and the discussions that followed:
1) Focus and commitment to success
Many had chosen to do their own thing not just because they were driven to harness an opportunity and to create a new future, but also because they liked the control it offered. Entrepreneurs felt they could live the life they wanted, and the more time spent on forging their own way, the less likely they could ever work for anyone else again. The result? Total focus on making their venture successful.
2) Managing growth through key inflection points
The way someone was able to run their business in the early days could only get them so far. That point seemed to be at 20-30 employees, at which point entrepreneurs needed to think about switching from a control model to an empowerment model, from an authoritative leadership style to more democratic style of leadership. This meant hiring differently, bringing in new systems, enhancing leadership capability, and formalizing HR and marketing resources and programs.
The next growth inflection point was at 70 employees, where the audience again recognized that what had been built to get them to that size would need to be revisited again, particularly in terms of systems, leadership and culture. The main concern each entrepreneur had was on how to keep and protect their company’s culture and the way they wanted their business to run when they could no longer be personally involved with, or connected to, every decision. An emphasis on investing in building a strong culture based on values, trust and empowerment was key to those who were successful.
3) Four main growth pain points
This seemed to be universally agreed upon. To grow their businesses from startup to success, entrepreneurs needed to:
- focus on cash flow,
- scale recruitment and performance management
- scale sales and marketing,
- control costs.
Everyone agreed that all of these were challenging, especially when gearing up for sustainable and often accelerated growth. This has certainly been our experience at Digivizer and we have put much investment in each of these areas.
What was particularly insightful for me was the number of businesses that had realized they had to switch their marketing models from doing it themselves to recognizing they needed external solutions.
And it was especially interesting to hear that once businesses grew to that 20 employee point, they needed to save time and become better at seeing and understanding what was working for them. In particular, it was time for them to invest in solutions as it was important for them to easily and quickly know the ROI of marketing expenditure. They needed to be able to easily measure what was working for them, and to focus resources there ie do more of what works and fix or stop doing what was not working. Data matters and tools could help over manual options.
This resonated with us, given that at Digivizer our focus is on helping businesses create better experiences for their customers by knowing more about them and what they care about in order to help them generate leads and sales from digital.
All of which makes me even more focused and committed to rolling out our technology and solutions in an affordable way for every business.
This article is also published on LinkedIn.