By James Monighan - July 2017
I been fortunate enough through my career to have been actively involved in helping to build and scale numerous businesses. These have ranged from telecoms based organisations to more IoT based businesses. What is interesting is that there is a pattern that tends to repeat, regardless on the sector, location or market. Although the recipe for success can be hard to define, what is clear is that certain aspects are necessary for any start up to be able to build and scale.
All too often businesses have grand ambitions and over stretch their capabilities and resources. Focus on building a brilliant product and ensure that single minded laser focus is shared across the organisation. Once this product has been successfully consolidated, only then should you consider starting to work on a second product. Hive’s focus was on building a great smart thermostat for the UK. Only later did they introduce other connected home products.
Always get customer feedback at every stage on a continuous process. This doesn’t mean focus groups, this is about customer labs, ad hoc surveys (survey monkey is a cheap basic tool) and just simple, old fashioned going out an talking to customers. Every time you make a release, ask how it has moved your core KPI’s. If it hasn’t, in all probability don’t reject failure but look on it as the cost of learning. However, make sure you don’t keep making the same mistake!!
Google have been known to talk about moon shots. Elon Musk is famous for his ambition and range of business interests. Aim big and ensure that everyone in your business is clear on the goal and super motivated to achieve.
You don’t need to be the first in the market but it certainly helps to be a fast follower. Adopt a lean start up/ agile process and make sure that you have a clear outcome defined for the end of each sprint. 2 week sprints are ideal for making sure that everyone has some clear outcomes defined and for being able to quickly ensure that they are achieved.
It’s great to know where you are going but the path is seldom straight. Use your customer insight and feedback to adapt and never be afraid to pivot if that’s what is required. It’s often mentioned that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting different results!
Hire the very best talent you can afford. You need a careful blend of smart ambitious people, combined with experience. All too often I see businesses that fail to hire more experienced leaders, believing that they can do it themselves. Ask yourself why did Google hire Eric Schmidt – and what was the result.
Provide highly visible leadership that walks the floor, talks to the teams and shares their passion and views. It is critical that decisions are made quickly without endless meetings, and are then delivered. Think carefully about bringing one or several Non Exec’s on board. They have immense value and can save you making some expensive mistakes. In the same vein hire experienced leaders who have start up experience. In a larger corporation it is also critical that the leaders of the business have freedom to operate without any of the corporate “baggage”.
It’s not all about a salary and bonus. Stock options can be a powerful motivator and ensure that everyone is pulling in the same direction. Share the value creation opportunity and you will be rewarded positively.
Contentious I know but think about the time you waste on these tools. Use slack or similar and talk succinctly about the issues/ decision required. You shouldn’t need a 20 page deck to engage people, nor should you need an email to prove anything. Get up and talk to people and you will be amazed how quickly you get achieve things.
Enjoy winning and also don’t be too proud to learn from your failures. People should be motivated and enjoy what they do each and every day. You don’t necessarily need a pool table – employ proactive, positive people and they will naturally create a fantastic environment that people will want to join.