15 Things we Learned in 15 Years as a Growing Company
Beyond the congratulatory parties and fist-bumping meetings, a company anniversary is always a moment of reflection. Even more so if it is as momentous as a 15th anniversary. While it is always fun to boast that we have grown beyond 10,000% in the past 15 years, it is humbling to recall all the failures and learnings along the way.
Constantly growing for 15 years is no small feat for any company. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show approximately 20% of new businesses fail within their first two years. 45% during the next five years of business and 65% during their first ten years of business. We are grateful to be part of the 25% of new businesses that make it past 15 years. While survival is the baseline, consistent growth is aspirational.
Here are 15 things we have learned in our 15 years so far:
1. Have fun in what you do, Life is too Short
We have always believed in the fact that work-life balance is a misnomer. The best work-life balance happens when you love your job. By any standards, a business professional spends more “awake-hours” working than with his/her family/friends or relaxing at a beach. Life is too short to make those “awake-hours” meaningless by just making it a “chore”.
2. Personal, face-to-face conversations with the team go farther than bonuses, days off, emails, phone calls, gifts, or anything else
Business communication is fun and organic when teams are small. As companies grow, the team grows and communication starts becoming formal and/or reactionary. Frequency of informal conversations reduces, and people drift away from a common vision or goal.
Engaging with the team regularly keeps everybody up to date with how they feel and how your company is doing from their perspective. Personal communication can fix any problem – short or long term. 80% of HR problems in a company are due to lack of open, honest and clear communication about the intent of the company and its policies.
In our 15 years, we’ve learned that face-to-face conversations with team members are a much more effective communication method than emails or phone calls. You can’t beat human, in-person contact.
3. There is only one goal: Continual Growth
It is important to strive for continual growth. An organization should never settle and be content with where they are at. There are always new competitors in the market looking to take your spot. Growth means staying up to date with the latest trends and changes in the industry. One way to grow, is through business networking.
Growth also means there is room for growth within the organization which motivates staff to give their best and improve not only the organization but themselves as well.
4. Failure is always temporary and so is success
A growing business is like a roller coaster, there are highs and lows. Sometimes, real adrenaline-pumping highs and some “throw in the towel” kind of lows. Other times it is exhilarating and sometimes it’s pathetically sick.
Basking in the glory of success for too long will yield more frequent lows. Just like the lows, the highs don’t last forever either. Expecting challenges, dealing with them, and knowing they are temporary gets you past them. It’s a continuous process of striving for success.
5. Right People are Worth Everything
There are two types of people a growing company needs:
- Those who believe in the future of the company, its products and selflessly work toward achieving it
- Those who are constantly in pursuit of learning new information, skills and growing their personal repertoire.
Team members who are passionate and purposeful about what they do for a living are the real driving force of any business. It’s not products or profits, it’s the people. People who just work to live can maintain a business, but rarely grow it.
The goal is to create high performing teams. Hiring and retaining the right people, who fit the company culture, while eliminating bad apples has been the most challenging part of a growing company. Even still today, 15 years in, we continue to tweak our hiring game plans.
6. Revenues are nothing, Profits are something, but Client Satisfaction is everything
Having an understanding of what the costs are and how much revenue you receive is somewhat important. More important than that is the profit you are left with each month and/or quarter. This should be high priority for any growing business. Profits are what drive future growth. Cash flows are significantly more important to a fast growing business than the revenue itself. Our entire growth during the last 15 years at Mvix, has been fueled organically – all by stellar management of our cash flows.
With all of that being said, the most important metric for your business should be your client satisfaction. It affects every aspect of your business and will reflect in your revenue, costs and profits. Satisfied clients is the strongest currency for any business, which results in above-normal returns year over year.
7. Failure is inevitable. Perfection dampens innovativeness.
There is a well-known saying which rings true: “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” – Henry Ford.
Failure is part of trying. If you don’t fail, you are not trying hard enough. There is no way every idea or concept will work and that’s okay. The important thing is that you are always working to come up with new ideas and thinking innovatively. Perfection leaves no room for creativity.
8. Partnerships are transaction-ally inefficient but strategically rewarding
Strategic partnerships are very rewarding. Both parties can benefit from cost savings as there are shared resources and mutual growth. When partner companies’ culture fits well, there is a solid line of communication and transparency that is fostered. This can lead to improved success of the partnership.
A strategic partnership has a lot more flexibility than a transactional one. Adaptivity is a strength and can widen the depth of service and allow more learning opportunities for both parties. There is a lot of value in the learning process and growing through a partnership. Balance is important. Partnerships give both parties capabilities they didn’t necessarily have outside of the partnership or knew they needed.
9. Follow-up, Follow-up, Follow-up
No matter who the stakeholder is, if there is a reason, always follow-up. Having a robust tool for daily reminders goes a long way in staying organized and scheduling follow-ups. Regardless if it is a prospect or a partner or a client needing support, consistent follow-ups show that you care. Consistent and frequent contact will always leave you top of the mind of the audience.
10. Products are expensive to build, avoid amenity-creep
Product development when directed by feature or amenity-creep can be expensive and unproductive. Continuously developing and expanding product features based on a solitary feedback from a large customer is often not usable or useful.
11. Products without adequate support are incomplete
The product is the foundation of any growing company. Without a product which offers above normal user experience, growth is impossible. Regardless of how robust or reliable the product is, post-sale support is inevitable. Good support is expensive, but it adds the most differentiating feature to any commoditized product. While a good product forms the foundation, good support creates loyal and happy clients who fuel growth.
12. Always be Learning from your competitors
As the saying goes, never stop learning and there is no better teacher than the competitor. Read industry blogs, news stories and marketing communications from competitors daily. Imitating competitors is not a growth strategy. Doing what everyone else is doing is being risk-averse.
13. Day to day never get easy, no matter how big the business becomes
It takes a daily grind to achieve success. Regardless, if it’s your first day or current day in your 15th year. Priorities may change over time, challenges may become more complex or stakes might be higher. Either way, there is always going to be a need to compete, adapt and grow. Challenges and painful decision-making never gets easier if growth is the main focus always. Learning to be comfortable while being uncomfortable is a norm.
However, The day-to-day hustle is what makes it great and motivating.
14. Business Strategies should last no more than a week
Business strategies should be evaluated at the beginning of each week. This is to ensure that the tasks and projects assigned to those strategies are still relevant and focused for the coming week.
The goal should not be to radically change strategies every week but to realign the efforts, timelines and tasks for enhanced efficiency and better ROI. Small, growing companies have a secret trait – agility. Build a culture around embracing change. Like it or not, shifting priorities and new ideas intensify as the business grows. Sometimes such shifts yield new direction. But, a lot of people get annoyed if it happens too often and too quickly. Pivot, only if absolutely needed. Strategies are meant to serve the business and not the other way round.
15. Celebrate often
It is important to celebrate your achievements often. No matter how big or small. It’s always a good idea to commend your employees, co-workers and those you report to on a job well done. Long-term it can improve employee morale and retention and short-term it can motivate employees.
Asides from commending employees on a job well done. It’s important to celebrate things like birthdays, work anniversaries and holidays as well. Birthdays and work anniversaries make employees feel noticed and that they are appreciated and important.
Holidays are another great way to celebrate and spend time together as a company outside of regular work. This is an awesome way to get to know individuals in the organization and a time to shine for those who like to cook or share their culture around the holidays. This is especially true of diverse workforces with multicultural staff.