If you have successfully navigated the path from a startup to a mid-sized company – congratulations! You are one of the very few and should consider yourself triumphant. Take a breath, reflect and recognize what you have done.
Then get paranoid
Many companies plateau if they are able to make it to mid-size. They have found the right offering and have a client base but will often stop growing once they meet their initial expectations or until they hit their own level of cash management balance.
This stagnation can stem from a company having either reached their initial goal or not wanting to risk what they have created. It’s tough to maintain this position, as it’s a place within the market that you can quickly be knocked off of.
Reset your goals and aim for long-term stability
In some markets a dominant vendor can have 15-20% market share; in others, it can grow as high as 70-80%. Whatever your market may be, to jump out of this flat line you will need to change your outlook and aim for long-term dominance within your space. This doesn’t mean that you will no longer care about what happens within the short-term; it just means that you will have to navigate short-term actions with long-term impact.
When you grow your company and look to scale your offering it requires a wider focus. You’ll find yourself caught up in building the infrastructure of a larger company and notice a higher percentage of the senior leaders’ time spent on organizational details (actions with greater leverage for their time).
At Aquila, one of our core values is to have continuous market aggression. Our independent companies run like mid-sized to large companies and are looking for long-term success. Continuous market aggression is what we use to denote continued efforts to be small company obsessive although we may have the resources of being dominant in our respective industry.
Early signs you may be losing your aggressiveness
Here are three signs we look out for that signal we are becoming less obsessive:
1. Selling Differently: or your sales effort.
When you are a newcomer or a smaller vendor within a market, many clients may not reach out to you since they do not know you or believe you have the resources. Your obstacle is getting in front of prospects and building a relationship with them. When you are one of the larger vendors within the market, customers reach out to you.
The sales process starts with the client seeking what you have to offer since they know of you. Your effort to uncover all available opportunities gets much, much easier and can start you down a slippery path of not working to see all opportunities within your focused space. Watch for an ease of lead generation to make you less hungry for the deal.
2. Inwardly Focused R&D: shifting to defense from offense.
This means, keeping the focus on having the right product so that you can continue winning many new name clients, rather than putting all your attention solely on existing clients.
While existing clients may initially think this is not good for them, it definitely is long-term. If all your focus is on what your existing clients ask for, there is a significant risk that they may not ask for things that other segments of the market are requesting.
It’s like Palm saying no one wants email on their devices or existing Blackberry users saying they don’t want to lose the physical keyboard on their phones. Very few phones still have physical keyboards – and you probably don’t even remember Palm.
3. Strategic & Positional Awareness: not monitoring things being attempted in your market.
This can vary from startup technologies that may impact your clients to other niche trends that you might need to navigate on your client’s behalf. Don’ t concentrate on the technical challenges you have with existing technology.
If you don’t invest and sweat to figure out how to navigate the technical, compliance and organizational needs of your clients before they have a problem, they will turn to someone else when they do encounter it.
Best metric to track
You need to judge your success on the share of the market you continue to win where you are not selling to your existing clients. Focusing on continuously winning market share is one of the key indicators of a strong element of continuous market aggression.
The late Andy Grove is famous for his quote, “Only the paranoid survive.” When you manage to strip yourself of the “startup” title, you should be cautious to not strip away the market aggression you once had.
How do you keep your company’s ambitions stoked past the startup phase? How do you stay paranoid when you’re finally able to catch your breath?