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How to build and lead a high-growth company

(Entrepreneur News) To be successful in a high-growth company, and to sustain that success, one leader tells us first hand how they nailed it.

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high growth success

high growth success

Building and leading a high-growth company

Mike Broderick, CEO of audience response systems company Turning Technologies began developing applications for the first radio frequency wireless group response hardware soon after its introduction as a partner and president of one of the earliest group response software companies.

Throughout his 20 years in the industry, Mike has been one of the leading innovators in the group response industry working and leading efforts in sales, marketing, research and development, as well as product delivery and fulfillment. He has led Turning through remarkable growth and to their current position of dominance in their industry and markets.

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Broderick notes that “Natural leaders may gravitate toward entrepreneurship, savoring the opportunity to build their own company and control their own destiny. For those with a good product or service to sell and sound leadership abilities, an entrepreneurial venture might be the perfect career path. But it’s a challenging mission, a path that takes extraordinary commitment and clear vision.”

They started Turning Technologies with a simple idea and built it from the ground up to become the world’s largest audience response technology firm. They were able to grow and prosper during an historically severe economic downturn, and their story boils down to two chapters: building and growth.

In his own words below is a spot-on guide to executing both chapters at your own company:

Building a successful company

To get a new company off the ground, the first thing a would-be entrepreneur needs is a product or service concept that will have broad marketplace appeal. The Hollywood depiction of entrepreneurship usually involves an epiphany from an inventor–a company founder who thinks of a brand-new, billion-dollar concept that changes the world. But in real life, most successful entrepreneurs simply analyze the market and identify an opportunity to do something better or streamline an existing process.

That’s how we got our start at Turning Technologies: We noticed that people who gave PowerPoint presentations had a difficult time engaging audiences and collecting real-time data. So we invented our flagship product, TurningPoint, a software that integrates with PowerPoint and allows presenters to embed questions in their presentations. Audiences can answer using a keypad or smartphone. The product took off because it solved an existing problem, giving presenters a way to instantly gather relevant data and engage their audiences.

Our next step was to tell our story effectively.

You could have the greatest product in the world, but if your target customers don’t immediately understand how it will improve their lives, it will be a tough sell. You need to create a narrative about your product or service that customers will understand and relate to their situation.

We’ve found that the tried-and-true strategy of identifying customer pain points and then of discussing how our product would resolve these problems works best. We had to show how our product would enable us to engage audiences and also collect real-time data. We went directly to the people who are engaged in making presentations every day– corporate trainers, educators, sales professionals, trade association speakers, and the like–and showed them a way to make their presentations more interactive, informative, and fun. That made selling our product relatively simple.

Another critical success factor in any company’s building phase is commitment. It sounds like common sense, but it’s important for aspiring entrepreneurs to know up front that launching and growing a successful company takes an incredible amount of dedication. You’ll be unlikely to make it if you go into the task thinking that you’ll give it a few months and see what happens.

Even for companies that are later heralded as “overnight successes,” it generally takes a few years to turn a profit. When I was starting my company, I made the commitment to work long hours for no pay for the first few years. I went all in–there was no “Plan B.” Of course, this took a lot of planning and saving on the front-end to make my total commitment strategy possible. If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, make sure you’ve done the up-front preparations, and ensure that you have the level of commitment that building a successful company takes.

Leading for growth

Once you’ve successfully launched your company, you’ll need a long-term growth strategy. Every enterprise is different, but there are basic principles you can follow to improve your company’s chances of evolving and expanding over the long haul. One of the most valuable strategies to make that happen is a long-term commitment to learning about your industry.

No matter what business you’re in, your market and the needs of your customers will change over time. If you commit to spending an hour a day reading about your industry, taking a look at online research and evaluating business trends and competitors, you’ll be better positioned to spot new opportunities and challenges as they arise. If your business involves technology, keep up with technical advances and be on the lookout for new products that may affect your customer base.

Another critical growth factor for just about any company is being responsive to customer needs. Take every opportunity to listen to your customers. Find out how your product or service is working for them, what features they like the best and which aspects they think could use some improvement. Tradeshows offer a great opportunity to connect with customers, as do online surveys and social media interactions.

Employees are another excellent conduit for customer information. The employees who are on the front lines will know best what customers are experiencing, the challenges they face, the new business requirements that are emerging in their industries and competitive products that are entering the marketplace.

In addition to being an excellent repository of customer information, your employees can also be a primary growth driver for your business in their own right. A dedicated, motivated staff will result in happier customers, and satisfied customers help your company grow. For these reasons, building a positive, productive workplace culture is critically important.

One way to position your company for rapid growth is to give your employees incentives to make it happen. Link rewards to results and give employees a sense of ownership in the company (through incentives like profit sharing programs, for example) to ensure that they’ll be focused on making sales, expanding relationships with existing customers and ensuring client satisfaction.

The Bottom Line

Every business is different, and each marketplace has its own unique considerations, but there are basic principles all entrepreneurs can apply when launching and growing a new company. When contemplating a startup, the first step is to identify a need for a new product or service, and then find a way to tell customers your story in a compelling way. Ensure that you’re adequately prepared financially and personally for the commitment launching a new company requires.

Once you have your enterprise off the ground, remember that growing a company requires constant innovation. Commit to ongoing learning, reading up on new developments in your industry to identify opportunities and emerging challenges. Listen to your customers to find out what their needs are and how you can help them succeed. And give your employees a stake in your company’s success so that they’ll treat it like their own and help your business growth and thrive. By following these steps, you can successfully launch a new business – and keep it growing long into the future.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Paveya

    April 3, 2014 at 3:22 am

    Thanks AG Staff! I agree with you above all tips are Amazing! I think that additional Tips are give bellow.
    1.Qualify leads: We’ve hired a lead-generation company. We define for them our target market and message, the proposal we’ll make and our sales process. They provide very well-qualified leads, and we take it from there. In our industry
    2.Embrace social: LinkedIn has become a very effective tool for us. Our theory now is: with all the social media at our fingertips, we should never have to make cold calls. There’s always some way to connect with a person you want to talk to and get an introduction, so when you make the call, it won’t be cold.

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Business Entrepreneur

Teach kids music and they’ll learn entrepreneurship

(ENTREPRENEUR) Sowing the seed of music education and appreciation in your child when they’re young is a great way to produce the fruit of entrepreneurship when they’re older.

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With all the focus sports gets as the petri dish for producing driven adults, I’d like to offer up a different extracurricular activity for your consideration: music. Supporting your child as they learn how to harmonize with others will help set them up for success later in life, as music cultivates many of the characteristics that entrepreneurs rely on every day.

Iteration

Anybody who’s played an instrument or been a part of a choir can tell you that the number one thing you’ll learn in a musical group is that you won’t make it unless you practice, practice, practice. Although in the moment it’s not that great to hear little Timmy or Ginny run through their C-scale a hundred times, a few years down the line when all those hours of iterating result in the lilt of Beethoven through your household, you can be sure that your kid has learned that repeating the little steps helps them achieve large goals.

Showmanship

A large part of being a successful entrepreneur is knowing your markets, or your audience, and able to keep their attention so that they come back to you when they need your business. Being a part of an ensemble not only teaches children to be comfortable in the spotlight but to crave putting on a show.

Teamwork

When young musicians come together to play in a band or raise their voices in a choir, they’re learning a lot about how to collaborate with others in order to achieve a goal. When a young alto sings alone, her notes may sound strange without the soprano tones filling out the melody. The duet that comes from them learning to work together and complement each other builds a strong foundation for any team venture your child will encounter later in their careers.

Competiveness

Although music provides a solid foundation in harmony, it also contains just as much grit and competition as the football field. Music groups compete in regional and national championships just as athletes do, and solos offer opportunities to self-select and advocate. Hell hath no fire like a second seat musician who dreams of being first chair.

Self Confidence

Unlike sports, music is accessible to those who might struggle with finding confidence. There are no “best” requirements to play—regardless of height, weight, and other characteristics that nobody has any control over—nearly anyone can pick up an instrument or find their voice. This perhaps may be the greatest gift that you can give your child, the confidence that no matter what they look like they can excel.

As your child begins to consider the different activities that will help them build toward their future, don’t discourage them from pursuing a musical path. When they have to stand in front of an audience of their peers and deliver a presentation with an unwavering voice, they’ll thank you for the years they spent getting comfortable in the spotlight. Especially if they pursue entrepreneurship!

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Business Entrepreneur

What’s the secret to startup productivity? Here are 5 quick tips

(PRODUCTIVITY) There’s no concrete formula for startup success. However, if you study what successful startups are doing, you’ll notice that they almost all emphasize productivity. The question is, do you?

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At the heart of any efficient business is a productive set of processes, people, and systems. For startups with limited resources, maximizing productivity isn’t optional – it’s mandatory.

Here are some specific ways you can nudge your startup forward and increase productivity on a day-by-day basis:

1. Organize your thoughts.

“The more thoughts and ideas floating around in your head, the harder it is to concentrate on what’s in front of you,” entrepreneur Kristina Proffitt believes. “Every thought or idea that you don’t write down works like a plug, stopping your creativity from flowing freely. That’s why it’s so important to write everything down?—?even the bad ideas.”

If you’re old school, you may want to keep a legal pad or notebook on you at all times. If you’d prefer to go digital, an app like Evernote or Trello will allow you to jot down notes on any device and access them at any time.

2. Try a coworking office layout.

Believe it or not, your startup’s office environment has a direct impact on productivity. In particular, you’ll discover that the layout of the office is critically significant. Try experimenting with different styles, but you may find that a coworking layout is ideal.

“Directly inspired by an open office layout, a coworking layout also eliminates walls or boundaries, but is much larger and often shared among multiple companies,” Novel Coworking explains. “The coworking space may feature couches, shared desks, private or dedicated desks, or high counters. Coworking has the added benefit of encouraging cross-company communication and networking.”

3. Permit flexible scheduling.

The 9-to-5 schedule is no longer efficient or cost-effective. Research shows that people function differently and reach their peak productivity at different times throughout the day. If you want to maximize productivity for each of your employees, you should allow for flexible scheduling.

With flexible scheduling, you give your employees the ability to choose their hours. While some may prefer the 9-to-5 time slot, others might prefer 6-to-2 or 12-to-8. Allow your employees to set their hours (within reason) for a few months and see if you notice a positive impact on productivity. Most of the time, there’s a pretty significant boost.

4. Cut back on email.

There’s a fine line between over-communicating and not communicating enough. In startups, there’s a tendency to lean towards the first one. And while it may seem like a sound practice to communicate as much information as possible, it actually bogs down your team and inhibits creativity and innovative thinking.

Try implementing smart email practices within your company. Encourage people to only CC relevant parties and to pick up the phone when there’s something important to discuss. You may also transition to an app like Slack to cut down on the distractions.

5. Encourage physical activity

In pursuit of productivity, many people try to put in as many hours as they possibly can. But there isn’t a direct correlation between time and productivity. In fact, sometimes there’s a negative relationship.

Too much time hunched in front of a computer doesn’t do anyone any good. Encourage your team to get physical activity in the middle of the day. They’ll come back refreshed and ready to work.

The goal is to optimize your business.

Running a successful business requires an intimate understanding of how your business functions at its core. But even more important than processes and technology are the people you have on your team. It’s people who make decisions, execute, and build relationships with people and partners in the industry.

And if you want to get the most out of your people, you must learn to maximize productivity and efficiency.

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Business Entrepreneur

Top 11 productivity tools for entrepreneurs that work from home

(BUSINESS) We asked remote professionals what some of their favorite (and most necessary) productivity tools were for the home office, and have 11 ideas that you might not have tried yet.

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Working from home comes with its perks – comfortable pants (sweat pants*), working at your own pace, and not having your boss breathing down your neck are only a few. But staying productive and on-task can be a challenge when the only one watching is you (and your cat [who requires frequent cuddle breaks]).

We asked remote workers how they collaborate, stay on top of their work, and get shit done. Here’s what they said are their most reliable and necessary work-from-home tools:

First, let’s check out collaboration and team productivity tools:

Time Doctor

timedoctor780x433
Manage a remote team? When you need them focused on that time-sensitive report you needed yesterday, we’ve got a solution.

We use our own time tracking tool which we find essential for remote work and remote teams. It has everything you would need to give you an analytics of your workday and managing remote teams,” says Carlo Borja, Online Marketing Head of Time Doctor. This includes real time updates, gentle nudges to get you and your employees back on track, and a free trial run.

Azendoo

azendoo
Stop miscommunication in its tracks.

One of the best tools that we use to keep in contact and make sure everyone stays on task is Azendoo,” says John Andrew Williams, PCC, Founder and Lead Trainer at Academic Life Coaching, “It is an amazing tool that allows you to assign tasks to members of your team, leave comments and messages, and organize everything based on projects. It has truly been the best thing for us to improve our productivity and stay connected when we all work remotely.

RealtimeBoard

realtimeboard
What about brainstorming and collaborating with your team in real time? “RealtimeBoard is an online whiteboard and super simple collaboration service for marketers, developers, designers and creatives worldwide with user list exceeding 675k. It’s frequently used for project management, user experience planning, creative concepts visualization, story mapping, brainstorming, etc,” says Anna Boiarkina, Head of Marketing at RealtimeBoard.

Popular Favorite: Slack

slack780x433
Without question, it is Slack! With our marketing team spread from San
Antonio to San Francisco, Seattle and Madison, we couldn’t do our job
efficiently without this messaging communication tool,
” says Marcia Noyes, Director of Communications with Catalyze, Inc.

Noyes adds, “Before I took the job with Catalyze, I wondered how I could possibly stay on top of the very technical subjects of HIPAA compliance, digital healthcare and cloud computing, but with Slack, it’s easier than email or being there in person at corporate headquarters. I don’t think I could ever go back to being in an office. With this tool and others, I get so much more accomplished without the commute times and interruptions from water cooler talk and discussions about where to go for lunch.”

Now, let’s move on to tools and tips for your health:

A treadmill desk

treadmill desk
Slump no more.

Gretchen Roberts, CEO of Smoky Labs, a B2B digital and inbound marketing agency says that her treadmill desk helps her fight through the afternoon slump. “The endorphins that are released from the walking get me right into a feel-good mood again, same as a conversation and piece of chocolate would.

Not only is it great for you, but it keeps you awake and alert so you can fight the urge to take a “quick nap” right around 3pm. Good weather not required.

Lumbar support

lumbar-support
Then there’s always the issue of your health. We asked Dr. Barbara Bergin, M.D., Board Certified orthopedic surgeon her thoughts on how to best furnish your home office, and she had a few simple ideas that go a long way.

Invest in a good chair, a McKenzie lumbar pillow (because no work chair has the perfect lumbar support), and a drop down tray for your keyboard and mouse. If you have short legs which don’t quite reach the floor, either adjust your chair (which means adjusting everything else) or get some kind of a platform on which to rest your feet. I recommend those old bench step aerobics steps.

These are all suggestions that are easy to implement and positively impact your health (and wallet, when you consider chiropractic visits, massages or even surgery).

And some of our favorites – tools to manage time, data, and communications:

ClockingIT

clockingIT
In a similar fashion to Time Doctor, ClockingIT is a time-tracking application that logs everything you do. This allows you to keep track of how much time you’re really spending on a project (or time spent off-task on a project).

I work from home exclusively as a freelance communications and marketing manager. One of my clients, Simon Slade, CEO of SaleHoo, introduced me to ClockingIT. ClockingIT, a free project management system, is now a tool I can’t work from home without. It provides an easy way for me to log my time on different tasks and communicate project updates to colleagues without sending cumbersome mass emails. I like ClockingIT so much that I’ve created an account separate from SaleHoo’s, just for myself, and I use it to manage my work for other clients as well.

This would be a great tool for freelance designers and writers who need to keep track of time so they can appropriately charge their clients.

Zoho Vault

zoho vault
Throw away the Rolodex. With all of the social media information, websites, passwords, and logins a company might need to remember, there is a better way. Molly Wells, an SEO Analyst with Web301 believes in the power of Zoho.

The one tool that I can’t work at home without is the one that stores our many clients personal information. Links to live websites, production websites, their social media usernames and passwords. All of our own websites logins, social media logins along with all the tools we use. Rather than storing all of these on our server or on pen and paper, we use Zoho Vault. It’s a lifesaver for accessing information while at home or on the go. All of our passwords are all in one place.

Cloze

cloze
Winner for most comprehensive all-in-one freelancing app goes to Cloze, which does… pretty much everything.

As a freelancer, the tool I absolutely can’t live without is Cloze,” explains JC Hammond, “Cloze is a contact management app and website that is perfect for freelancers because it is highly customizable, links email, social, phone and notes in one place, lets you track interactions and statuses of projects, companies, and people and even delivers an informative “Morning Briefing” to help get your day off to a great start.

She thinks one of the most useful tools is the email read receipts and the ability to link with your cell phone provided to track calls. It also schedules and posts social updates to Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and other platforms. Because it’s designed for individual or very small team use, it’s easy to use and a user can efficiently run their entire day from the app.

Uberconference

uberconference
When it comes to phone conferences, meetings and client phone calls, Jessica Oman, Planner-in-Chief at Renegade Planner loves Uberconference.

She says, “As a business plan writer who in 2014 made the transition from leasing an office to working from home, I can say that Skype and Uberconference are the tools I can’t live without! Uberconference is especially wonderful because it easily allows me to record calls, use hold music, and connect with people who either call in from computer or phone. It allows me to have a 1-800 number too. It’s like having a virtual assistant to manage my calls and I love the professional feel of the service.

My Tomatoes

mytomatoes
And finally, a quick and simple idea – a timer. Jessica Velasco, Senior Editor at Chargebacks911 works exclusively from home. She uses the Pomodoro technique of time management: work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, work for 25 more minutes.

She says, “I use My Tomatoes. I like this particular timer because the countdown is shown in my browser tab. I can be working on other things and quickly glance over to see how much time is left. I like to race the clock; see how much I can get accomplished before the timer goes off. I also use it to limit my unproductive moments. Fun things like checking social media must end with the timer dings.”

Got a favorite?

All of these tools are yours for the taking, so why not give them all a shot? Then, even if you’re wearing your most comfortable pants (sweat pants*) – with all of the right tools, you can run your business from home like a boss, and give people the impression that you probably showered today.

*no pants

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