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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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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.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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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

Startups love pondering inclusion, yet half have no women in leadership

(STARTUPS) Tech startups are a huge part of discussing diversity and inclusion, but something as simple as hiring women in management somehow remains elusive.

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According to the Silicon Valley Bank’s annual report, over half of startups have no women on their leadership team. None.

As hard as this fact is to believe, it is also hardly breaking news. Organizations who have surveyed startups and technology companies for the past several years have seen that long-standing trends that disadvantage women and other genders in the tech space are still at play.

Like many other gendered debates about the treatment of women and other minority workers, this problem is seemingly a Catch 22 or a chicken and egg situation. Critics will continue to argue that the reason ladies aren’t in leadership roles is because they don’t have innate leadership qualities or that once their non-male employees have proven themselves, then they will start getting the resources and promotions that they say that they desire.

Like many other myths about women in the workforce, these beliefs only serve to reinforce the status quo by transferring the responsibility for these frustrating conditions onto the marginalized party.

These beliefs are busted not only because they’re tired gender clichés, but because we have hard data that proves the financial and cultural benefit in long-term effects of women leadership in tech.

However, for all the discussion of diversity initiatives, the likelihood of traditional funding going to women-led startups is still small.

For now, startups with women in leadership roles were more likely to get their funding from investing teams that were also led by females. Wouldn’t it be great if other investors began to not only understand that in 2019 it’s imperative that a company’s leadership reflect the diversity of the employees that comprise it? That workers will be more motivated, feel more understood, and have greater buy-in when they identify with their management?

Empowering women is how more get involved in tech. Diversity of leadership helps organizations thrive. And if something as simple as binary gender diversity is such a tremendous challenge, all other diversity issues are still (unfortunately) a large mountain to climb.

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Business Entrepreneur

C. J. Walker: America’s first self-made millionaire was a black orphan

(ENTREPRENEUR) When you think of our nation’s first self-made millionaire, C. J. Walker is probably not the picture that may come to mind, but this generous genius made it to the top, breaking every glass ceiling possible.

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These days, it seems like Oprah gets all the bragging rights. I don’t think it’s quite fair that some car-gifting mogul gets to bask in the glory of a path that was paved a century ago. **No offense, O Great Winfrey. You’re cool, too. Please don’t take my Altima back.**

It’s time to pay our respects to the first female self-made millionaire in America. My friends, I’d like to introduce you to your new idol, Sarah Breedlove, better known as Madam C. J. Walker.

This gal had just about every card in the deck working against her. Both of her parents and all of her siblings before her were born into slavery. Her mother died when she was five, and her father passed the following year. Orphaned, she lived with her older sister until she married at age 14.

As if that wasn’t enough, a mere two years after her first child was born, Sarah’s husband died. I mean, she just couldn’t catch a break. Unfortunate event after unfortunate event. She then moved to St. Louis to live with her brothers, working as a washer woman for a mere dollar a day. Classic rags-to-riches stuff.

Her brothers worked at a local barber shop, and she wound up learning a thing or two about hair care while sharing a home with them. This planted the seed that would lead to her working with Annie Turnbo Malone, selling African American hair care products. As she learned more about hair, she must have realized she had a knack for it, because she decided to roll up her sleeves and put some indie elbow grease in.

After moving to Denver to work on her own products, she married Charles Walker, who provided the advertising know-how that would help her venture succeed. She adopted the name C. J. Walker and began traveling and training women in the fields of beauty and sales.

Eleven years later, in 1917, she called her first convention of so-called “beauty culturists” in Philadelphia. Here, she rewarded her top agents as well as those who were the most philanthropic towards local charities.

What I love about C. J. is that as her business grew, so did her awareness of the social climate around her. She never forgot where she came from, never hesitated to give back, and never gave up. She lectured on topics such as women’s independence, helping educate other black women in the ways of business.

Upon her death, it was determined that she was the wealthiest African-American woman in the country. In true C. J. style, she left two-thirds of her future profits to charity.

If I ever get mega-famous, I’m doing it the C. J. Walker way: Keep a level head, educate and help others, and put your community first.

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Business Entrepreneur

7 books every entrepreneur should read

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) You’ve heard it said, “do as I say and not as I do.” Read these books from authors who have figured out what works and what doesn’t when starting a business.

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The power of books

If you’re thinking about leading a startup, but not sure where to go, the internet is often the first place we look. Surely, you can find dozens of blogs, articles, stories, and opinionated editorials that can help give you something to think about.

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However, there are tons and tons of great books that can help you think about what you need to get started, how you need to change your mindset, or challenges you may confront as you begin your startup journey. Take a look at the following 7 you may want to add to your bookshelf.

1. The Startup Checklist: 25 Steps to a Scalable, High-Growth Business
This text not only boasts a 5 start rating on Amazon, but offers what few books do – practical, tangible, down to earth advice. Where lots of books try to tell you a story, talk strategy, and share wins, author David Rose instead focuses on advice that assumes no prior experience – and breaks it down from the fundamentals.

2. Nail It then Scale It: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Creating and Managing Breakthrough Innovation
Nathan Furr and Paul Ahlstrom focus on creating a lean startup by offering a step-by-step process that focuses on nailing the product, saving time, and saving money. The first step is about testing assumptions about your business, and then adjusting to growing it (hence: Nail It and Scale It). Strong aspects of this book include a great theoretical foundation, and an easy to follow framework.

3. The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls that Can Sink a Startup
Wasserman’s strength here is that he focuses not only on the financial challenges, but identifies the human cost of bad relationships – ultimately how bad decisions at the inception of a start-up set the stage for its downfall. This book is a great tool to proactively avoid future legal challenges down the row, and also discusses the importance of getting it right from the start.

4. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
Horowitz writes about his experiences, taken from his blog, in a way that even inexperienced managers can touch and learn. The advice here really focuses on leading a start-up, and what lessons his experience has given him. Presented in a humorous, honest, and poignantly profane way.

5. The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company
Blank and Dorf here standout due the sheer mass of this text. A comprehensive volume at 573 pages, my favorite piece for new investors is a focus on valued metrics – leveraging data to fuel growth.

6. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
A personal favorite of mine, this book is recommended for entrepreneurs not because it’s focus on business, but as a reminder that those of you wanting to start up are people. You have limited resources to manage as a person, and will need to adjust your perspective on what you care about. This book is about changing your mindset to pick your battles and be more focused.

7. Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to a Successful Startup
Bill Aulet starts with an approach that entrepreneurs can be taught, and breaks down the process into 24 steps, highlighting the role of focus, the challenges you may encounter, and the use of innovation. This text wins due to its practicality for new start-ups, and a specific method for creating new ventures. It also features a workbook as an additional, optional resource. Check it out on Amazon

GET READING!

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