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.
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 top 10 startup cities in America
(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) If you’re thinking about launching a startup anytime soon you may want to check out this list on the top 10 cities for startups.
The digital revolution is in full swing, and some cities are setting themselves up to capitalize upon these innovations by supporting startups.
In order to “better understand the U.S. cities driving the digital revolution,” several groups have come together to rank which cities are making the most of the tech startup boom.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 1776, the U.S. Chamber Technology Engagement Center, and FreeEnterprise.com have teamed up to publish a report called Innovation That Matters (ITM).
The report analyzes and ranks U.S. cities on such factors as startup capital, the connectivity of startups, startup culture, the availability of worker talent and specialization, and more. Data was taken from surveys of entrepreneurs and businesspeople, startups, and leaders in public and private sectors.
J.D. Harrison, senior director of strategic communications at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says that the “digital revolution has the potential to make winners of some cities and leave others behind.”
The study aims to find out which cities “embrace this shift to a digital economy and actively support technology startups,” arguing that these cities “will be the best positioned to unleash the power of high-impact innovation and cultivate vibrant, thriving communities.”
The top ten ranking cities are as follows:
10) Portland, Oregon because every city needs a nickname, has been dubbed the Silicon Forest, referencing its leadership in green tech.
9) New York City, New York. The largest tech hub on the east coast.
8) Seattle, Washington. Home to Amazon.com and several other tech firms, with Microsoft’s headquarters in nearby Redmond.
7) Dallas, Texas. Dtown moved up significantly by increasing startup connectivity and tapping into a large, diverse workforce.
6) Atlanta, Georgia. The “most improved” city on the ITM list, moving up 15 places to number six due to a surge in financial, educational, and health tech industries.
5) Austin,Texas. Home of The American Genius, Austin has become a “haven for tech-savvy millennials seeking good-paying job opportunities.” Besides hosting many tech startups, Austin still has a relatively affordable cost of living.
4) San Diego, California. San Diego is full of cybersecurity, Big Data, robotics, and software startups.
3)Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Also known as Philicon Alley, moved up from number eight by deregulating and becoming more business-friendly.
2) San Francisco Bay Area. The Bay also ranked number two last year. The seaside neighbor to the Silicon Valley has been doing a great job attracting seed funding these days.
1) Boston, Massachusetts. This is the second year in a row that Boston has topped this list, due to its large number of startups and robust entrepreneur population.
How does your city rank?
Customer surveys tell more than just satisfaction
(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) While they can be annoying for the consumer and cost time for the company, customer feedback surveys are crucial to your business.
While Richard Dawson, Louie Anderson, and Steve Harvey may not be able to personally help you with customer service, what they have in common can. Surveys, and personalized follow-up attention in general, help clients and consumers know that they mean something to your business.
For the sake of this article (and the fast-paced, technological world we live in) I am going to be speaking about surveys. However, I want to share this anecdote first.
I used to work front desk at a salon and part of my job was to follow up with new guests about a week after their appointment.
Now, most of the time, my calls went to voicemail, which were never returned; but every once in awhile a human answered.
After going through the spiel of why I was calling, I could almost always sense a sound of surprise from the other line before the person answered my question. One conversation in particular left me realizing how important this seemingly useless task was.
I called an older woman and asked her about a recent appointment she had at the salon. She thanked me for calling and then went into detail about how great the appointment was and how much getting her hair done meant to her.
Before we hung up she said, “thank you again for calling. A salon has never done this before.” It then hit me like a ton of bricks just how significant something as small as a callback is.
If you have the time, definitely make those callbacks to clients as it could be very meaningful. However, it’s understandable that most of us may not have the time in our schedule for personalized phone calls.
So if that’s the case, don’t forget about surveys. I know most of them will either go to spam or go unanswered, but the mere fact that you’re sending it out shows clients and customers that you care about their business.
And, for those surveys that do receive responses, it can be extremely beneficial for your company as you can get insight into what works and what doesn’t. There’s really no disadvantage to this tactic, so remember to make time for that follow up with existing clients rather than just focusing on getting new ones.
Entrepreneur blunders to bypass
(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) Being an entrepreneur takes a lot of hard work, as a result, it’s easy to make mistakes. Here’s how to avoid hurting your business from the get-go.
The entrepreneur business can be a tricky one. It’s not one of those career choices that have more of a clear-cut path, and it may require you to make your own rules along the way.
Along with making your own rules, it is also 110 percent likely that you will make mistakes along the way, as well. This is true of any career, but, when within the sphere of being an entrepreneur, responsibility has a tendency to weigh even heavier on your shoulders.
This is completely unavoidable, but if you keep an eye on your methods and not just your desired outcomes, you can help combat some of the biggest mistakes. Here are some things to keep in mind.
It’s obviously one of the first priorities to get the word out about your business. You may be inclined to hit up every social media platform known to man.
This can be harmful to you if you spread your social presence too thin and have no focus. Pick a few channels that are the most fitting for your business, build your presence, then expand to other channels from there.
Never promise more than you can deliver at the start of your business. You only get one shot at your first sale with a consumer and not delivering what they expected can hurt your next chance.
Also, be approachable and keep an open mind when it comes to networking and communicating for sales. Confidence can carry you and your business a long way.
So, you’ve found a strategy that works? Great! But, don’t get complacent. Consumers want to see innovation, and employees yearn for that, too.
Try and start each year with a calendar and determine what changes you want to make from the last. Figure out what worked and how you can expand upon it to make it fresh and possibly more successful.
With this idea, don’t settle for reusing the same knowledge over and over again. Keep learning as your business grows and turn that knowledge into actions.
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