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How to Prepare a Software Business for Growth

By October 24, 2011Article

Growing a business is every entrepreneur’s goal. There’s nothing like acquiring new customers, growing existing relationships, hiring more people and seeing ideas take off in the market. But growth without a plan brings pain points later on. Many businesses reach that inflection point where they can make the decision to grow more quickly or continue on their current path and trajectory. Making the decision to rapidly scale your business is not easy and requires different strategies, tools, people and even customers than the business has relied on to reach its current point.
Assuming you are ready to grow your business, what changes should you prepare to make? Simply hiring more people or moving to a new space is only part of the equation. It comes down to having a growth plan, which might be just as important as the initial business plan that got you to this level. Entrepreneurs preparing to rapidly scale their business should consider the following strategies and steps:
Re-target your market
You already know you can’t be everything to everyone and you’ve focused on a target market, but growth is about seeing new opportunities and re-envisioning the market you’re pursuing. Taking the time to think about vertical markets or different channels to reach your market is essential to growth planning.
This phase also means reevaluating your unique sales proposition. Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do I know who is the best customer for my product?
  • What’s going be the best way to sell to that customer?
  • Can I define and demonstrate what sets my company apart from competitors?
  • How well do my customers understand what makes this company different?
  • Will the unique sales proposition continue to meet market needs?
  • If logistics and real-world constraints didn’t matter, would I change what’s unique? Why and how?

Once you’ve taken the time to answer these questions, get an outside opinion. Consult your customers and speak with industry experts and influencers. Only then will you have a good sense of whether your unique sales proposition will see you through growth. If your unique selling proposition needs to change, look at it as an opportunity and factor those changes into re-targeting your market.
Prepare for customer portfolio changes
Along the same lines as re-targeting your market, evaluate your current client portfolio to determine if current customers are appropriate as the business scales. For example, are you trying to target companies with 100 employees or more? You might need to re-focus your customer service resources for those accounts or change your new business strategy so you only acquire customers that will continue to grow along with you or lead you into new target markets. That’s not to say you should “fire” your smaller customers, just think about how resources are allocated to support and gain customers.
Additionally, think about the case studies, customer list and use cases you present to prospects and display on your website. Are they telling the story you want to share? Do you only showcase one vertical market when your customers come from several? Sometimes you won’t have all the materials to demonstrate customer success, so ask your teams to brainstorm workaround collateral to use in marketing efforts.
Assess and improve your systems
Better information leads to more informed decisions, while a good infrastructure leads to efficiency and cost savings. Entrepreneurs looking to support larger teams, layers of communication and multiple locations need to ensure IT systems, software and platforms are ready to scale. That means evaluating everything from your network to the day-to-day tools everyone uses to get their job done.
Start by consulting with knowledgeable IT professionals and power users. This means creating a time line and task force for the various systems. Start with the ones people use the most and move down the line. Don’t view the process as all or nothing. Ask around and see where the greatest need is, then use that feedback as your playbook for improvements.
Evaluate your people
Perhaps the most difficult part of rapidly growing a business is preparing your teams. It will be more challenging for founders or key executives to exert the same control they once did, so it’s important that a company has the right people in place to manage growth. This may mean bringing in outside talent and parting ways with long-time employees.
Having the right people also comes down to thinking about your company’s collective values and the types of people you want there. No matter the type of business you run, you can’t go wrong hiring people that are team players. And above all, listen to your intuition. If someone with the right skills comes along, be sure to ask yourself if they fit into the company’s culture. You would think that culture matters less as a company grows; but in actuality it matters even more, especially with upper management.
If you think through these four steps, you’ll have a strategy that makes growth less painful and that much more profitable. Finally, remember why you started a company in the first place and keep that at the center of all your planning.
Avinoam Nowogrodski is CEO and co-founder of Clarizen, the creator of work execution software. He brings over 20 years’ experience in sales, engineering and business management to the company. Prior to establishing Clarizen, he co-founded SmarTeam Corporation, a provider of collaborative product life cycle management solutions. Avinoam’s leadership molded SmarTeam into a leading enterprise solution that was sold and supported by IBM. Clarizen delivers work execution software that powers the modern enterprise by making employees and companies work smarter and faster. Employees can more efficiently manage and complete tasks on time and in budget. Companies have direct visibility into work and can plan resources accordingly to maximize results and profits.

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