Explosive growth--whether you're making acquisitions, knocking sales out of the park, onboarding lots of talent or otherwise getting big quickly--can be great on many levels. But it is not easy and there are lots of things a company can screw up. Take it from Ratmir Timashev, CEO of Veeam, a data center backup company founded in 2006 which now employs more than 1,500 employees around the world and brings in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, with its sights on reaching $1 billion in revenue in the next five years. After making some mistakes with his first company--Aelita Software, a startup he and a partner sold in 2004 which also grew quickly--here are a handful of tactics Timashev says any company should use to avoid some common growth-related pitfalls.
1. Remain laser-focused on your core customer.
Entrepreneurs are a special breed of people who are hungry and measure their success by increased profits. The temptation, therefore, is to broaden a product's features or functionality to appeal to a wider segment of customers, but it's a huge mistake if it means alienating the people you originally designed your product for. Veeam, for example, was created for VMware administrators who understood virtualization, the foundation of cloud computing. But as the company grew it hired engineers who came from enterprise or service backgrounds who believed the company needed to add features that would widen the scope of the company's software. "We were lucky because we made those mistakes in the past with our first company [and] we knew that we have to say 'no,'" he says. "That's the most difficult thing--to say 'no.'"
2. Build a team aligned with your core values.
In a fast-paced, quickly growing company you need people who all agree on your goals and tactics. It's like basketball. "If you have to repeat all the time that 'Guys, the purpose is to put the ball in the basket' you are wasting time," he says.
3. Hire slowly, but fire quickly.
Even though you may need talent quickly it's important not to rush because you only want to bring on people who share your core values. And, if you determine team members aren't aligned with your culture get rid of them as quickly as possible. "It doesn't matter if it's Kobe Bryant or Shaquille O'Neal just fire him because he doesn't fit the team," he says.
4. Communicate your three-month and 12-month goals.
Cascading this information throughout your organization is critical because it's easy to lose focus during a period of rapid growth. Using the basketball analogy again, if you're playing the New York Knicks and your team knows they have a weak right side everyone will work together to get the ball to the best place. "Everybody has to understand these priorities and everybody has to move as a team so that's ... setting up the quarterly and annual priorities and then communicating and over-communicating," he says.
5. Build a marketing culture in which every employee is a salesperson.
Veeam employs the mantra "everyone sells." While it may have been sufficient a few decades ago to present the world with a stellar product and expect customers to line up, today the marketplace is much more competitive. So, whether it's customer service, HR or legal everyone must be directly or indirectly thinking about sales. "The best product never wins unless it's supported by the best sales and marketing," he says.