When you're a new company you can be fast and nimble, and you don't have any bureaucracy mucking up your ability to get things done. But how do you retain that agility as you scale? Girish Navani, CEO of the cloud-based electronic health record giant eClinicalWorks, has some ideas. The high value he places on speed is one factor he says has helped his bootstrapped company grow from $1 million in revenues in 2003 to $333 million last year. Here's his advice for how you can be more nimble than your competition.
1. Banish layers and focus on team-playing.
Companies become sluggish because of silos and walls that slow decision making. To avoid such a fate eClinicalWorks has only three of layers: Team leads, team players and Navani as CEO, although he takes responsibility for leading product development. "When [your company is] five people you have roles, you have responsibilities, but you don't have layers. Why can't we do the same thing when we're 4,000 people?" he says. "I think we've found a way to do that. We've structured the company around being a team-player versus an individual."
2. Encourage transparency and free speaking.
When people speak their minds decisions are made faster, particularly if your culture is one that values the larger picture more than the individual. Ideally, if an employee sees that something may be good for himself and his role-but not for the overall organization-you want him to say so. "Be open, be communicative, be transparent and let people know that what you value in a company is teamwork and not individuals trying to be superstars," he says.
3. Keep the doors open.
Part of transparency means anyone can access anyone else at any time. Navani says he spends 95 percent of his day working in the open at a table surrounded by several chairs anyone can occupy when they have something to collaborate on or discuss. "We brainstorm, we make decisions, and we talk. No meetings, no scheduled appointments," he says. "Because I don't close my doors, nobody else closes their doors."
4. Communicate simple goals people can understand.
If you can't articulate your company's mission and goals within 30 seconds your employees probably won't be able to deliver on them. For example, as eClinicalWorks grew, its list of products did, as well. But considering the company's goal is to use technology to improve healthcare delivery at some point it made the most sense to offer all products to customers in a bundle they pay for monthly. "Suddenly the world changes with one broad statement, and people start getting away from individual [product] profitability to company-wide decision making," he says. "[We] became very agile in how we make decisions, because the only decision we have is to make our customers use all our products and let them pay the monthly fee rather than trying to sell them individually."
5. Look at your company from the customer's perspective.
The company used to charge $1,000 a day for training, meaning an independent small doctor may have had to shell out five times that amount to get up and running. Unlike its competitors eClinicalWorks did away with the upfront fee, instead baking it into the monthly subscription, meaning it took longer for the company to recoup the training. As a result, sales increased as prospects started seeing the company as one which was confident it could keep their business long term. "Ask the question, 'What's slowing you down? What's causing grief to your customer? Why does your customer think working with them is harder today than when you were a 5-person startup?'" he says. "If you keep doing that type of constant refactoring of your business, you'll stay agile and ahead of your competition because you're making decisions they can't make."