Each year, the Inc. 5000 list ranks the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S., highlighting a variety of industries. The question is, how did they get there?
In 2017, multiple business accelerator program graduates made the Inc. 5000 list. In a series of in-depth interviews, we asked three of them what makes their businesses tick and how they landed on that most noteworthy list. In Part I, we spoke with a CEO who credits building an ideal team for her company's massive success; in Part II, another entrepreneur shared how supportive resources empowered him to make meaningful changes.
For Part III, we spoke with Tim Hamilton, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Austin, Texas, and founder and CEO of Praxent, ranked #3145 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list. We asked Tim how his experience with a business accelerator program helped him target the right mix of clients and revenue streams. Here's what he shared.
Tell us about your company.
TH/ Praxent helps leaders in B2B service companies unlock value by making responsible investments in custom-designed software.
How did participating in a business accelerator program help shape your business?
TH/ My accelerator experience taught me to develop a value proposition centered on customer pain-points and then relentlessly focus all business activities―marketing, sales and delivery―on alleviating them. That is easier said than done. When I joined the accelerator program, my biggest challenge was that new clients were scarce, as was revenue. And because I was determined to survive, I pursued every new revenue opportunity with tenacity, without considering whether a client was a good "fit." My business lacked focus, which turned out to be the number one reason why we weren't growing. Once I came to terms with the lack of focus, I was slowly able to replace my fear with faith. I learned the importance of adopting a mindset of abundance: I reflected on the kind of work I wanted to do in five years, and then claimed that as my focus in the present moment. Over time, that focus showed up in the way we sold to and served our clients. It showed up in the words we used, the past projects we highlighted, and in the people we hired. After several years, I noticed a healthy cycle of accelerating growth. It felt like my business finally had momentum, which gave me the courage to make larger commitments to further align activities with our focus.
What value did you gain from peer to peer exchanges?
TH/ The most valuable lesson I learned from my accelerator peers is that courage doesn't mean the absence of fear. Instead, courage means to feel fear completely and act anyway. Growing a business requires a lot of courage. For many of us, as we grew more aware of ourselves, we became clearer on the futures we wanted to create. Having a trusted group of peers who could relate to me as I processed my fear and acted in spite of it was absolutely critical to my growth as a leader.
What is one habit that sets you apart from competitors?
TH/ As my business grew, the number of decisions I had to make every day became overwhelming. Early on, my instinct was to work longer and harder, keeping myself in the center of each decision. I needed to delegate but wasn't sure that the "right" decisions would be made in my absence. Through the accelerator program, I learned to codify core values that reflected my company's unique values and priorities when confronted with challenging situations and decisions. We crafted our core values to be unique, and the resulting behaviors and decisions set us apart from competitors. This both reduced my workload and increased our overall capacity for work.
What impact do you aim to have on the communities you serve?
TH/ The thought that 51% of our country feels disengaged at work (according to Gallup) really bothers me. Work can be one of our most rewarding pursuits, filled with creativity, shared accomplishment and growth. By failing to update our leadership and management practices, we are squandering human potential and it's costing us dearly. Using Creativity, Inc., Turn the Ship Around and Bringing Out the Best In People as guides, my team and I treat our company as a petri dish, running management experiments to create the most engaged team possible. This work impacts the way we hire, communicate, meet and learn as a team. We track employee engagement, along with eight other metrics that inform our investments in employee experience. As a result, we've developed a resilient culture that promotes creativity, champions the customer and recognizes contributions at every level. It also gives us shared purpose and, we hope, a platform that inspires others to adopt management practices that yield higher workforce engagement in the future.
Tim Hamilton is an EO Accelerator program graduate in Austin, Texas, who went on to serve as that program's Chair from 2012-2013. EO Accelerator not only partners with Gazelles International to apply the ScalingUp concepts but also offers participants the unique experience of learning from and connecting with the world's most influential entrepreneurs.