Fast and furious growth may be every entrepreneur's dream, but it can easily turn into a nightmare. I liken it to building a bigger, better jet engine, in the air, traveling at 500 miles per hour. It's a rocky ride, filled with unpredictable events.
But why reinvent the wheel, (or the engine in this case)? These CEOs have grown their companies into the middle market category and have some savvy viewpoints and words of wisdom to share:
1. David Sloan and Sahar Sander, co-CEO's of Naf Naf Grill
These co-founders opened their first location in an old, run-down Taco Bell shack in suburban Chicago in 2009. They continue to quickly move into other markets.
Here are Sloan's insights on how to keep your business strong during times of rapid growth:
Stand behind your culture
This is the most important thing when you're expanding at a fast pace. As a business owner, you must build up the culture you have in place. You have to be almost fanatical about it because once you lose the culture it's almost impossible to bring it back. We thrive on what we call the Naf Love and we do everything we can to make sure that every new market we go into, every new employee we hire, and every customer we serve feels the Naf Love.
Invest in your people
When growing quickly, small and middle market business owners must invest in and train their employees. They need to get each of their employees educated, because if your people become successful your growing business will become successful. As a way of investing in our culture and our employees, we practice hiring from within. Whenever we open a Naf Naf Grill in a new market, we pay for an existing, hardworking employee to move there and serve as the general manager.
Have documented procedures and processes
You have to invest in the procedures and processes of every aspect of your operation. If you're traveling at 100 mph and you don't have the right processes and procedures in place, you're going to crash and burn. They help you maintain your growth and stay on track, allowing the business to get everything done and completed. When we realized we were on the verge of intense location growth, we spelled out the procedures for everything so that each location could follow them.
2. Ratmir Timashev, CEO at Veeam
Veeam is a software company that has grown to just under $500 million in annual revenues, despite taking no outside venture capital investment. Co-founder and CEO, Ratmir Timashev, offers the following three pieces of advice to business owners who want to ensure that their rapid growth doesn't stop.
Hire slow and fire fast
Few things slow down growth like the wrong person in a key role, and, while it's important to make decisions quickly for fast growth, hiring a senior executive is one of the exceptions to that rule. Vet candidates thoroughly, going so far as to contact blind references. And if a senior manager isn't working out, don't wait until he or she causes serious damage to fire them. The only thing worse than not having a VP of sales or a VP of marketing is having the wrong VP of sales or marketing.
Allow people to make mistakes, but not the same mistake twice
If you and your people aren't making mistakes, you're not being aggressive enough taking risks. That said, making mistakes isn't an end in itself. Still, people must learn from their mistakes and not make the same ones again and again.
Pursue big markets
It seems like a no-brainer, but many CEOs make the mistake of pursuing a small market with little potential for growth because they know they can succeed there. If you want big growth, you need a big market. Shoot for the moon.
3. Duncan Lennox, CEO and co-founder of Qstream
Qstream is a fast growing tech company that recently announced a multi-year agreement with LinkedIn. Their sales capabilities platform is used by leading brands in technology financial services and life sciences to manage the effectiveness of their sales channels and front-line managers. Here's Lennox's advice:
Build enthusiasm for the mission and vision
For a small business, the quality and passion of every single person matters. A single individual who is pulling in a different direction is toxic to the environment, even if their intention is good. Start-ups are not for everyone but everyone in a start-up must have enthusiasm for its mission and everyone must want to help make it succeed.
Keep a close eye on trends
Look to trends that have begun to impact one market and seem likely to impact the one you are serving. Before the iPhone became popular in the enterprise, we saw its rise in the consumer space and how it reshaped the consumer market. It looked like there was a possibility for that trend to bleed into the enterprise, so we invested heavily into building Qstream for iPhone very early on. We had an iPhone capability with our solution about five years ago. A few years ago only 15% of Qstream usage was on a mobile device. Today it is over 80% and our early investment has paid for itself many times over.
Test your revenue model
Get to a testable revenue model as fast as possible where you ask customers to part with actual money. This is the only real test of whether your product or service adds value for your customers. Everything else is vanity metrics.