In my ongoing discussions with C-suite executives, the conversations inevitably turn to business growth. Or lack thereof. How do we develop a growth mindset? How do we unlock growth? Is the bottleneck due to our strategy or our execution? In this analysis, I’ll share the three characteristics that successful growth companies share and why I believe the key to unlocking growth today is technology.
3 Characteristics That Successful Growth Companies Share
As a 4X CEO who’s had the good fortune to lead multiple successful turnarounds and run several high-growth businesses, and now as an analyst studying growth companies, I’ve learned about three characteristics that all successful growth companies have:
- Growth companies are myopically customer focused. All successful turnarounds and growth initiatives start with a focus on customers. While focusing on the customer may sound simple, it can be difficult in practice. In organizations that are struggling to achieve growth, executives get mired in internal process improvements and end up thinking that processes must be the problem. They may well be, but the internal process improvements they need to make must begin and end with a myopic focus on customers.
- Growth companies scale up, not out. This technology era has enabled remarkable, unforeseen levels of growth and scale, known as hyperscaling. When you study hyperscaling organizations, you discover that only two to three products or services generate all the growth and profit. Think Apple, Google, Amazon. Heck, it’s even true with auto companies. Next time you’re on the highway, count how many Ford 150 pick-up trucks you see.
- Growth companies know how to operationalize data. In growth companies, you find that data-driven management and decision-making are core competencies. Data is shared widely, including directly with customers, and used in every aspect of the business. Data serves as the one source of truth, to assure that goals, expectations, performance, and incentives are aligned.
3 Core Technology Areas for Growth-Focused Leaders
In addition to the three characteristics mentioned above, successful growth companies understand why and how technology enables the type of growth and scale in business that is essential for success. Here are three core technology areas that need to be on all growth-focused business leaders’ radars today:
- The Cloud. Seems obvious right? The latest estimates are that more than 60% of large enterprise companies are using cloud technology, while only 44% of SMBs have moved to the cloud. These statistics can be misleading as a single cloud application, versus going “all-in” on the cloud, skews the numbers. The point here is that we’re still in the early curve of cloud adoption. Moving mission-critical data and more business applications into the cloud and adoption in mid-market/SMBs will continue to fuel tremendous growth in cloud services. And with good reason. Properly executed, a cloud shift can be a game-changer. While leading the turn-around-to-growth of the mid-market company, thomasnet.com, we went all in on the cloud, shifting our infrastructure to AWS, as well as transitioning to cloud-based apps, including our financial system from on-premise software to Sage Intacct’s cloud solution. There were cost savings; but that value was dwarfed by the speed, flexibility, and power of the newly generated data and analytics we generated. Quite frankly, making the strategic shift to the cloud was the core driver of the successful turnaround and growth we accomplished.
The best resource for understanding cloud business benefits, as well as the leading cloud service providers, is Acceleration Economy’s Cloud Wars Channel.
- Data Modernization. The path to business transformation and growth starts with data modernization. Data technology is the key to improving operations, providing better customer service, creating personalized marketing campaigns, and other actions that, ultimately, will increase revenue and profits. No single strategy will have a bigger impact than accelerating the use and accessibility of real-time data to drive decision-making and customer value. There are four main data technology areas business technology leaders should be focused on as they accelerate their data modernization efforts: data storage, data mining, data analytics, and data visualization.
Acceleration Economy’s Data Modernization Channel is a powerful resource for keeping abreast of why and how data modernization technologies can accelerate the growth and scale of your business.
- Hyperautomation/AI. RPA (robotic process automation): Robots, co-bots (human and machine), machine learning, and artificial intelligence have radically transformed manufacturing, logistics, and other industrial sectors. Technology is intelligently automating and improving processes for functions such as supply and demand forecasting, workload planning, scheduling, sales enablement, and marketing.
Driving business growth today requires the alignment of your business strategy with your technology strategy. Increasingly it is your technology strategy and execution that will enable you to achieve your growth goals. Leveraging the growth framework outlined here can help CXO leaders ensure that they have a process for connecting growth goals and technology strategy.
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