as Tina Turner said – better than all the rest….

Posted by in Investing, Opinions

I was sat with the CEO of one of the young businesses I work with yesterday having a coffee and looking forward to 2013.  We are still a young company, albeit growing at c200% per annum. For the first two years of our life our prime challenge had been three things: sales, sales, sales. A fundamental need to prove the concept, learn and drive income into the business.

Whilst sales is still right at the front of mind, we were reflecting that actually the list has changed to: sales, process, sales.  A small change but with a deep shift right at the heart.

The thing is that we are growing so quickly that we need to make sure that not only is our ‘front-end’ humming to best effect (to use software analogies) but that we give sufficient time, love and attention to the back-end. Enabling us to embrace growth in an intelligent fashion and to gently move away from the founder/entrepreneur ‘do it all’ ethos to a state where important tasks are delegated, divided and allocated. Objectively, a truly interesting inflexion point. Kind of the moment when you realise that you’ve got to grow up and that you might just make it through University and become that Doctor/Programmer etc….

Moreover, however, and at my insistence I want to make sure that we are the best at our processes and give them the same love that we give our own product (and the customer processes that take place within it). Kind of building from the Iceberg post I did last, we need to make sure that everything that goes on below the waterline is as robust as everything that is visible.

Not only because it will improve the overall customer proposition, but also because if at any time and for any reason anyone were to want to see the machine, it must sparkle. But it really IS an interesting shift. To date we have not had the luxury of deep cash resources and a deep team to subdivide each task we’ve needed to fulfil. Our marketing guy also does finance, sales, strategy and some admin. Our sales team help with development, cash cheques and do customer support.

We know that we have a big task ahead of us. Managing growth whilst developing the foundations. The only thing we know right now is that a) we need to do it and b) we’re going to make sure that if we have to tackle a process then we’ll make it the damned best process we can.

It’s not the glamorous end of the start-up journey but it will have a significant impact on our success and, ultimately valuation. A super looking car that is ‘concours’ on the outside is worth an awful lot less if the engine is missing, botched or damaged. You don’t see it but it’s what powers the car. I share all this purely because we’ve had our realisation, our moment of maturity and it’s the first time I have seen this so clearly.