In my post discussing the stages of companies, there’s a significant transformation that occurs in stage 2 (“the process-focused company”), a key to which is establishing the company’s culture and values so as they are retained while the company scales its employee base from tens to hundreds of employees. Only a minority of companies succeed in this process and reach escape velocity growing from mere “people companies” (stage 1) to stage 2 and beyond.
The challenge is not only to be one of those few that succeeds, it’s also to do so before the competition is able to reach its own escape velocity and dominate the market.
The good news is that there are four common ingredients that maximize the chances of a company’s success in reaching escape velocity. I contend that these four are shared across all industries and sectors applying just as much in the enterprise software space as they do in consumer electronics space, or any other space for that matter.
A company’s philosophy should include the following four values, among others it deems specific to its specialty, in order to ensure its success.
The Four Values
1. We hire and grow the best talent
As I stressed in the post entitled, “Why Projects Fail“, it is people who are at the heart of a great company. Winning companies always have the best talent. Admittedly, recruiting and retaining the best talent is much easier said than done as it requires a leadership team that’s not only able to attract such talent, but also continually help that rare talent with their desire to grow and be constantly challenged. Companies with the best talent are able to continue to attract the best talent. Without the best talent, the remaining three values are impossible to achieve.
2. We trust and support our colleagues
We’ve hired the best; now what? Trust is next. “Trust” is a very strong and multi-faceted word; a team of colleagues that doesn’t trust one another isn’t a team at all. Suffice it to say that there are lots of dimensions to trust not the least of which is believing in the competence of the party to trust. It’s impossible for trust to exist between two people who do not believe in each other’s ability to do their job. Trusting colleagues allows each to do his or her own job effectively without having to be concerned about a colleague’s work. With that trust established, a team can collaborate and support one another effectively, each contributing his or her part to the equation. A culture filled with trust exudes a sense of confidence of collaboration.
3. Our mission is to create delighted evangelist customers
We’ve hired the best, established a great culture of trust and support; now, it’s time to ensure a united mission. Ultimately, the mission of any company is to delight customers to such a degree as to create evangelists of them. Those customer evangelists are then an even more effective sales force than any in-house sales team can be working alone. Evangelist customers are willing to do everything from providing reference calls for other prospective customers to proactively recommending your product to others inside and outside of their organization. Delighted customers are a sure sign you’re on the right track; evangelist customers tell you that you’re winning the market.
4. We hold ourselves accountable for the good and bad
Finally, with a talented team, a trusting culture, and a united mission, all that remains is a sense of accountability. Effective companies celebrate successes but, equally importantly, hold themselves accountable for failures. All employees from the top down must believe in a culture of making commitments, keeping those commitments, and holding themselves accountable for the quality and timeliness of those commitments. It is that accountability that drives responsibility and ultimately drives quality actions and progress within a company.
The Short of It
Successful companies believe in talented people
who build a trust culture that unites them
around a customer-centric mission
to which they hold themselves accountable.