The paradox of scaling is clear. Most companies when growing their top line, sacrifice their margins. The main reason is because management confuses “growing” and “scaling”. It’s the same as confusing activity with effectiveness. I know it sounds old fashioned in a world of SaaS & social media user numbers but you are in business to make money. To grow the bottom line. Successful scaling is safe, sustainable and profitable growth.
And the key to scaling is alignment. Make every move count. Here are five big areas that are key with advice on alignment:
- Positioning: Understand how the brain works. “We can can only understand something new in terms of what we already know” says John Pollack in his new book, Shortcut, Gotham Books, giving his version of Edison’s belief. Al Ries and Jack Trout said it so well in their ground breaking book of 1981 – Positioning – The Battle for Your Mind. “You look for the solution to your problem not inside the product, not even inside your mind. You look for the solution to your problem inside the prospect’s mind”. As they state, IBM didn’t invent the computer. Sperry-Rand did. But IBM was the first company to build a computer position in the mind of the prospect.
For most small private companies (under 100 employees) that means relating your product or service to what exists in the market. In practice for many small companies that means defining a space in the market related to the market leader. In wireless mesh communication (e.g. Edge Velocity) that means relating yourself to Cisco. In material testing (e.g. ADMET) that means relating yourself to Instron. In email marketing (e.g. Net Atlantic) that means relating yourself to Constant Contact.
- Marketing: Once you are clear on who you are then alignment becomes so much easier! The marketing story you will tell underscores your positioning. Your collateral talks to the outcomes you have achieved for your customers (Case Studies are key). This aligns your positioning with hard evidence. Marketing becomes myopically focused on telling your story. No one else can tell your unique story. This will drive sales leads into your business that share your world view.
- Sales: Your sales strategy is now grounded in real value you know the market desires. The sales strategy is aligned with the corporate vision and the marketing story. You engage in a diagnostic conversation with a prospect who understands the problem you can solve. Now armed with the best sales process (I recommend you take a look at my posts on Prime), the sales team will have a much higher probability articulating why your solution can deliver outcomes around the priority problems.
- Metrics: Look for metrics that not only measure each department’s success against your strategic goals but also find metrics that measure the success of multiple departments working together (See my post on Metrics that force alignment).
- People: We create alignment by paying everyone more money. Nope. Beyond basic needs the research (see Daniel Pink, Drive) tells us that what employees crave are the big three of Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose.
Train people well. Teach them how to continually improve their skills and give them the opportunity to do so. Give them freedom to make mistakes but in a controlled environment with just the right level of guidance. And finally don’t assume the employee no matter how senior really understands the significance and purpose of their role and that it aligns with the team.