Driving a startup company from infancy to IPO has taken on mythical proportions in the tech industry. Many dream the dream of launching the next Google or Facebook.
It has never been so promising for anyone with a great idea and a burning desire to succeed, to make it big, and in the process, change the world - or at least a market -- in a relatively short period of time. However, for every famous story like Facebook, there are dozens of not-so-glamorous, and unfortunately, not-so-successful stories.
Taking a company from the startup phase to a potential global powerhouse can be both daunting and rewarding. Whether you are a seasoned entrepreneur or undertaking your first investment, the following key lessons may help you navigate the path from startup to market leader.
1. Broaden your marketing scope.
No matter how many times you toot your horn to customers, they probably won’t believe you until they hear it from someone else. Thus, during the startup phase, companies need to focus the majority of their marketing efforts on product positioning and third-party validation. This will carve out a spot in the competitive landscape; put a stake in the ground; and win the mindshare of the marketplace.
As you move toward branding a global entity, rather than just your products, the focus shifts from survival to leadership. It is essential to focus the company’s marketing efforts on answering the value proposition: “Why us?” Marketing messages, products, services, processes and follow-ups should center on supporting that proposition. Continually find new ways to highlight your achievements, culture, vision and insights in order to increase your visibility.
2. Consider cross-pollination.
Without effective sales strategies, it is nearly impossible for companies to succeed or grow. Take a cross-pollination approach that uses direct and indirect sales channels in all geographic areas to achieve market penetration. Use direct sales channels for the high-end of the market and indirect ones at the low-end.
Taking the time to identify opportunities in your sales approach, and then selecting the right tactics across all channels, will help the business grow aggressively, and establish your brand on a global basis.
3. Finance is about more than accounting.
As the company truly becomes global, there are also tools and processes that need to be put in place.
At some point during a company’s growth, you will have to move the business away from spreadsheets and simple applications, and implement sophisticated systems to support growth and deal with regulations. This often requires a new level of skills in your financial and administrative team, and it is certainly an investment that will pay off as you continue to expand and scale.
Furthermore, as a company starts to gain traction and visibility to investors and financial managers, the company will need a CFO who can take an active role in positioning the company.
A strong CFO will know how to interact with investors, partners and financial analysts, helping them understand your company's story. Financial industry analysts need to understand how a company's business model and long-term strategy will help it achieve long-term success.
Building a startup that eventually has a recognizable product and a growing customer base can be very challenging.
Taking that company to the next level - to be a global success story that competes in the upper echelon of the market -- is even harder. Thinking through these challenges and opportunities in advance and developing a winning long-term plan will give any organization the opportunity to become one of those rare stories in a market - a truly global success.