Wain Kellum, CEO, Vocalocity
I have been fortunate enough to have been the CEO of six fast-growth companies, and I have worked with or served thousands of other businesses. I have learned that every business has many things that make it unique, but the one thing all businesses have in common is that they could benefit from more revenue. You want to grow; you want to expand; you want to succeed! But, as you grow, you don’t want to disrupt the formula that has driven your company thus far. So, what’s the best way to continue growing a company that is already successful?
With my more than 25 years of experience in rapidly scaling companies, I have developed a specific set of steps that have consistently worked for me.
1. Hone your value proposition
I am always amazed at how many companies are in the marketplace with a value proposition that is muddled, unclear or downright confusing. Your value proposition should confirm why your company is a great choice for your potential customers, and it’s important to continually hone/reshape this statement as your company evolves.
The key to a good value proposition is that it is quantifiable and provable. As an example, a weak value proposition would read, “Buy our gasoline because it is better.” This proposition is weak because it gives customers no tangible reason to purchase. It asks customers to buy your gasoline, but it doesn’t tell them why they should choose this product over the alternatives. These types of value propositions are always non-credible and accelerated market adoption will never happen. A much stronger value proposition might read, “Because of our additives, our gas only costs 10% more but gives you 20% more mileage.” This value statement offers a proof point for why this product is better and quantifies the worth of the product. Consumers are more likely to choose this offering because they can see that it has measurable benefits, even though it costs slightly more than the competitors’ products. You really can’t spend enough time honing your value proposition, since the more credible and provable your claims are, the less time you will spend on every sales cycle.
2. Look beyond your core
In all likelihood, you built your business with a specific target market that you identified early on. However, the world is in constant change; customers need change and competitors change tactics. In order to keep growth momentum, you may need to tap into new opportunities. However, this does not mean selling your existing offering to anyone who will talk to you, but rather identifying adjacent target markets.For example, with Vocalocity, we originally targeted small to medium-sized business (SMB) owners with a better phone system, and over time we added many additional capabilities that helped our customers sell more and service better. We also added new features for specific industries,which opened up new markets for us. Expanding out what we do and the market we serve has allowed us to continue to grow rapidly even as we have gotten larger. A pilot changes altitudes to find favorable winds, and a kayaker shifts to move toward the faster moving part of the stream. As CEOs, we should always be looking for ways to increase velocity.
3. Expand your Distribution Channels
Almost every business sells their product/service directly. Now, it’s time to add in other revenue channels. At Vocalocity, we invested in a reseller channel and developed wholesale partner programs. Doing this has allowed us to reach an extended customer base that we otherwise may not have had access to. Now, not only are we adding customers directly at record paces, we are also adding profit from our partners’ customers.
4. Know when to let go
You’ve heard of ABC – Always Be Closing. But, have you heard of ABT – Always be Topgrading? We’ve all had to deal with employees that are underperformers, and most CEOs tend to hold on to these underperformers a little longer than they should – hoping things will improve. However, holding on to underperforming employees doesn’t just frustrate your high-performing employees; it decreases your bottom line.
A successful CEO should always be topgrading their talent. This means, you should conduct regular evaluations of your employees and identify those that need to be rewarded and those that are in the bottom 20 percent.The least caring thing you can do with people who work for you is not provide feedback that helps them grow and progress. Those employees in the bottom 20 percent are costing you money and demotivating your top achievers. By giving them specific feedback, you help them either improve so they are no longer identified as an under performer, or you help them find positions elsewhere where they can perform more successfully. Also, taking a regular look at your talent ensures that you are always recognizing those that have worked hard.
5. Scale, Scale, Scale
Just like your employee performance, you should take a regular evaluation of other aspects of your business. It is important to measure where you are so you can make intelligent decisions on where you want to be.If you don’t measure it, you will have difficulty improving it. Constant feedback and constant improvement is the key to scale.
Recently, I heard a speaker, who had innovated in a huge way, ask his audience, a very educated crowd, a simple question. “What is the biggest room?” No one knew the answer. “The room for improvement,” was the speaker’s answer, which should resonate with all of us.
Growing a business requires hard work, tenacity and risk. I always say that a slow growing company is like being a three legged antelope on the prairie, easy prey for the strong and the swift…Let’s go get an antelope!
About the Author
Wain Kellum is CEO of Atlanta-based, VoIP service provider Vocalocity. Prior to joining Vocalocity, Kellum developed a solid track record of rapid revenue growth for a diverse group of technology companies he has managed. He has deep experience organically growing companies, buying and integrating companies, forming strategic alliances, and raising capital. He has completed successful equity transactions with a variety of companies including Microsoft and with Hewlett Packard (HP). He holds a B.S. in Business Administration with honors from the University of South Carolina, an MBA from Georgia State University, and he completed the Advanced Management Program (AMP) at Harvard Business School.