There is a difference between growth and scaling. Growth is great, but it alone does not guarantee success. To be successful, start-ups have to transform from “a couple people and an idea” to world-class enterprises with established business models that can generate massive revenues, without correspondingly massive costs.
Many entrepreneurs struggle with this concept. When they’re in start-up mode, entrepreneurs are opportunistic. They try to sell as much as they can and as fast as possible. They, along with a few dedicated employees, are down “in the trenches,” very much involved in the day-to-day running of the business.
But when the start-up hits a certain point—say, its first round of venture capital funding, or its first office expansion—founders must move from a purely entrepreneurial state of mind focused on growth, to an executive state of mind focused on scalability. In order to build a viable, sustainable company, they have to stop working in the business and begin working on the business.
And this is what keeps many SMB executives up at night. Every aspect of their company must scale: finances (including cash flow), workforce management, customer base and product development / innovation. If even a single category stalls, the company runs out of momentum.
So the question that every executive mulls at night is, “How can risk be reduced across all 4 categories—people, product, patrons and proceeds?”
At Oracle, we’ve worked with thousand of small and medium businesses that have been in exactly this situation. In fact, we were once one of those scrappy start-ups, and we’re happy to share what we’ve learned about how to reduce the risk of failure (and get some sleep). The answer lies in the 3 ways that today’s technologies support a growing and expanding company.
A single, unified and complete cloud provides a number of business advantages. It lowers customer risk by eliminating the need to connect back-office (like finances) and customer-facing systems (such as sales and marketing). It eliminates the need to maintain integrations, made even more complex by multiple vendors’ release schedules and technology platforms. It lowers cost because the vendor owns the connective tissue; you can focus on higher value activities like growing the business or reducing costs.
As mentioned above, a typical executive lies awake at night worrying about how to best leverage finances, employees, and products to grow the customer base and become a world-class company. World-class companies need world-class best practices, but the transition from start-up to SMB to world-class enterprise can cause massive disruption. If a company has to constantly revisit risky and complex software decisions at every stage of growth, they constantly skirt the border between risk and reward.
With a unified cloud, modern best practices come right out the box. That means that, as your company expands, your processes can scale to evolve with your business, support growth and innovation, and continue to exploit enabling technologies—all without an additional dime spent to re-deploy software. You can avoid the chaos and inefficiency that burdens many fast-growing companies. It’s all about maintaining balance—managing momentum and setting a solid foundation for growth. You can “do it once, and do it right”—easily and indefinitely.
SMB executives lie awake at night worrying about security. From employee theft to fraud to the protection of trade secrets and customer data, the risk is huge. And the consequences are severe. In fact, nearly 60% of small businesses fail within six months of being hacked.
SMBs usually try to prevent this risk by throwing up a firewall around their IT systems and crossing their fingers that nobody cracks it. However, a better approach is to rely on a vendor that bakes security into every layer of its technology—from the applications used to collect customer information, to the database that stores credit card records, to the silicon chips that form the foundation of the entire system. This “layer cake” provides the same level of security used by the largest banks in the world (and even the CIA). Once they embrace the cloud, SMB executives sleep soundly at night, knowing that their data is isolated and protected at every layer.
So how do these 3 steps reduce the risk of failure across people, product, patrons and proceeds? And how will they help you get some sleep? The answer lies in the cloud solutions you choose.
First, you can rest easy knowing that your financial data is secure, that it connects seamlessly to your HR and sales system. This means that the numbers in your ERP system will always match the numbers in sales and payroll systems.
Second, you can use modern best practices to recruit the best talent, and provide the mobile and social technologies that today’s employees want to use—keeping them engaged and boosting retention rates.
You can provide a highly differentiated customer experience through the use of mobile apps, sales chat, customer communities and other modern tools. You can also utilize social listening and big data to measure customer sentiment, analyze customer buying patterns, and identify new opportunities, long before the competition does. And, you can ensure your customers that their data will be safe with you.
Finally, you can develop new products and keep innovating, knowing that your underlying IT infrastructure will support your efforts no matter how busy you get, or how big you grow.
This is the difference between growing and scaling. Growth is the goal, and scaling is mandatory to meet that goal. So as you GO for growth, focus on the technologies that will provide you the scalability you need, and you will sleep like a baby tonight.