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Expert Advice for Medium and Midsize Businesses

What Makes a High-Growth Business?

Recently, Oracle partnered with Inc. to survey Inc. 5000 companies who achieved high growth rates over the past three years. Through the survey, we wanted to learn what contributed to the companies’ successes. How did they achieve rapid and significant growth? What were their growing pains along the way?

We reviewed some of the survey results in an Oracle SMB Twitter Tweetchat, What Makes a High-Growth Business. Then, we asked the Twitter community to weigh in on these findings and share their advice for business growth. Continue reading to see what they had to say.

A joint Inc. / Oracle survey found the #1 obstacle for growth is the inability to manage fast growth. How can businesses scale effectively?

First, you need to hire the right people and build a strong team. This is crucial to scale because as your business grows, you can’t continue micromanaging anymore. You need to delegate to scale.
– Reggie Bradford (@ReggieBradford), Senior Vice President, Oracle Startup Ecosystem and Accelerator

Scalability is critical, but is often random. The key is to pace scale with other components of business foundation building. Also, many entrepreneurs are over-focused on top line growth and under-focused on the bottom line. Revenue is vanity but profits are sanity! Fast growth can drive an exciting culture, but is also like driving quickly around the race track with your eyes closed. Not sustainable and not a good idea.
– Andrew Sherman (@AndrewJSherman), Legal and Strategic Business Advisor

Want to know more secrets to the Inc. 5000’s success?  Download our newest ebook – Success Factors Driving America’s Fastest Growing Companies.

What are some indications that a business is ready to enter the high-growth phase?

There are a lot of KPIs for this one. One is new customer growth—how quickly are you adding customers? If you’re bringing on new customers at a higher rate than predicted, you better be able to handle. Also, look at your renewal rates. What percentage are you renewing and boosting growth? The worst thing a business can do is garner goodwill and acquisition growth and NOT be able to deliver.
– Reggie Bradford (@ReggieBradford), Senior Vice President, Oracle Startup Ecosystem and Accelerator

Customer demand is key. Who wants to buy more from you and why? How sustainable and how predictable is the uptick in demand? What new investments does it warrant? If you need to raise capital to fuel growth, what’s the plan for attracting it? Also, are you selling vitamins or painkillers? Do people WANT what you sell or do they NEED it?
– Andrew Sherman (@AndrewJSherman), Legal and Strategic Business Advisor

Make sure you measure twice and cut once when planning your business growth. Don’t invest your $$$ blindly.
– @UrbanSuccess

When “inbound” requests for product or solution information start to outpace your “outbound” efforts.
– @JulieZisman

In many cases, the market will tell you that you are ready to enter a high-growth state—publicity, exposure, etc. High growth is dependent on customers, who are dependent upon product or service… and getting out of your comfort zone.
– @ChristianeSoto

Inc. / Oracle survey respondents said “talent” is a crucial component for growth. How do you know which position to hire first?

There are many. HR is one—who is helping attract talent? HR execs are often overlooked in small biz but are crucial. You need to hire someone to get your operations in order, like a COO, so you can execute and scale effectively. At my last startup, Vitrue, bringing on a COO was crucial for us to scale and grow.
– Reggie Bradford (@ReggieBradford), Senior Vice President, Oracle Startup Ecosystem and Accelerator

I think COO and CFO are the top 2. Get your finances in order but don’t ignore operations. Be careful not to get too top heavy too early.
– Andrew Sherman (@AndrewJSherman), Author and Strategic Business Advisor

As much as tech is critical to future business growth, having the right team in place is just as critical.
– Brian Moran (@BrianMoran), Award-winning Business Advisor

Diversity is key to team balance. If everyone does the same job, you will get nowhere fast. If you want to grow your business, hire outside your comfort zone.
– @UrbanSuccess

Understand the strengths of your current employees and hire for the gaps that are most important to growth.
– @JulieZisman

Audit your own skillset. What do you bring to the table? Whatever is not in your wheelhouse, get help. However, the first step in this entire process is accepting that you need to hire new people. You cannot be everything.
– @ChristianeSoto

What do you think is the key to competing and winning the best talent?

Company culture, hands down. Your culture is your brand and it’s crucial to hiring, attracting AND retention. At all my startups, we put a priority on creating and maintaining our culture. This was key to building a successful team.
– Reggie Bradford (@ReggieBradford), Senior Vice President, Oracle Startup Ecosystem and Accelerator

Authenticity is key. We all want transparency, integrity and candor in our leaders. Look carefully at your recruiting channels. Are you looking for love in all the right places? Some of us are better at building teams than we are at leading teams… Which are you? Hire a great HR direction that truly gets culture building as soon as you can support it.
– Andrew Sherman (@AndrewJSherman), Author and Strategic Business Advisor

Money can’t be the key driver of hiring the best people and keeping them. There has to be a strong corporate culture too.
– @UrbanSuccess

Culture and understanding who would be the best fit. No use building a culture if you don’t hire the right people for it.
– @ChristianeSoto

Why is retaining your current customer base so important for growth?

Obvious but true, it’s less expensive and less work to retain a current customer than to identify, nurture and win a new one. And keeping existing customers happy gets reoccurring revenue and creates an opportunity to extend/grow that revenue. And happy, loyal customers are valuable references and excellent for PR and storytelling. At all my startups, we put a huge focus on PR and storytelling and sharing the success of our clients.
– Reggie Bradford (@ReggieBradford), Senior Vice President, Oracle Startup Ecosystem and Accelerator

Customers are critical to growth, 20% of your key customers will drive 80% of your growth. Not all customers are the same. Know who the 20% are and keep them close and talk to them often. Turnover is key. Understand why. Customers leave or don’t return for a wide variety of reasons, survey often!
– Andrew Sherman (@AndrewJSherman), Author and Strategic Business Advisor

A low customer turnover rate is a healthy sign for a business. Happy customers are the best customers (and referrals!)
– Brian Moran (@BrianMoran), Award-winning Business Advisor

Discover how your SMB can grow and move forward. Get Going, Get Better, Get Ahead.

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