Sean Brown, CEO at YCharts, and Jeff Kleban, Hyde Park Angels Member and Board Observer at YCharts, shared their experiences growing successful businesses, including what challenges they faced and best practices they learned. In particular, they both emphasized the importance of never forgetting that as entrepreneur, you do not operate within a closed, controlled environment and must be aware of existing processes, customer expectations, and market needs.
Hear what Sean and Jeff have to say in this video and read a few of their thoughts below in the post.
Before becoming a full-time angel investor, Jeff Kleban was one of the founders of Syclo, a bootstrapped mobile technology company he grew from a team of 4 to 200 and sold in 2012 to SAP. One of his biggest lessons learned during that experience was that the primary focus on day one shouldn’t be the same once the company has started maturing.
“When you start your company, you need to explore the market with your new product trying to figure out exact product-market fit. However, once you find the right fit, you need to switch gears and become maniacally focused on your best-fit segment,” said Jeff Kleban.
This is especially important because one of the major challenges you will inevitably face as your company grows is choosing which customers to serve. As your base grows, there will be more types of customers and some will be a better fit for your business operationally and strategically than others. This is where focus becomes extremely important – if you try to make too many types of customers happy, you may end up diluting your services and your brand.
Another key element to growing a business is planning for that growth. As Sean Brown learned from over twenty-five years leading venture-backed, private equity-backed, and public software and technology firms, a huge part of that planning process comes down to hiring the right people. Namely, he advises “hire experienced leaders or ensure that inexperienced leaders are committed to learning from mentors and those that crossed this path previously.”
He added, “Set expectations with leaders that you think are capable of growing with you that when you all succeed, they will actually have oversight of less functions. They will have a larger staff, but a smaller sphere of influence.”
Once again, focus is key. Growing a company may involve growing the headcount and customer base, but not necessarily growing the focus. In fact, as more people come on board from both sides, that focus needs to narrow to enable the highest level of service, performance, and the preservation of vision. A vision can easily become muddled or totally transformed when too many disparate voices come to the fore.
Ultimately, sustainable company growth doesn’t necessarily come from striving for excellence above all else. “Focus on your customer and how your product serves their needs. You will find your next growth level when you discover new and even more impactful ways to help your customer,” said Jeff Kleban.