Lessons from a Female Disruptor!
Lara Hodgson, President & CEO, NOW Corp
Everyone likes to talk about “start-ups” and “entrepreneurs.” Starting a Business is exhilarating; it is all about the possibilities. But anyone who has started and grown a business will tell you that start-ups are easy but scale-ups are hard.
To grow you need four things: Commitment, Customers, Capital and Capacity. Many people start a business to create a job for themselves. Others want to build a company that grows and succeeds beyond their tenure. Be honest with yourself – and your family. Without your commitment and theirs, success is not possible. The following tips will help you maintain a daring attitude as you manage the challenges of scaling.
- Capitalize on Trigger Events – In order to secure that big target customer, you must engage them when they are open to being engaged. Trigger events are events that make the prospective customer open to engaging. It could be a market event (positive or negative), a competitor’s move, a change in leadership, etc. For example, if your prospect is quoted in an article on a particular topic or event you know that is an area of interest for them. Dare to frame your value in the context of the trigger event.
- Change the Game – When your market is accustomed to competing along a certain set of attributes, find another attribute and offer something different that requires others to pivot in order to compete. For example, if your industry is accustomed to requiring deposits or up front payment, and competitors compete on price, find a way to offer extended terms. Don’t commoditize your product or service by competing just on the axis that competitors have set. Dare to change the game.
- Be Creative – Most follow the rules of engagement that have been set by their predecessors. Take a risk and get noticed. The key to being creative is to first be curious. Ask questions. What you NOTICE is more important than what you KNOW. Dare to notice and dare to ask “Why?”
- Find Holes in the Gate but Always Befriend the Gatekeepers – Getting through to the decision-maker can be difficult, but don’t let that stop you. Call after hours and spell the person’s name in the voicemail system, try a common email moniker, and if you do get through, be sure your message is short and intriguing. In your zest to get around the gatekeeper, don’t forget that the gatekeeper can be your best friend! If you can develop a rapport with him or her, you will not have to crawl through a hole in the fence again. Dare to find a hole and to find a friend.
- Fail Fast and Fail Forward – Failure is not OK. Failure is AWESOME! Failure happens when you take a risk, you try something new, and the sooner you fail the cheaper it is! Failure gets you one step closer to success. If you don’t fail at something this week, shame on you! Dare to fail at something every week and to celebrate it!
- Forget Work-Life Balance – Can you have work-life balance or not? It is the wrong question. You can have it but you don’t want it. When a see-saw on a playground is balanced everything is average and I have no desire to be an average mom, an average wife or an average CEO. Instead of balance focus on optimization and stop trying to multi-task. You will accomplish more and you will do everything better. Dare to stop trying to achieve balance.
- Pick Your Door Carefully – All doors do not lead to revenue. When you make a contact within a prospective customer organization, think ahead to whom the right “buyer” will be. Don’t chase a path into the organization that is not directly connected to your desired target. For example, if you are trying to get to the chief procurement officer, the fact that you know a person in government relations may not help. Also be aware of internal politics, if you come in the wrong door then when you get to your target you may not have credibility or support based on the door you came through. Dare to be patient.
- Diversify Your Portfolio – While that big customer may look like the key to your success, don’t build a business around one customer or even one type of customer. Many small businesses go out of business because their one large customer gets acquired or goes out of business. Try to have a mix of both commercial and government customers. In some economic cycles government purchases more and at times when government budgets are cut you can rely on your commercial customers to keep the business growing. Dare to diversify.
- Grow Without Growing to Death – More businesses grow out of business than go out of business. Larger customers typically equal larger sales, but they also take longer to pay, which puts a strain on your company’s cash flow. Common advice is to get a loan or use factoring to fund the credit to your customer. If you sell to consumers, you can accept credit cards for payment and get rid of A/R without any debt or liability. If you sell to businesses and governments, you can use NOWaccount®, a B2B payment system, to get paid immediately and eliminate A/R with no debt or liability when your customer won’t pay with a credit card. Dare to grow fearlessly.
- Be Sure Your Glass Ceiling Isn’t Really a Sticky Floor – All too often the greatest limitation on our business’ growth is us. We hold back growth out of fear, uncertainty, lack of vision, and our ability to bring in talent. Have the courage to step out of your comfort zone. You don’t have to be an expert at everything. Bring in strong resources so you can spend time working on your business not just in it.
About the Author
Lara Hodgson, President & amp; CEO of NOW Corp, is a leading and daring entrepreneur, who is known not only for her extraordinary professional career but also for her excellence in her academic career. With a major degree in Aerospace Engineering from the prestigious Georgia Tech and graduation degree from Harvard Business School, Lara possesses an enormous knowledge in the engineering and business world. She has graduated with highest honors and went on to be named as one of the top 20 students in the US by USA Today. She not only serves as CEO of NOW Corp, but she also serves as Board President for Atlanta Heights Charter School, trustee of the Ga Tech Alumni Association board, member of the boards of the Ga Tech Engineering College, the Ga Tech Scheller College of Business and Patterson Real Estate Advisory Group, and Entrepreneur in Residence at Harvard Business School.
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