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Support Systems

I’ve had the privilege of working in the enterprise software industry for more than a quarter of a century. Along the way, I have learned that it can be challenging to unlock a company’s growth potential while maintaining profitability. 

Creating and executing a well thought-out plan to guide a company through its journey is essential. This way, companies are more likely to be successful in accomplishing their goals. 

After joining Sparta Systems in 2011, I set an audacious goal to more than double the company’s revenues, taking it from a steady state to accelerated growth stage, while maintaining strong profitability. 

It was by following these 12 steps that Sparta Systems has doubled its revenues from when I first started, and now this guide can be used by other companies that are looking introspectively, too: 

1. Outline the value proposition.

It’s always a good idea for companies to take a step back and think about if the solutions and products it’s providing could be better, faster or cheaper than the competition, or provides an as yet undefined need in the market. Why should a customer buy your product or service? How does your product or service help what they need? 

Adopting these questions in the overall marketing strategy will allow companies to look at and understand their potential customers, which is a key component to successfully selling any product or service. 

2. Evaluate the landscape.

Assessing the market is vital for understanding the revenue opportunity available for the product or service a company is providing. Companies should undertake a systematic, quantifiable study to understand the Total Addressable Market (TAM) in order to define its target markets and opportunity. Essentially, the TAM calculation will ensure that a company is headed in the right direction. 

3. Establish a big audacious goal.

Many companies want to achieve a big dream, but hold themselves back by being risk averse. They don’t want to disturb the status quo and would rather play things safe. This is one of the biggest mistakes I see in the business world. 

Once the goal is established, a company can sketch out the checkpoints along the way. At Sparta Systems, I audaciously stated that I expected the company to more than double revenues in the next few years – a simple, but bold goal that left no room for confusion. 

4. Identify inner potential.

CEOs should make it a priority to meet with their leadership team to assess and understand the company’s capabilities by area of functional responsibility and personnel. This will help determine what is working and isn’t, what skills the company has in house and what’s missing. Once these are determined, it’s time to prioritize the changes that are needing to be made, and make them happen. 

5. Measure customer loyalty and employee engagement.

Understanding customer loyalty is a key component in determining a company’s long-term viability. High customer loyalty typically implies a customer is willing to buy more, more often, and will act as a reference. A good way of measuring this is to survey customer loyalty twice a year and to provide a way to make customer feedback actionable, as part of the commitment to exceeding customer expectations. 

Additionally, highly engaged employees will usually have a positive emotional attachment to the company, which leads to a higher commitment in its objectives. With customer focused, fact-based decision-making and results, Sparta Systems has a 98 percent customer retention rate. 

6. Determine the solution roadmap.

Setting a goal is important, but how will you get there? For a company to have an effective vision, not only do they need to have a stated goal, but also a roadmap on how to get there. 

Think about it as a road trip. You begin the trip knowing of the destination, but making stops is necessary to get you where you want to be. 

A well-defined solutions roadmap will help create clarity in all areas of a company, from research and development and product management to sales and marketing.  It will also set clear milestones that need to be achieved.

7. Recognize key players.

Employees should be more than just a number or name. Get to know their talents. Make it a point to meet each and every employee personally. Pinpoint and involve informal leaders and individual contributors who will be critical in taking the company through its transformation, and let them know how important they are. 

8. Align incentives.

This simple concept is unfortunately often neglected. Individual incentives must align with corporate objectives in order to drive and achieve a desired behavior. For example, at Sparta Systems, each person is held accountable for executing on defined objectives, which is then tied to individual bonus plans. 

9. Garner quick results.

Find early wins that you can share throughout the company. Whether it’s through parties, rewards or pats on the back, companies should communicate and celebrate small and large accomplishments as an acknowledgment of a job well done by embracing change.

10. Quantify outcomes.

Leaders – beginning with the CEO – should establish transparent performance metrics through balanced scorecards directly tied to transformation objectives, which they are held directly accountable for. 

This should then be integrated into the leadership team’s scorecard, which in turn should be pushed down to all levels of the company. This way, the entire company is clear on the objectives and how each person plays a role in accomplishing it.

11. Design a business plan and budget. 

Companies should create a comprehensive business plan and budget that details how it will achieve its big audacious goal through many steps over multiple years. 

Although budgets are difficult to plan and maintain – cash flow problems, supply chain issues and unexpected events – it will help determine if the profit goals are within reach and keep companies on the right track. 

12. Implement.

Don’t hesitate to execute a plan even if it’s not 100 percent completed. You can’t be afraid to have one foot on the brake and one foot on the accelerator even if you’re trying to navigate around all the bumps in the road. Otherwise, you will never reach your destination.

Bottom-line: A company’s path to growth may not be perfect, but with the ability to change gears quickly, it can avoid a lot of the bumps in the road – achieving many milestones along the way, as well as making the journey a lot of fun. 

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