Maybe it’s because I’ve spent some time out of the country that I notice it so much. Sometimes you have to step outside and come back in to really see things that need to be questioned.
So what am I talking about that I notice?
When listening to Canadian would-be entrepreneurs, it seems that quite often you hear their dream is to start a company, grow it to the point where some other larger American company comes along and buys it, enabling the original founders to walk away with millions of dollars.
Sure it’s kinda historical for us. There have been a lot of precedents in recent days of young tech companies being acquired. There are actually few $billion dollar revenue Tech companies in Canada that don’t have some US ownership. And with the demise of Northern Telecom and the woes of BlackBerry, I think that some people wonder if it’s possible for a large size Tech company to thrive here. So the dream becomes: build it to a point where you can sell it, and then move onto the next entrepreneurial dream.
Still I think it’s backwards thinking that can foster a bad environment in a company and stifle innovation.
Maybe I’m too much of a purist, but for me there is something really wrong with this. I’m not going to answer the question I posed in the title. I posed it as a rhetorical question, like you might say – why is that child persisting to put its hand on the fire. You don’t really want to know, you just want the child to stop.
By saying it’s backwards I am reminded of something I heard over 20 years ago in relation to goal setting. That too often people think of what they need to have, do and be. When they really need to be, do and have. An example is a tennis player. They think they need to have the right racket and coach to win tennis tournaments to be a great a great tennis player. Conversely, the great players develop a winning mindset (they are winners), they practice and play matches and work on their game, and they have as their reward titles and high rankings and great coaches want to work with them.
What do I think that emerging Tech startups need to be?
I believe they need to be customer-first centric. They need to foster and develop knowledge of what is of value to their customers.
Be innovative in their DNA, not just in the lab. Reward innovative thinking and approaches in all corners of the building.
Be expansive. Be forever looking for opportunities in new markets or new ways of servicing their existing markets.
Be objective. Balance the tenacity of working through issues with knowing when it’s the right time to abandon ideas that are not working.
What do they then do?
Offer a quality product or service at a fair price. Deal effectively with customer feedback and issues with your delivery.
Adopt agile processes were development is responsive to the marketplace.
Build great teams. Attract great talent to the company, through providing them with a positive environment to work in, give them great things to work on, and recognize accomplishments with more than dollars.
Look beyond the next quarter. They need to be a company that balances short term goals and long term growth. You need short term goals to progress, but you need to also invest in tomorrow.
Work on profitability. Not to the point that it handcuffs what you can do, but to the point where they are working smart. Find ways to reach revenue targets without overspending on costs.
Make use of partners and channels to reach different markets.
Play nice. Foster a company moral where everyone is working collaboratively towards common goals. Minimize negative politics, competitive back-biting and internal fiefdoms.
What do they have in the end?
A successful company. A company that is a profitable going business concern. A sustainable business.
A company that customers value and want to do business with.
A company that great tech-industry talent wants to work at.
A company, that incidentally, smart investors would pay millions of dollars to be a part of or to acquire.
A pipe dream? Maybe, but I believe a better dream then just hoping for a quick exit.