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Growth goals: How to set your business up for success

July 20203 min read

Pandemic or not, growing your business can be challenging at the best of times. Whether you’re just starting out or are well-established but growth has slowed, sometimes it pays to go back to basics and revisit your foundation.

GoCardless’ General Manager for Australia and New Zealand, Carolyn Breeze, joined Employment Hero’s CEO and co-founder, Ben Thompson, to discuss how to set your business up for success. 

Define your ‘why’ and guiding principles 

In Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why he explains “very few people or companies can articulate why they do what they do. By ‘why’ I mean your purpose, your cause or your belief.” But it’s something both Thompson and Breeze believe is key to finding satisfaction in your life’s work.  

Thompson’s ‘why’ was born 18 years ago, well before Employment Hero was founded, with a problem he knew needed solving: “making employment easier and more rewarding for everyone.” 

For Breeze, ‘why’ is one of GoCardless’ guiding principles; “it’s important as a cultural value; to make sure you get the right people who really buy-in to what you do,” she explains.

Both GoCardless and Employment Hero work with all types of businesses, but those that stand out to Breeze “are the ones that can articulate exactly why they exist, what they solve, and what they’re passionate about.”

“Being able to sit down as a business owner or a team to understand how and why you’re doing what you’re doing then allows you to define who your best customer persona is and where your market is,” she explains. 

Thompson adds; “it’s so important to have that passion in the ‘why’ as well, that personal connection to the mission or business.”

Surround yourself with the right people

Thompson refers to Jim Collin’s 2001 book Good to Great, quoting; “first who, then what. Great organisations make sure that they have the right people on the bus, and the right people in the key seats before they figure out where to drive the bus.”

Despite the contradiction to Sinek’s ‘why’-first approach, Breeze believes that a combination of both concepts can work too. 

As an example, “when GoCardless looked to expand into international regions, they had an idea that there was a product-fit…but when they set out to expand, they hired people who believed in the ‘why’,” she explains, adding that her team “understand where the bus is going, and more importantly, their role within that.” 

Thompson argues that for him, ‘why’ has always come first: “having your ‘why’ defined clearly helps you attract the right talent. Ideally, you would know the problem you’re trying to solve and then find the best and most passionate people who want to help solve that problem.” 

Collins also argues that it’s

“just as important to get people off the bus.” 

This is something that’s taken Breeze years of practice, but is an essential element of sustainable growth. She explains that as a business evolves “the people needed to work within, and lead the business can be different” depending on the growth stage, which is why it’s so vital to know when to move people on. 

Develop a killer ‘go to market’ strategy

Whether you’re developing a new product, or launching into a new country, taking a strategic approach to scaling is crucial. 

This will look different for every organisation, but there are three fundamental things every business should keep in mind:

  1. Have a clear idea of what problem you’re trying to solve in a new market.

  2. Understand the nuances of your two customer personas, being the person making the buying decision and the potential user.

  3. Consider partners in new markets who share your ‘why’, and who will help educate and add value to your shared consumer-base.

“One of the things that’s worked well in organisations is that when they’ve entered those [new] markets, they’ve done a lot of research up-front,” says Breeze. “They hired local people that understood the market and knew what they were doing,” she adds, while also relying on head office support to notice when things weren’t working. 

Thompson admits that he’s made the mistake of going all-in too quickly, suggesting there are smarter ways to enter new markets with low cost and low impact subtly; “then once you know that you’re on target, you can double-down.” 

Investing in digital campaigns to gather a clear snapshot of customer personas is a smart-move, says Breeze. “With a lot of technology platforms, the world’s becoming even flatter. You can enter a market that way, and be there for a year or two before you put boots on the ground.” 

Thompson adds,

“Remote-first working is going to force that lean startup approach,”

“which is a great challenge to have and should lead to much more efficiency.” 

Consider external capital 

Breeze believes that bringing in external capital is not always the key to success, but rather, is only necessary when a business is looking to grow at a rapid pace.

“If you are looking at investment, I would be trying to find a strategic investor,” she adds, “someone that has the same customer in mind, or is part of that same ecosystem” for long-term opportunities like partnerships or acquisitions. 

Thompson agrees, adding;

“the best time to bring in capital is when you absolutely need it.”  

While raising capital can be an important aspect of growing your business, staying true to your ‘why’, getting the right people on the bus, and taking a different approach to the nuances of each new market is just as crucial to sustainable scaling.

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