Tag Archives: Scale-up

Scale Your Business in Four Simple Steps

Scale Your Business in Four Simple Steps

GUEST POST from Helen Yu

As a new founder at the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey, you have many tasks at hand and little bandwidth to do them all. There are countless responsibilities, from everyday tasks like investor pitch decks and elevator pitches to longer-term tasks like business plan revisions, product launch strategy and much more. How do you know if you are putting your time and energy into things that matter? It all comes back to why you started your business in the first place — understanding your “why” will keep you going when the road gets tough. But “why” alone is not enough for the long haul. You must couple your “why” with four specific steps needed to scale a business:

  1. Intentional go-to-market preparations
  2. An ability to adapt to customer needs
  3. A willingness to acclimate or even restart in the face of changing or more demanding market environments
  4. The heart to celebrate with your team when you collectively hit milestones along the way

I learned this approach while ascending one of the world’s most famous mountains.

Here is how I learned how to scale a business to success:

In 2007, I climbed to Mount Everest base camp. It took hundreds of hours of training and dedication to achieve my goal — including staying committed to the climb while my hands were freezing from the cold and my head felt heavy from the rising altitude.

Why did I keep climbing?

Because I had made a promise to my grandmother to spread her ashes on a tall mountain. That “why” gave me the will to keep moving forward. It gave me the courage to see my limitations and overcome them: to learn mountain climbing and train my body to withstand it, to find a Sherpa guide who could lead me into new territory. My goal of climbing Mount Everest started not on any map but in my mind. It was a dream that became my North Star, helping me choose the actions and paths needed to fulfill my grandmother’s wish.

Your startup has a similar North Star: the reason that led you to start the business in the first place. You also have an inner voice that serves as Sherpa guide. Why did you start this business? Who are you serving with it?

By asking yourself these questions, you will find the determination and grit to keep moving forward and find the keys to scale a business. A North Star may look distant and unattainable, but it is achievable when you take consistent actions to reach it.

1. Prepare

You may already have an answer to your “why” in a formal mission statement or vision statement, but are your company’s actions in alignment?

When strategy and execution aren’t aligned to the mission and vision, disconnects occur. Internal communications break down. Customers are dissatisfied with their interactions with your company. Growth opportunities are missed. Investors become wary of your potential to survive.

With your “why” kept front and center, you will be able to choose the actions that support it and overcome these common disconnects. It all begins with preparation. Before you begin your startup climb, be sure that you’ve lined up your partners and support team. Don’t go to market until you have processes in place to hear and respond to your customers.

Your startup’s “why” must not simply be mentioned in a high-level vision statement but must also be integrated into all of your company’s operations, from product creation to marketing.

Do your employees understand your company’s mission and vision? When your team understands their impact, they can find more fulfillment in their jobs, which leads to alignment across the company and higher performance.

2. Adapt

Your North Star, or “why,” will not change, but the vision and strategy for reaching it might. You may find the business you started is not the one that will move you forward toward that North Star. At that point, you must either implement changes within your business to move you closer to those goals or create something new entirely.

Often wedded to their original ideas, many founders resist adapting even when it becomes evident they’ve misread the voice of the customer. Stay aware and agile. This is the time to pivot, perhaps even redirect, to incorporate the customer’s voice into decision-making.

Be ready to test your assumptions of what is working and what is not. Your “why” may take you on new roads that you never thought possible, and your ability to adapt to your customers along the way can keep you moving forward.

3. Acclimate

Adapting is all about shifting direction. Acclimating means pausing, or even restarting, listening to the customer’s voice and adjusting to demanding markets that have little margin for error.

Like climbers who reverse and go back to base camp after reaching each summit, the reflective, backward steps of acclimatization will allow your business to figure out repeatable success (the cornerstone needed to scale a business!) and keep you moving forward in the long run.

4. Celebrate

Finally, don’t save all the confetti and high-fives for the very top of the mountain. Remember to celebrate small wins, too. As a founder, you need to inspire devotion in others. Celebrating the little victories along the way is an expression of gratitude to your partners and teams and reminds people why they started the journey with you.

Startup culture is complicated, with many opportunities to get off track and lose the point of why you started in the first place. By keeping the “why” of your North Star front and center while preparing, adapting, acclimating and celebrating along your journey, you will make the necessary adjustments to avoid many of the pitfalls that cause startups to fail and, instead, start to scale a business with confidence.

Originally published on Startup Nation.

Image credits: Pixabay

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Scaling-up, the next frontier for innovation organization

Guest Post from Nicolas Bry

How to transform innovative bottom-up initiatives into a movement spread across the company? How to scale your innovation program widely? Here are a few lessons learned from creating innovation programs in Europe, and tweaking them to Africa and Middle-East contexts.

Leveraging local and global innovation

Supplementing wisely central techno-pushed innovation with local innovation, closer to the fields and to the user needs, opening new windows of opportunities, is the goal of the open and local innovation approach developed for Orange Africa.

The purpose is to balance the technical expertise from a central innovation division, with the possibility of bottom-up initiatives, experimenting locally up to 100 innovative solutions every semester with the circa 20 countries where Orange operates in Africa and Middles-East.

The local innovation focus is on agility, pragmatism, and value created for the users and for Orange business, while leveraging a key technological asset that Orange can bring to the innovative service.

Smartphone Noir

One emblematic story is the birth of Orange Money, a mobile money service solving the problem of money transfer and payment for unbanked people. The idea was born in Kenya, and it clearly could not have emerged in Europe where everyone is banked, even kids! Orange developed centrally a platform capable of supporting all African countries in their progressive roll-out over 18 countries: ten years later, 50 millions users signed in for Orange Money. Furthermore, the central Orange Money platform enables local developments blossom, tailored to each country needs, and being picked-up, and replicated from one country to another over the region.

This is probably the most brilliant innovation of Orange over the decade, still no cutting-edge tech embedded: it’s low tech (SMS). As it solves a real user problem, it transforms people’s life, and got a massive adoption rate.

Orange Money map

Conducting short experiments in connection with business units

I created Orange intrapreneurship program 5 years ago, with a view to help innovative ideas transition more fluently into business, with the help of a sponsoring business unit, and to open the innovation doors to every Orange employee, letting them benefit from a tunnel of goodwill around their idea. The program acted like an innovation center of expertise or incubator. It clearly involved the business units very upstream: I’m a strong believer in co-developing innovations that create opportunities for business units, giving them a competitive advantage or solving one of their problems. “Find out the business unit problem that your innovation is solving”, I kept saying to the innovators I mentored!

Now we are adapting the process for the 20 countries of Orange Africa taking into account contextual particularities. We keep the employees participation and the business unit ownership aspects, but we also try to test refinements on the exploration stage. The key here is to conduct innovation exploration with short experiments in connection with business units:

  • achieving quick business wins with innovative process improvement, impacting internal organization, and not only new product and services: for instance, streamlining the authentification process for new customers;
  • mixing employees and business representatives with startups that help experimenting quickly; this has been pioneered by Orange Belgium, and these teams are called innovation squads like in the Spotify vocabulary;
  • keeping the process nimble, in a stretched time frame of a few weeks, so as to conduct a high number of experiments, confronting mock-ups to users, and collecting a maximum of users’ feedback, finding The Right IT before any product development.

Our target is to build proximity with our target users, rather than falling in love with our product, to explore and conduct short experiments, and pave the way to exploitation capitalizing on users’ feedback.

Personne Pointant Sur Un Appareil Photo Noir Et Gris Près De Macbook Pro

Designing innovation program, boosting innovation community

I’ve been through 10 steps to design an corporate entrepreneur program in my book The Intrapreneurs’ Factory. These 10 milestones are also an appropriate framework to design the innovation process with the countries of Orange Africa.

10 steps

It’s important first of all to define the reason why you start the program, what problem you’re trying to solve, what goals and KPIs will make the management team satisfied if they are reached. Then, some delicate gates are:

  1. Finding out the right sponsor, both visible and accessible; sometimes a deputy sponsor can compensate a lack of avaibility!
  2. Involving the business side soon enough in the process to trigger ownership, and  further facilitate the exit, aka the transition from exploration to exploitation;
  3. Closely coaching the process along the way, sharing the innovation tools from design thinking and lean start-up, bespoke tools to design mock-ups, and conduct experiment, but also the very peculiar mindset of the successful innovator: flexible and stubborn at the same time as says Jeff Bezos, as the key relies in the management of iteration in short cycles.

To operate this innovation process, we move together with a community of 20 staggering innovation champions, representing the countries of Orange Africa. Not only we discuss the innovation process to test locally, but we share view on innovation organization, and share success stories during a weekly Radio Innovation.

Radio Innovation

Weekly Radio Innovation also puts forward tremendous testimonials to inspire the innovation community:

  • from innovation managers and communities connected to Africa:  Seedstars startups competition and programs for African entrepreneurs; Make Sense Africa incubator and the Dakar Citylab; Norrsken Kigali innovation hub, the startups gateway to East Africa; YUX Design Agency from Senegal, validating innovation ideas with users; innovation in the informal sector in Africa with GoodPoint/Archipel-co.com; Total Africa open innovation in Chad; Entrepreneurship Communities for innovation in Africa, with Archipel&Co and Africa Farmers Club; Liferay digital platform, and an Africa’s approach to tech and innovation; Innovation in Africa with Vodafone;
  • from startups growing their business in Africa: cloud telephony for SMEs, with Mteja from Kenya, and AfricaTalks; South-African MFS Africa: moving money across countries with one API that makes Africa look like one country; Kenya Pezesha loan marketplace for small African businesses; Chari.ma from Morocco, market place for local businesses; African startups investment report by Briter Bridges;
  • from Orange collaborators illustrating the group assets: Orange Ventures Africa seeds challenge; Social listening with Orange Data Studio in Guinea; Orange Fab Belgium innovation squads; Orange Senegal design thinking toolbox; Orange Slovakia  open innovation; Orange Amman innovation team; First 100% digital mobile offer Flex by Orange Polska; Orange Romania innovation ecosystem, and cooperation with startups;
  • from broader innovation experts: innovation community management at Gefco; Booster incubation studio at Total; innovation in the energy industry, Innovation Vesta Wind Systems; collaborating with startups through the Venture Client Model, by 27pilots.

For these innovation champions in charge of setting-up an organization for innovation in their country, the challenge is to seek for integration (integrating seamlessly innovation with the business) before seeking for success. These mind-boggling testimonials feed them, upgrade their skills, and consolidate their innovation culture.

Scaling-up innovation oragnization

Once the innovation program gets traction, the next step is about scaling-up the approach, engaging progressively all participants. If all Orange countries commit to the innovation process in Africa, that will lead to the tremendous portfolio of 100 creative solutions experimented per semester, 200 on a yearly basis on the regional footprint: what a eye-catching achievement!

At the innovation project level, one can use the scale-up canvas to check whether the project is ready to grow, and move from a start-up to a scale-up stage.

At the program level, Is your innovation organization resilient? is the topic of a short assessment I have designed to know how your innovation organization fare across 10 key areas, and cements its resilience. Whether you are leading open innovation, internal innovation, participative innovation and intrapreneurship, digital factory or disruptive labs, you will learn from this tool which works like an innovation calculator, it’s actually quite fun to run it! To start, click here, see how you rank, and get pieces of advice for improvement.

Image credits: Pexels.com 1, Pexels.com 2

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