By Richard Simms, CEO Tyrannosaurus Tech
My company designs and develops custom software; we build killer apps and websites. But while our revenues in 2018 doubled compared to the previous year, I wanted to explore other ways to expand and improve. I turned to CEO Netweavers, an organization of current and retired chief executive officers in metro Atlanta that provides free advice to business owners.
The organization assembled a group of experts, called an Inflection Point panel, to hold a series of meetings. I asked for their help in tackling a handful of key challenges and solve these issues. These included:
- How to scale our services. At a minimum, I wanted to narrow our focus to particular industries and technologies.
- A long-term growth plan. I wanted to explore the possibility of building our own Software as a Service (SaaS) products or find a way to expand some of our services to grow and increase our margins.
- Determine how to gain consideration as a vendor with larger, well-known companies.
After a series of three meetings – and a good bit of homework between meetings – the group convinced me to take several steps to move the business to the next level. For starters, I needed to focus more on growing the business, and to turn over certain day to day functions to others. As a result of their recommendations,
here are some of the changes the company has made in the past six months:
Better Organization. By far the most important advice was to break out different functions of the business, put a plan in place to make them more process-driven and delegate whenever possible. I was forced to look at all functions on one piece of paper, determine where I wanted the business to be in 3-5 years and think more deliberately about the big picture.
Stop Doing Simple Tasks. Even as CEO, I was sending out invoices and reconciling our books. In some ways, I enjoyed this task since it helped me have my fingers on the pulse of the company’s cash flow day to day. But the panel rightly convinced me that I needed to be spending my time elsewhere, so we hired a bookkeeper.
Hired a New Business Development Person. Up until our meeting, my partner and I were the only sales people. But the panel convinced me to hire a business development expert. In addition, they gave me tips on the kinds of traits to seek out in this new hire.Within two months, the new person has made a few sales we wouldn’t have made otherwise.
Stick to Our Knitting. We want the opportunity to work with larger companies – I think we can provide strong value for them — but realized that focusing a lot of time and effort on chasing elephants isn’t always the right path forward.
The IP Panel pushed me on my reasons for pursuing these companies, and it turned out that we didn’t have compelling reasons beyond wanting the prestige of touting those big brands as client. They also warned me of the challenges in working with them. For example, the procurement process is often long and
competitive; if you win, payments are slow, usually net 90 days.
More important, it would shift my attention away from our core clients. Smalland medium-sized businesses have been the lifeblood of Tyrannosaurus Tech and have been amazing to work with. We’ve ultimately decided to do more of what we know is working.
Use Data to Become More Productive. Although we had always tracked our developers and designers work hours, we had not been doing so or leveraging that data in as strict and strategic a manner.
Adopting the panel’s recommendations has helped increase the team’s productivity and made them even more accountable. I now have various tools and spreadsheets where we’re more strictly tracking spending versus billings and margins per project. This has helped us increase our profit margins and have a more regimented approach to our daily operations.
In the end, I instituted many of the group’s recommendations partly because I was extremely comfortable with the make-up of the IP Panel. All of its members were more seasoned business owners and some worked in technology, so they were in touch with how my company operates.
This differed from talking with other executives that sometimes don’t understand my business. But I didn’t feel that way with this group. I didn’t need to get into the weeds and explain much – they understood where I was and how to get to the next level. In addition, I stay in touch with many people on the panel and
report back on my progress and new challenges – giving me an important sounding board for future decisions.