Simon Manchipp, Co-Founder & Executive Strategic Creative Director, SomeOne
Common challenges of scaling up
At SomeOne, we’ve helped businesses navigate significant growth for the past decade and I’ve seen the same themes arise every time we meet a management team with scaling on their minds.
“How do we keep what got us here?” they ask, “but enable it to be communicated to the 100+ employees?” Another will say “We need to grow our market share without alienating current customers.” On and on it predictably goes.
The truth is, there is no silver bullet. All brands are complex, nuanced and different but there are some excellent common approaches that can help business flourish as they grow.
In our experience growing successfully can be very simply managed but it needs to be believed in and sustainable for the business.
If you are an organisation at a point of change, and growth is your focus, look at what got you here. Tenacity? A sense of purpose? Disrupting the status quo? Yes. You and everyone else in business. If you are hoping to really be in charge of your own destiny, you have to dig an awful lot deeper than these truisms.
Brand values shouldn’t be crowd-pleasers
I’ve been in a thousand meetings where CEOs have told me of their belief in keeping their brand Human, Trusted & Clear. Only to be somewhat crushed when asked who in their right mind would want to work for an inhuman, untrustworthy confusing company?
These perfectly acceptable words, guaranteed to be inoffensive and likeable, fall flat when it comes to actually tuning up a brand ready for the next step.
When identifying values for your brand to grow with, make them deliberate and not apologetic. Don’t box tick. Push from the truth, from the heart.
If you think you should choose kind, transparent, reliable, innovative & sexy you better make sure you can live up to each one of those. And, a word to the wise, while everyone thinks ‘transparent’ is a great value, unless you are happy to publish your salary, perhaps it’s not for you. Values run deep and should drive business behaviour daily.
Encourage your internal story
Internal stories are a way of promoting internal behaviours for day to day business operations.
These stories take many forms and do not always have to be externally expressed. Google’s ‘Don’t Be Evil’ was intended to encourage employees to check their moral compass before making decisions, given the power the company has over information and data. It was perhaps wisely evolved into “Do the right thing” by parent company Alphabet, but remains a key part of Google’s culture.
I’ve always loved Nike’s internal story of ‘Irreverence Justified’. It drives their mindset and focuses the minds of employees. When someone designs a shoe made out of string that glows in the dark, you’ve lived up to the irreverent bit, now you just need to make sure it’s lighter, stronger and more useful to satisfy the ‘justified’ part.
Sky’s ‘Believe in Better’ is a rally call internally and a promise externally. It’s not just marketing, it’s a mini business plan to turn to when times get tough. As you scale, it’s worth developing a few of these. Not all of them will survive, but those that do can deliver considerable value as you rack up the monthly salary bill.
Set your business direction with care
Identify not only what got you here, but what’s going to get you to your destination. Do you want to sell the business, remain in control, float it, take it global or diversify? Your ambitions will directly influence the direction in which you need to steer the business now.
Defining this can be a daunting process, but if you can identify what resonates with your current and future audiences, what your competitors are up to and what lies at the heart of your business, you should be able to arrive at compelling territories. Brands are actions, not logos, so pick your actions carefully.
Avoid the trap of mimetic isomorphism
I know, what a headline! Mimetic Isomorphism is the tendency of an organisation to imitate another organisation’s structure or brand because of the belief that it will be beneficial.
You find it in nature, where two species cross breed so frequently they merge. It’s a nightmare for brands and should be avoided at all costs. Do not follow the path of least resistance when developing your brand.
People buy into why you are doing something more than what you’re doing, whether that’s your prospective customers or employees. If you haven’t seen the now famous TED talk by Simon Sinek “How great leaders inspire action”, I’d recommend it. Defining the ‘why’ as early as possible will allow you to amplify it as you grow.
The most destructive element we have seen in businesses as they grow is lack of consensus.
All of the steps I’ve mentioned are designed to enable people to agree. After all, nothing has to be set in stone: values adapt, stories can be retold, direction can be adjusted. But to grow fast, without falling into micro management, people need to know why they get up in the morning.
There’s a famous story about JFK meeting a man with a mop in NASA’s HQ corridor. “What do you do here?” JFK asked. “I’m putting a man on the moon” replied the janitor. That’s the level of belief you need in your staff and your external audiences need to see that passion.
Get these cultural elements right and your team will march into battle with you knowing that they are not just building the next powerpoint presentation, but that they are part of something big.