How Micro Battles Can Restore the Customer-Led Growth Engine

fm-wheel-engine-customer-led-growth-220x207As an insurgent, your company declared war against your industry on behalf of underserved customers. What you lacked in size, you made up for in speed, with every function focused on customers and the front line, working together to tackle customer issues quickly. This relentless experimentation not only helped your customers, it also produced a constant stream of innovation that was a major engine of organic growth.

But as you grew bigger and more bureaucratic, internal issues stole attention from customers. You now spend more time optimizing functions (and negotiating among them) than you do with your customers. Innovation is handled by a centrally controlled pipeline far from the front line. Customers are neither involved… nor welcome. And growth grinds to a halt.

Sound familiar? Continue reading

Starting the Founder’s Mentality revolution in a large company

Revolution in large companyI love entrepreneur Steve Blank’s phrase “hacking the corporate culture.” While he focuses on how to increase agility and adaptability to increase innovation, I think the phrase applies more broadly. Over the past two weeks, I was at two workshops (one in Europe, the other in China) at the division level of huge multinational corporations. In both, the question discussed was: “How do we create change in a large organization were we are not at the top and don’t completely control our destiny?” Or, as Blank might ask, “How do we hack the corporate culture?” Continue reading

The systems and capabilities table

Strategy on a handAs companies seek to grow and achieve scale while maintaining their Founder’s MentalitySM, they face one constant: the tension between building a professional organization and maintaining a company’s entrepreneurial energy.

As we’ve discussed previously in these blog posts, companies can and must thoughtfully add professional management without destroying the founding culture. We’ve talked about the value of “upside-down management” and adding structure without sinking into the quicksand of bureaucracy. None of this, of course, is clear cut. For a fascinating look at the lively debate around the wisdom of replacing founders with outside talent, consider the well-argued, but opposing, viewpoints of Ben Horowitz (on behalf of founders) and Reid Hoffman (in support of professional management). Continue reading

Improve everything you touch

Founder's Mentality - Poornima Bhambal of Oberoi Udaivilas

Poornima Bhambal, one of the many faces of customer service at the Oberoi Udaivilas

Last fall I had the privilege of talking with Vikram Oberoi, chief operating officer and joint managing director of the Oberoi Group, about how he maintains the Founder’s MentalitySM as the hotel group expands (it now has 22 hotels). I also mentioned that I would be staying at some Oberoi hotels during an upcoming vacation in India with my wife and promised to interview some of his managers about how they maintain the company’s Founder’s Mentality during such periods of high growth.

One of these conversations was with Poornima Bhambal at the Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipur. The Oberoi Udaivilas sits on Lake Pichola, directly across from the City Palace of Udaipur. Udaipur itself is called the City of Lakes, and most Indians I talk to cite it as the most beautiful city in India. I can certainly understand why. Sitting in our room at Udaivilas and watching the sun set against the palace, we ranked Udaipur as the most beautiful city we’ve visited anywhere. Continue reading

The four great balancing acts

The four great balancing actsDuring my recent trip to Brazil, one founder asked me to provide a list of the likely tensions his fast-growing company would face over the next couple of years. I prepared four key items, which I refer to as The Four Great Balancing Acts of fast-growing, founder-led companies:

1. The tension between nurturing the Founder’s MentalitySM (looking backward) while capturing benefits of scale and scope and building new capabilities (looking forward). Continue reading