I played the scarecrow in my elementary school’s rendition of Wizard of Oz. One of the best parts was when my fellow sixth grade Tin Man and Dorothy and I cantered across the stage as we chanted “Lions, Tigers and Bears … oh my!” Tales of my performance still echo through the hallowed halls of Fairlawn Elementary School.
Why am I telling you this? The challenge of scaling a company to the next phase is scary. The first phase is about hustling your way to a real product, stable of customers and small team. But, you have to change your approach to continue growing. The business needs outstrip founder heroics. This is where setting and articulating a broader mission, values and strategy becomes critical — a la Missions, Strategies, and Values … Oh My!
At Bronto, we ran into this scaling problem when we were doing $3m in sales. Someone suggested we read Beyond Entrepreneurship by Jim Collins (he also wrote Good to Great and Built to Last). The book is targeted for leaders of successful small businesses that struggle to move past the initial successes. That’s where we were. The crux of the book is to add a vision framework in order to empower your team and scale beyond founder heroics. I was very skeptical mumbo jumbo corporate voodoo, at first — but, I am now a believer. It was one of the reasons we were able to grow from $3m to $50m, over the ensuing years.
“Repetitio mater studiorum est” is Latin for repetition is the mother of learning. This is true. At Bronto, I started every presentation with the same vision framework slide (the first one below.) Inevitably, the team would moan, like teenagers asked to clean their room for the third time. But, their boredom was great! Everyone deeply understood who we were and what we were trying to accomplish. This emboldened us under a common direction.
Our vision framework had four parts — mission, strategy, values and purpose.
- Mission was the most referenced part. It succinctly spelled out our positioning, multi-year revenue target and time frame. Our most recent mission was to “be the leading marketing for platform for commerce with $50m in ACV by 2015.”
- Values were best described as our corporate personality. We were “transparent, approachable and passionate.” We didn’t draft those words ourselves but rather heard them from our customers. They were genuine — not forced or fabricated.
- Strategy wasn’t a simple statement, unlike the other parts. It was a catch all for explaining our differentiators, go to market plans, etc.
- Purpose was the simplest but most fundamental of the four parts. Instead of saying we sell and service our product, we framed things around helping our customers drive more revenue. This re-enforced our customer orientation and was very effective.
Our vision framework worked for us. We evolved it around our needs and over time. And, we repeated it — over and over again. Repetition is the mother of learning. Eventually, we found our yellow brick road and our mission, strategies and values drew the map to get us there.
P.S., I wrote a similar post about strategy over seven years ago, when we were in the midst of Mission 2.
P.P.S., Yes — there is a photograph of me as a sixth grade scarecrow. And, no — you will never see it.