The cold hard truth is that 90 per cent* of start-ups fail.
Only 12 per cent** of 1955’s Fortune 500 companies are on the list more than 60 years later.
Companies lose their edge and falter for various reasons — bad financial decisions, new market trends, obsolete business models, lack of foresight and leadership — the list goes on and on.
In today’s fast-paced technology market, business leaders are faced with ‘sink or swim’ decisions all too often. Given my experience as CEO (twice-over) of Lifesize, I’d like to share a few tips on how to swim when your business is slipping into the depths.
Pick clear, concrete objectives
Before you begin your business’ transformation, be clear about your goals.
Ask yourself a few simple questions:
- What do you want your company to look like in 18 months?
- What are you going to do to get there?
- And most importantly, what are you not going to do?
Moving forward with clarity is often one of the hardest parts of the process, and committing to it fully is even harder. Salvage what you can from your current business and capitalise on those things to help accelerate growth.
When we initiated our turnaround, we had to narrow our product strategy to succeed in the long run. At the time, new technologies were disrupting the collaboration market. But with this disruption also came opportunity. Video collaboration wasn’t just for early adopters anymore — it had gone mainstream. If we played our cards right, we could capitalise on the growing need for enterprise collaboration with a fresh delivery model — and we did. We now offer a cloud-based software solution combined with plug-and-play HD camera and phone systems to make video conferencing seamless for users and IT Managers.
Prepare for a tough journey — together
The highs and lows of business transformation are better navigated when everyone’s prepared for what lies ahead. Reinventing a company requires an intricate combination of resolution and sacrifice – and, believe me, you’ll see plenty of the latter.
As you ready your team for a new era, solidify values for them to rally behind. For instance, in redefining our company culture, we sought input from teams across all functional areas and identified four core values:
Act with integrity and authenticity – building an environment of trust, respect and transparency creates a place where people want to work.
- Lead with customer obsession – companies that put their customers first, win.
- Drive relentless innovation – stimulate continuous improvement in all areas of the business.
- Make every day matter – be nimble and committed to daily action in order to react to the various elements that impact the business, such as new trends, competitors’ offerings, and changes to the market.
The creation of core values helped everyone in the organisation understand what the company stood for and where the company was headed, and for those who weren’t interested, a chance to opt out.
Get customer obsessed from the core – and get everyone involved
Moving from an on-premises video conferencing solution to a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) delivery model was an immense challenge. At the core of our reinvention was a desire to deliver the best product and service on the market to companies who wish to collaborate more effectively and affordably.
A prominent team in this transformation was our Customer Success department, who revolutionised the way we approach our customers. Starting with this team, we implemented strategic changes that allowed us to better hear and act upon customers’ needs and feedback. These changes elevated the voice of the customer like never before in our organisation and allowed us to drive quality initiatives in the right direction.
To deliver best-in-class quality to our customers, we enlisted every part of our organisation – product development, customer service and support, human resources, marketing – you name it. Every team member has a role to play in establishing partnerships with your customers, and ultimately contributing to your company’s long-term success.
Steady the course — fully and fearlessly
No business can be successful without being flexible and adapting to the tech climate. Fear tends to lure you back to what’s familiar and safe, however, you need to get uncomfortable if you want to survive. For a business on the brink of extinction, that means managing serious complexity — perhaps it is adding new leadership, defining new company values, changing business processes or even exiting markets. For us, reinvention meant all of the above, as well as moving forward as an independent company.
If it isn’t clear already, I’ve found that reinventing a company is guaranteed to involve a tremendous test of faith and commitment. It was one of the most intense experiences of my professional career — exciting and challenging in equal measure.
My final point — don’t rush into it, and make sure you have truly thought through the road- map to becoming successful. Take the time to understand your objectives, rally your team and continue to move forward without fear.
About the author: Craig Malloy is Chief Executive Officer at Lifesize. Craig started Lifesize in 2003, oversaw its acquisition by Logitech in 2009 and served as CEO until 2012. Drawn back by his unceasing passion for the industry and reinventing video technology, he returned to Lifesize in 2014.
Craig’s video communications experience dates back to 1994, when he worked at VTEL Corporation in Austin. Prior to founding Lifesize, in September 1996, he launched ViaVideo, an Austin-based start-up of which he served as a co-founder and CEO. ViaVideo was purchased by Polycom in 1998, which launched their video communications business. Craig was General Manager of Polycom’s Video Communication Division for more than four years, leading up to him establishing Lifesize.
With a background in the U.S. Navy, Craig brings two key tenets with him to his leadership role at Lifesize: taking care of your people (or Lifesizers, as we like to say) and creating an environment where they can maximise their creativity and achieve their professional goals. The success of this philosophy is evident as Craig has celebrated 10-year work anniversaries with a number of colleagues, each of whom have stood by his side and watched a start-up grow to become an industry leader.