I recently had the pleasure of meeting with some two dozen founders or CEOs of startup companies during New York Tech Week. The topic was building an organization for long-term success, an area that I support leaders in through my role as CRO Operating Executive and Principal at Norwest.
I posed a critical question: Is your company “enterprise ready,” and if so, what does that mean to you?
This simple question doesn’t have a simple answer. Depending on one’s perspective, different people can have different definitions.
By my definition, being enterprise ready is two sides of a coin: how you act and how you sell.
- How you act: You build an infrastructure of people, processes, and resources that allows you to scale your business into the future regardless of the markets you serve.
- How you sell: Your offerings are designed from the start with the intent of selling to enterprise customers, even if you may start out serving small/medium businesses.
My background is with several companies that made the transition from a startup to a global enterprise organization, so I offer these observations.
Why is it important to be enterprise ready?
In short, it means you’re prepared for anything that comes along, good or bad. If your organization is enterprise ready, you have a solid foundation on which to grow. You won’t be caught unprepared if sales suddenly accelerate, competitors show unexpected strength, or you need to scale headcount.
From the sales perspective, if you’re capable of meeting an enterprise customer’s needs – including high expectations for reliability, scalability, and most importantly security – then you can confidently sell to anyone.
What does it mean to be enterprise ready?
Here are some key attributes:
- You have the right people at all levels who can handle changing and growing demands as the business scales. They must thrive in chaos.
- You have the right systems – such as IT, accounting, and HR – that can scale so that your infrastructure doesn’t hinder your growth.
- There is a well-thought-out distribution model that accommodates evolving target markets.
- You serve a large TAM.
- There is a passionate, companywide commitment to customer success.
- You foster a company culture that is positive, self-confident, and resilient.
Every successful enterprise has a playbook.
A playbook is a description of how a company operates: the mantra it follows; the company culture and core values; how people are expected to conduct themselves. It provides discipline, structure, and a blueprint for success. It aligns everyone around executing the business plan.
It is repeatable, scalable, and iterative. It is purpose-built for a point in time, but subject to revision as the business evolves. It is emphatically not a set of sales tactics or cookie-cutter methodologies.
A benefit of being enterprise ready is that it gives you confidence and purpose: you’re confident that the company is going to grow and succeed. Always punch above your weight. Punching below your weight gives credibility and awareness to lesser competitors. The more you think and act like an enterprise, the more people will take you seriously. If you think big and act big, you put yourself in a position to play big. Playing big means engaging with the largest most complex companies, at their highest levels of management.
As I wrote when I started at Norwest, I want all the entrepreneurs and sales leaders I work with to believe in themselves, to believe in their vision. Confidence at the top permeates the entire organization. I’ve been very fortunate to be with the right companies, at the right time, with the right people. I know what great companies look like, how they act, how they execute. It’s my job now to share that experience and to help them develop that mindset and implement strategies for their companies.
Don’t be deterred by challenges.
There are some obvious challenges facing all of us recently. Unfortunately, we’ve seen times like this before – the dot.com crash, 9/11, the Great Recession, the COVID-19 pandemic – yet things seem to always recover. So, don’t let transitory challenges deter you from pursuing your stated vision. Adjust? Adapt? Certainly. Be nimble, be empathetic, and keep your eye on the long-term goal.
If you prepare yourself with the right vision, the right people, and the right attitude, you’ll set the foundation for success and have a distinct competitive advantage when you come out on the other side.
Be self-aware … and be enterprise ready.