Profitable businesses require a solid foundation of a credible brand, effective management systems, and sharp talent engagement. There is a common misconception that high-growth startups have already found a magic potion that takes them on a linear and self-sustainable path of success. As Brand Capital has discovered while generating accelerated growth for new business models, building enduring trust in the brand is key. In addition, there are some practices that are critical for high growth start-ups as detailed in a maturity framework, in Ajay Batra's book, "Startups and Beyond: Building Enduring Organizations".
The ex-IIM husband and wife team of Tarun and Vandana have always been passionate about improving the quality of education. Two years ago, watching their own children struggle to grasp basic math and science concepts, they hit upon the idea of starting an online testing service named "Intellecta", that gives specific feedback to learners on topics that they are strong or weak at. The reports from this service are used for customizing teaching-learning plans in classrooms, and for providing constructive feedback to students and their parents. Their bootstrapped B2B solution has been deployed in over 20 private schools. "Intellecta" has a team of 10 IT professionals, 8 subject matter experts as consultants with the founders doing the bulk of marketing and sales. They would now like to expand and offer the same service to another 200 private schools in India, Singapore, and Malaysia. With growth and expansion on their mind, the founders understand that they need branding, financial (i.e. VC investment) and organizational systems to make their trajectory smooth and profitable.
So what does it mean for "Intellecta"? It was looking for inputs to acquire and service customers well while paying attention to essential building blocks of the organization. It was concerned that without this emphasis on effectiveness, their ventures may expand beyond their capabilities too soon. They have since turned a five-maturity-level structured framework, which has enabled them to determine their current maturity and focus areas for continuous growth:
- Organizational Structure: For effective management of growing ventures, a functional structure and role delineation are needed for business units and individuals, thus assigning clear responsibilities and establishing criteria for accountability. This sharpens the organization's ability to "listen", and act on, to the voice of its key stakeholders: customers, partners, and employees.
- Business planning: Define goals for expected business impact; develop strategies to achieve the goals; develop plans that translate strategies into actionable activities and tasks. These goals cover areas like formal competition-mapping, business modeling, brand-building, revenues, profits, employees, etc.
- Performance Tracking: Monitor progress of unit and organizational plans; collect quantitative and qualitative measures to track progress towards defined goals; use dashboards to collect and share progress status in the organization and demonstrate agility in taking preventive/corrective actions.
- Stakeholder Engagement: Gather customers' experience of engaging with the organization; analyze and act on the gathered feedback, and reach out to employees to understand their suggestions and concerns.
- Talent Management: Build channels for free-flowing internal communication; provide support to new team members; create systems to recruit/select the most appropriate talent, and support individuals in performing their responsibilities.
Brand Capital brings in the importance of credible branding and helps to share the risk of brand building. Earning trust of all stakeholders - the end consumer and influencers is critical for the Education industry as it is also seen as a 'noble' service. For sustainable growth, education brands need to position themselves over a period of time as centres of excellence.
Whether its B2B or B2BC communication, driven founders seed confidence with stakeholders they meet one on one. However, for accelerated growth towards establishing themselves as centres of excellence, the same needs to be shared en masse with hundreds of potential partners (such as B2B partners for a business like 'Intellecta').
Visibility in credible mediums like print and consistent amplification through other mediums like TV, Radio and Digital work magically. It goes a long way to accelerate brand-building enabling the founders to reach 24 month milestones in 15-18 months. As long as the brand stays clear of overdoing their communication, a combination of working with a structured framework along with investment in brand values can transition a startup into a high growth venture.
Some of the names (of people and organizations) in this article have been changed due to reasons of confidentiality.