Last week, we were excited to congratulate the fastest-growing private companies in central Ohio at the annual Business First Fast 50 Awards program. Prior to the public luncheon, we were privileged to have the opportunity to meet many of the entrepreneurs behind these companies in person, and to hear the stories of their businesses. The 2011 list was comprised of companies in a variety of industries, ranging from technology to human resources to construction. What I found particularly interesting, however, was that so many of them recounted a story with the same theme.
It goes something like this:
“We had experience working in the ____ field, at _____ (a company owned by someone else). We felt that we could take our experiences from that company and make a company that was even better. We found some clients and started to build our business. We worked hard to value each and every client, and to make sure that we were providing great service to them. We took pride in the relationships that we developed with those clients. Then, our clients started asking us to do other things for them..to solve other problems…to provide additional services or goods. We didn’t really know how to do those things, but we wanted to serve our best clients, so we figured it out. Over time, we did more of that work than we were doing in our original service line. Since that time, we have re-invented our business continually, in order to keep up with our clients’ needs.”
Coincidentally, Pam Springer, the keynote speaker at the Fast 50 luncheon, shared a similar story about Manta Media, where she serves as CEO. Manta intentionally exited its legacy business over a period of time, in order to build an entirely new business, as a response to the needs of their customers and the demand in the marketplace. Today, as a completely different business, Manta’s growth and success are significant.
It’s apparent that listening to clients and not only reacting to their needs, but thinking ahead to what they might need next, is one of the critical components to growth. It’s such an easy concept, but like most things, the execution is in the details. At GBQ, we try to continually think not only about what we’re doing right now, but also to think about what’s next. “Next” is hard to conceive sometimes, and even harder to stay consistently focused upon as a goal. “Next” changes as other factors around us change — technology, competition, economics. “Next” is challenging, while the routine of doing what we already know how to do can be comforting. “Next” requires focus and discipline.
I didn’t meet anyone on the Fast 50 list last week that seemed comfortable with where they stand today or satisfied with their success. All of them were talking about what they were going to do next. What’s on your “next” list? If you don’t know, it might be time to sit down and ask your clients. And, if you’re a client of GBQ, and you have ideas for our list, we would love to hear them!