It's one thing to build and grow a business. But it's a very different thing to aim for the right kind of growth and do the right things.
"Just because you have the right to do something, doesn't mean it's right to do it" these exact words resonated with me for quite some time. I was very fortunate to hear them during the last INBOUND Marketing Conference in Boston, where Co-Founder and CTO, Dharmesh Shah took the stage and explained how our businesses could focus even more at the customer.
Hearing him speak is something special, and it's one of the most attended talks of the whole week for a reason. He is a very technical guy that often categorizes himself as an introvert. However, he drives company culture like no other I've ever met.
Last year, he mainly talked about something that he calls the Customer Code. It's the idea of creating a culture at HubSpot, that follows specific guidelines so they could build a company that people loved. Not to say that they had any problems with that at some point. However, he acknowledged that even though HubSpot was very customer-focused, they had or maybe still have some issues they could improve upon. Besides, growth alone isn't the most important thing to look for in a business. It's the quality of that growth which sets your company apart from others and secures its long-term impact. Or, how HubSpot likes to call it, to grow better.
The last and in my opinion the most important of the tenets he highlighted was
Do the right thing, even when it's hard.
As a big fan of Pizza, he illustrated how Dominos tries to up-sell you with pop-up windows when completing your order online. Prominent CTAs everywhere and a tiny link that reads proceed to checkout.
Now, this may not seem very problematic to you. It might not even be. But it gets the point across. You want to buy a greasy pizza (and you probably feel already guilty of doing so) and they want you to buy even more. You are almost already a paying customer, but Dominos intends to upsell you over multiple popups and screens during checkout.
Whether or not you think this good or bad, I think we can all agree that getting sold even more without any particular reason feels a bit off.
The reason this exact sentence had such a significant impact on me was that it summed up what I was thinking for months. I remember talking to friends about why companies always have to grow their revenue or number of paying customers.
We are obsessed with growth but hardly ever question how we achieved that growth. It was when I realized growth in itself isn't crucial. The quality of it is.
More often than not companies get a lot done to the disadvantage of others. That could be our staff, the environment or even worse their customers and audience.
Dharmesh hit the hammer on the head with his ten tenets and the customer code. With customers being one of the main drivers for business growth it is an essential element to take into account for creating a long lasting business that people care about.
You can call this concept whatever you want. Growing better is just one way to put it. I think of it as running a responsible company. Because quite often we have to carry out tasks or make decisions that hurt something or someone else. What I suggest is being conscious of them and take responsibility.
To grow better or to run a responsible business there is more to it than just our customers. I mentioned the team already, which is the group second in line to be the most important. Leading and managing your employees is something you owe not only them but also to yourself.
Another area is business strategy and focus. We all need to know what our motivations are, what we want to achieve with the company and break down how to get there.
As mentioned before, delighting your customers is the primary driver for growing any business. It's therefore essential to be mindful and responsible for all the actions you take that influence the customer experience. Aspects to consider are of course marketing, sales and customer service. Even design and the product you are offering as such are ways to make your customers happy.
In sales, for example, try to understand the problem the prospect is facing and find a solution. That solution might not even include your product. However, that's fine. You helped to solve an issue and once a problem comes up that is remotely close to your product again, guess whom they call first.
In business, we quickly lose the human touch. Especially when it comes to our own people. But work is personal. Deeply personal. We spend more time at work than with our loved ones. Therefore, we need to create a culture that fits the respective team, so people can feel comfortable and empowered at work. A lot of that has to do with management.
Employees need to be probably managed and led. I honestly don't care if you just founded the company, have more important stuff to do or make up any other excuse to not take the time and effort. If you hire people, you care about them. End of story. Moreover, this investment will pay off in the long-term. Employees are performing so much better if you take them and your position as boss a lot more serious.
To be responsible in a business context also means to do only the things that are important. In the end, it doesn't come down to how busy you are. It comes down to your mission and results.
I see many startups struggle with this. Because it's fucking hard. It's easy to say yes to every idea and opportunity. However, in almost every case we do countless different things instead of executing one thing very well. This is where strategy, goals and decision making come in.
Always ask yourself like: Does this task bring me closer to fulfill my mission? Does it favor us in the long run or is it a short-term gain? What does the customer or our audience think of this?
It's something that I fight personally with every day at work and with this website.
You don't know how much time I invested and designing this website over the last couple month. I redid a lot of the components over and over. I procrastinated the writing part because it felt so daunting. But that was one of the reasons to start in the first place. To overcome that fear and improve my writing. But I probably redesigned the time you read this.
These are the three things that I think are most important in running a responsible and successful business: Growth, Leadership, and Focus.
Now, let me be clear: I don't have all the answers. Heck... I'd even say I know very little about running a business or being a manager. I didn't do either of these things. Still, I'm 100% certain that this should be the standard way to grow, lead and run any organization.
This blog is an experiment for me to learn and discover more about these ideas and values. Thus there might be one or two ideas that you can bring into your daily routine as well. So maybe at some day, we can do all the little things like ordering a pizza in peace.