February 25, 2021

Three Keys To Growing A Good Business Into A Great One

Nhat H. Ngo is Chief Commercial Officer at Medical Solutions, a leading provider of total workforce…

Nhat H. Ngo is Chief Commercial Officer at Medical Solutions, a leading provider of total workforce solutions for healthcare staffing.

The ability to grow a good business into a great one is dependent on a multitude of factors and critical decisions — the least of which is the courage and commitment to transform with a short- and long-term plan supported by leadership.

A company’s growth potential is often pinned to leadership’s willingness to move outside of their comfort zone and beyond the status quo. Fear of change can lead to missed opportunities that may allow competitors to gain your market share. It can also contribute to stagnating business growth.

I’ve learned three important lessons from my experience growing a company from a commodity hardware-focused business to a tech-enabled services company: understand your customers holistically, determine both a short- and long-term plan to meet their needs and know when to build versus buy. Let me offer some details. 

Think Of Your Customers Holistically

The most important part of planning a corporate growth strategy is understanding your market and your customers. In my experience, the first, most important step in planning a corporate M&A growth strategy is understanding your market and your customers.

Go through cycles with your customers to conduct a deep dive into their current challenges and their vision for success. Oftentimes, you’ll learn that your core business offering may not address the long-term needs of your market. Understanding these challenges will be instrumental to developing a short-term plan and long-term growth strategy. The lesson is that the key to a solid growth strategy starts with understanding your customers’ current pain points and forecasting their longer-term needs.  

Determine Where The Market Is Heading In The Short- And Long-Term

I’ve found that market intelligence and a clear understanding of trends are imperative elements of any successful business. The key balance, however, lies in the ability to understand market trajectory — but not to get too far ahead when you’re planning your strategy. It’s important to think about business growth from both a short- and long-term perspective.

The first step in this process is securing leadership buy-in. Share your market research and customer feedback to paint a broader picture of challenges that your growth strategy can solve. Leverage field research and customer trends to help your leadership think more broadly.

One of the keys to gaining leadership alignment is providing research that supports how a company expansion maps to your customers’ broader-scale needs, then balancing this information with real-time intelligence on market trends and challenges. I’ve found that this researched, customer-centric approach is the foundation for defining a three- to five-year growth plan to move outside of your comfort zone.

Know When To Build Versus Buy

Another important factor in any company’s growth is understanding the pros and cons of a “build” versus “buy” (or acquire) strategy.

The decision about whether to build or buy (acquire) new technologies or competencies is an important decision for any company, regardless of whether you’re a hardware, software or service company. You’ll need to understand your research and development team’s skills and infrastructure to determine their ability to deliver new innovations. And while building internally can ensure you get exactly what you want, acquiring IP can accelerate engineering efforts, especially if you determine that the target technology or service is compatible with existing systems.

If you decide to bring a new company into your portfolio, focus on opportunities that meet all the criteria for a smart acquisition target. Namely, look for solutions that map to gaps in your portfolio; consider whether it would take a considerable R&D budget and years of development to get to parity; and make sure you have a compelling forward-thinking vision for portfolio growth.

When it comes to acquisition, you also have to identify synergies beyond just the product. While many acquisitions provide a great opportunity to expand your portfolio, you also need to consider the culture of the target and how it will fit and thrive in your corporate culture.

Ultimately, the fundamentals of knowing your customers, establishing and continuing to evolve your strategy, and making smart M&A decisions make up a solid foundation for growth. Never lose sight of your long-term vision, and have the courage to move outside of your business comfort zone. If you know your customers — inside and out — a vision for how to best grow your business will quickly emerge.

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