I was recently asked about how we are scaling our business at Nara Logics. We have two hurdles to clear on this:
- We serve large enterprises, who do have special requirements that can overwhelm a small team.
- We work in artificial intelligence, which by nature involves big data (volume, velocity, and variety), thus lots data wrangling.
But we are focused on building out our technology platform, not delivering consulting services. So how do we do that? How do we go big, but stay small -- or better said not throw money at the problem of scale?
Here are the three points that drive how we've been able to double our business in the last year without doubling our team:
- Automation to make jobs better. We had two major areas we've focused on in the last nine months to automate and make work better for our team members. The first area of focus is on bringing our customers' data into our platform. In the past, this involved a great deal of manual curation and transformation of data by our team members. While this was skilled work, it was also labor intensive, and really, not very fun. We've been working to automate the tasks that can be automated to leave time for our team to the fun stuff -- working with customers. The second area for us is in deploying our platform. Often times, our customers want our synaptic intelligence platform operating closer to their data, i.e., on their premises or in their cloud environment. We have worked to automate labor intensive deploy and manage work, so our team can focus on value adds for our customers.
- Self-service isn't bad service. There's a mindset that having the customer do work is bad service. In the book Setting the Table, Danny Meyer, head of one of the most successful restaurant groups, said that he initially thought the concept of online reservations was not hospitable, because the customer was not interacting with his team. What he realized is that, as a company, they were actually not being hospitable when they did not allow customers to book and change reservations without having to get in touch with someone live. This isn't unlike a mindset in enterprise software. We often think we need to guide our customers through the best experience, but often leaving them to play with the software and see how it works for them, on their timeline, with their team and their data, helps them more than walking through it with us. This is why we have built out a sandbox environment for companies to try our synaptic intelligence platform. We are early stage with it, but already seeing good results from customers and prospects. If you are interested, ask our team about it.
- Repetition leads to comfort, comfort leads to extinction. This is similar to what Carl Sagan said, "Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception." According to the Startup Genome Project, 90% of startups fail, our version of extinction. As a growing company, it is easy to look at success and try to replicate it. It is what you know; when you repeat it, you feel comfortable. The challenge is that when you change one parameter -- the number of customers served, for example -- the equation doesn't work any more. This is my 5th startup and I've never found the magic x factor that allow you just to multiply number of employees at the same rate as multiplying customers. What do you do? Regularly evaluate the work being done in the company and how it needs to change as you grow. Adopt the mantra across your team: "What got you here, won't get you there!" And get on with changing to survive.